WEDA Legislative Update

As everyone knows by now, there was a major shift in the Wisconsin political landscape earlier this month, when Tony Evers defeated incumbent Scott Walker to become the next governor of Wisconsin.

Despite what will be a change in leadership and an inevitable shift in policy priorities coming from the Evers administration, WEDA’s Legislative Agenda for the 2019-20 legislative session will not be significantly impacted. One notable exception is the future of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Governor-Elect Tony Evers has said – both during the campaign and after the election – he plans to eliminate WEDC and replace it with a Department of Commerce-like state agency. WEDA believes that would be a mistake. We will be meeting with the Evers transition team next month to discuss our concerns with the potential elimination of WEDC and to make our case why the public-private agency has been effective creating jobs and encouraging business growth across the state. In addition to urging the incoming governor to preserve WEDC in its current form, WEDA will also advocate for the preservation of key economic development programs administered by WEDC.

But outside of WEDC and a few smaller issues that are likely to arise under the new administration, WEDA will be advocating for many of the key issues we have been focusing on over the last several years – from TIF modernization and talent attraction initiatives to closing the “Dark Store” loophole and policies to encourage workforce housing development.

Please find below WEDA’s 2019-20 Legislative Agenda, as recommended by the WEDA Legislative Committee for submission to the Board for final approval next month:

Effective Financial Incentives – Promote new or enhanced financial incentive programs that encourage private sector investment and growth opportunities

Legislative Priorities:

  • Increase from 12 percent to 18 percent the limit on the amount of taxable property permitted to be within a municipality’s existing TID or TIDs at the time a new TID is created.
  • Allow small municipalities to have up to three TIDs regardless of the statutory TIF percentage limit. Many of these communities exceed the TIF limit with one or two TIDs due the small amount of equalized value within their borders.
  • Support comprehensive legislation to provide financial resources and new economic development tools to smaller communities and rural areas of the state to advance economic revitalization and growth.
  • Require the state’s Transportation Economic Assistance program to provide grant funding for projects that retain jobs, not just those that create jobs. In the current economic environment, job retention is just as important as job creation
  • Preserve the State Trust Fund Loan program in its current form. The program is one of the largest public investors in economic development projects in Wisconsin, investing over $1 billion over the last decade.
  • Create a state Opportunity Zone program that mirrors the Federal Opportunity Zone program to more effectively leverage long-term investments in communities across Wisconsin.

Advance Workforce Development – Advance talent attraction and retention initiatives to help address Wisconsin workforce shortage. Also, incentivize the development of workforce housing to help improve the state’s inadequate housing stock for the current and next generation of Wisconsin workers.

Legislative Priorities:

  • Create the Earned In-State Tuition Incentive program to encourage, through financial incentives, out-of-state students who attend college in Wisconisn to stay in the state to live and work after graduation.
  • Create a talent attraction incentive program to provide individuals who move to Wisconsin to live and work with grant payments to help offset housing costs.
  • Create a sales tax exemption for building equipment and supplies used in workforce housing development projects.
  • Increase the current TIF “housing improvement extension,” which allows a municipality to extend the life of a TIF and use the increment to improve housing stock within the community, from one year to two years.

Competitive Business Climate

Legislative Priorities:

  • Support legislation to close the “Dark Store” property tax loophole in Wisconsin.
  • Preserve WEDC as the state’s economic development agency and maintain the agency’s economic development programs that have advanced growth across the state.

Robust Infrastructure

Legislative Priorities:

  • Support a reliable, yet reasonable funding source for the maintenance and future development of a modern, statewide transportation network.