Latest on Wisconsin Legislature and COVID-19

Date: March 16, 2020

Legislature Continues to Meet as COVID-19 Impacts Small Business

Legislators continue to work and meet in Madison despite the looming and unknown impact of the coronavirus. As of now, the Senate is still holding committee hearings. The State Assembly has stated that they are done and likely won’t be back until May. In the meantime, here’s the latest on what’s happening with small business legislation.

Minimum Wage Legislation Introduced, NFIB Announces Opposition

A proposal that would boost the state minimum wage to $15 per hour has been introduced in the State Assembly.  The bill provides incremental increases starting at $8.50 with annual increases following over a five-year period before reaching $15 per hour.

The bill would also eliminate provisions of current law: allow a separate, lower minimum for tipped employees; eliminate setting specific meal and lodging allowances; eliminate establishing a minimum wage for minor employees, opportunity employees, agricultural employees, and others that currently have special minimum wage rates.  The Department of Workforce Development would establish by rule the minimum wage for those employees.

The legislation also eliminates current law that prohibits a city, village, town or county from enacting an ordinance establishing a local minimum wage.

Employers that include tipped employees in their workforce would be directly impacted by this proposal, but all employers would be subject to the confusion and complexity of a patchwork of local minimum wage rates across the state, should this legislation be approved.

Assembly Bill 910 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Labor and Integrated Employment. 


NFIB Calls for Elimination of Personal Property Tax

NFIB’s State Director, Bill G. Smith, testified before the Joint Committee on Finance in support of legislation that would reduce the personal property tax by $45 million.

Smith told members of the Committee the personal property tax is a grab bag of exemptions and definitions that violate the basic principles of tax fairness, simple cost-effective administration and low enforcement costs.

To be competitive with surrounding states, promote economic development, and importantly, encourage small business creation and growth, NFIB strongly supports legislation that eliminates the personal property tax.

When members were asked if NFIB should support legislation that would eliminate the personal property tax, 82 percent said NFIB should fight to eliminate the tax.


Dark Store Loophole Legislation Fails


The League of Wisconsin Municipalities estimates millions of dollars in property taxes will continue to shift from large commercial properties to small Main Street businesses as a result of the Legislature’s failure to address the “dark store” loophole issue.

The “dark store” loophole is based on a decision by the Supreme Court that allows big box retailers to challenge their property tax assessments based on vacant or abandoned properties.

The “dark store” loophole shifts the growing costs for local government services – police, fire, emergency services – from big commercial and manufacturing entities to homeowners and small business taxpayers.

Meanwhile, local governments are spending millions of dollars in legal fees – taxpayers money – in court battles over assessment appeals being won by big box retailers.

Ballot results show NFIB members support eliminating the “dark store” loophole urging legislators to restore fairness, equality and uniformity to the taxpayers.

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