By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers — again — could have made life easier on the small businesses he has battered and bruised with his policies over the course of the pandemic. The Democrat instead used his veto pen to remove a measure that would have eliminated a burdensome “property” tax on business.
It’s more of the same from the anti-business liberal.
Evers last week signed a Republican-written budget bill that includes $2 billion in income tax relief and about $650 million in property tax reductions. But he used his line-item veto to nix 50 measures, including a provision that marked $200 million to get rid of Wisconsin’s antiquated personal property tax on business.
The revenue source, which predates statehood, allows local governments to tax businesses on equipment and furnishings.
State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) said the governor’s decision to veto the bipartisan legislation is an assault on the small businesses “who suffer the most under this inefficient tax policy.”
“Small businesses across Wisconsin joined together in one of the largest stakeholder coalitions that I’ve ever seen to plead for relief from this tax. Since 1916, studies have recommended we repeal this tax. Gov. Tony Evers placed himself on the wrong side of history with this veto,” Stroebel said.
It was Evers and his health czar who locked down Wisconsin for the first few months of the pandemic, forcing restaurants, bars, retailers and other small businesses to shut down.
In his veto message, Evers wrote that the repeal language “created potential unintended consequences for railroad and utility taxes as well as the manufacturing and agriculture credit.”
In other words, he’s worried the state could lose out on more tax collections to feed his big government aims.
But Evers’ veto leaves in place a $200 million tax on small employers “that saddles them with millions of dollars in additional compliance costs,” Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce said in a statement.
In his budget proposal, the governor sought more than $1 billion in tax increases. He audaciously took credit for the billions in tax relief provided in the Republican-written 2021-23 budget that he signed last week.
“But even as he takes credit for these tax cuts, he can’t resist keeping higher taxes on small businesses by announcing his veto of the elimination of personal property tax,” Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) said. “This continues his clear attack on those who employ people.”
Kapenga noted Evers’ recent veto of a Republican bill that would have ended the federal unemployment bonus payment. Businesses and economic experts say the $300 weekly pandemic-related enhancement is keeping some unemployed Wisconsinites from re-entering the workforce, exacerbating a severe worker shortage.
Republicans say the administration is playing games.
Stroebel said the Legislature’s bipartisan coalition incorporated virtually all changes requested by the Department of Revenue in its March request. Less than 24 hours before the Assembly was convening to vote on the budget, Stroebel said he and Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) received an eight-page memo full of new requests.
“If I came to any colleague of mine with an eight-page list of demands the night before a planned floor vote, that colleague would not consider the request friendly and I could not claim to be a supporter of the bill,” Stroebel said.
“I am frustrated but not surprised by the governor’s action,” he added.