WPT Capitol Report, November 7, 2017

News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin


We hope your week is off to a great start!

This week, the Capitol Report will bring you the latest on state issues and current events, including a massive review of the tax system in Wisconsin, news on the Miller Park sales tax, a major announcement from Governor Walker, and more.

WPT would also like to extend our deepest condolences to all those affected by the terrible tragedy in Texas on Sunday. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, friends, and the community of Sutherland Springs.

As always, we hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at

Have a great week,

WPT, Inc.



Our Property Taxpayer of the Week takes us over to the eastern side of Wisconsin, along the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan in Manitowoc, where Braun Building Center and owner Paul Braun are located.

A native of Manitowoc and UW-Platteville alum, Paul Braun shared some information and history about himself and his business, which dates back to the 1950. As with many Main Street businesses around the state, it turns out this company has no shortage of rich history behind its founding.

"[Laird Lumber Company] was a brand new endeavor owned by Dick Laird, who had three other yards around the state. They began on the end of Chicago St. in a two car garage on an acre of land," he told us. "In 1950, [my dad] came to Manitowoc to be the manager..."

"In 1953, a new building was built with a show room and warehouse, this building is still owned and used by Braun Building Center for storage."

Paul's father Bob came to purchase the company in 1968 after then-owned Dick Laird was killed in a traffic accident. That's when Laird Lumber Company officially became Braun Building Center.

"In 1978, Bob and Carlie Braun built the building at 3303 Menasha Avenue and opened up one of the early 'Home Centers' that became the model for the current 'Big Box' stores," he added.

But it still wasn't until 1989 when Paul and his wife Dana moved back to Manitowoc and began the next generation of lumber business. Paul also told us that he has been the sole stockholder of the company since 2004.

The company employs 28 people, and Paul takes pride in being involved in projects that, like his company itself, endure for many decades.

"My dad can tell me of many of the homes we supplied and who built them."

And just like his company's ever-changing history, Paul said his company has also evolved.

"Over the years the building materials industry has evolved with the advent of the 'Big Box' retailers. This has forced Braun Building Center to become a 'Pro Dealer,' meaning that our primary customer is the professional builder who buys materials to be used on a project for someone else."

"In addition to a large inventory of lumber and plywood, Braun also manufactures wood roof trusses, stocks a large invetory of roofing, siding, drywall, steel studs, and insulations.

But the bread and butter really falls outside of the materials box, and into the services field at Braun Building Center.

"Residential design is one of the services that really sets Braun Building Center apart. Our professional designers have guided countless home owners through the design process."

Paul has been a member of WPT for 16 years, and says he likes doing business in Wisconsin, though isn't quite familiar with doing business in other states. He is involved in the local home builders association, and keeps up to date on current Wisconsin issues, and as a hobby is an avid cyclist.

The story of Braun Building Center gives us an even deeper appreciation for the history of each business we pass by on our way in and out of towns scattered throughout the state. Behind each storefront is a very unique story that is quintessential to the community and has continued to shape the local narrative with each passing decade.


Last week, we learned that the Assembly Republicans have taken it upon themselves to dive into some very dirty work, and for that, we are quite appreciative. Last Wednesday, the Assembly Republican caucus began discussing a deep look and possibly a comprehensive reform of Wisconsin's taxes, beginning in the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Rep. John Macco (R-De Pere). Macco said his committee will be looking to come up with ways to open new revenue doors for Wisconsin, but also finding different exemptions and eliminating them. It's obviously going to be a tough task, but the legislative Republicans have shown the public repeatedly that they understand the tax code, and know which changes need to be made. The committee will have various subcommittees that will examine individual portions of Wisconsin's tax code.

  • Subcommittee on Sales and Use Tax (Rep. Kevin Petersen)

  • Subcommittee on Personal and Corporate Income Taxes (Rep. Bob Kulp)

  • Subcommittee on Local Government Taxes and Funding (Rep. David Steffen)

  • Subcommittee on Excise Taxes and Fees (Rep. Shannon Zimmerman)

As the Chair's statement points out, each committee will be tasked with three very specific goals regarding the examination of each tax.

  • History and purpose of taxation device

  • Current problems with taxation device

  • Solutions or possible changes to taxation device

The committees will present their findings to the Committee on Ways and Means who will then work through the findings and formulate a comprehensive solution. The Senate Majority Leader hasn't given a public statement, and the governor has said that he's "open to the idea" of making large changes to the tax code. But it's important that these lawmakers step up and get on board with the Assembly Republican's bold plan to venture where nobody else has had the spine to venture in the past. Will there be disagreements? Undoubtedly. But that does not mean that efforts aren't made in the pursuit of a better system that fosters increased prosperity for Wisconsin's families and economy. As always, I hope you've found this article to be informative and helpful. If you have anything you want to add or discuss, just reach out to me at directly and I'd be glad to assist, or call (608) 255-7473.


According to US Census Bureau data, Wisconsin's exports are outpacing the nation, and will likely hit a $1.4 billion increase this year, which would be the first major increase since 2013. The data also showed that Wisconsin's businesses exported $1.94 billion in September, showing a 6.7% increase over last year, while the national average were up 4.4%. Wisconsin has seen increases in exports ever month since August, when the state's numbers were down 3 percent. In 2016, August was actually our hottest month of the year, where the state went over $2 billion for the month. Six out of the the first nine months of the year, Wisconsin has outpaced every other state in the nation in export growth, which cumulatively saw 7.2 percent in the first quarter, 5.8 percent in the second quarter, and 5 percent in the third. Our largest exports are industrial machinery, medical and scientific instruments, electrical machinery, non-rail vehicles and parts, and plastic products.


Since 1996, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Kenosha residents have paid an extra 0.1 percent sales tax to help pay for the now-17-year-old Miller Park. The tax raked in over $30 million for the Milwaukee Brewers last year. At least one lawmaker in the Capitol is saying "enough."

Milwaukee Democratic Senator Tim Carpenter introduced a bill that would end the tax in 2019 permanently. A Brewers season ticket holder, Carpetner said, "I love the Brewers...but a promise is a promise."

When he voted for the tax in '96, the promise was that the tax would end in 2014. Carpenter said the recession changed the timetable, and the tax was extended.

In a statement, the Miller Park District Board of Directors said that it has always been committed to retiring the 0.1% sales tax as quickly as possible, but the bill, "while well-intentioned, might actually prove to be unconstitutional."

The statement points out that previous legislation was found unconstitutional because it "violated the existing terms and conditions of bond contracts, bond insurance, and other legal agreements," so for now, the Board said it will not comment further until the legislation is properly vetted by state agencies and others.

It sounds like the very-corporate Milwaukee Brewers and the Stadium Board are having a hard time giving up decades' worth of taxpayer dollars, and might be a bit upset at the prospect of having to go-it-alone in the free market without the five-county residents' pocketbooks.


The Wisconsin State Senate, which is in session today, is likely to add Wisconsin to the list of 27 other states to request a constitutional convention under Article V of the United States Constitution. Thirty-four states must request the convention. WPT reported on this topic months ago when the State Assembly was took up the issue. It drew much criticism from Democrats, and mostly praise from Republicans due to the nature of the convention being called- adding an amendment for a balanced budget. Proponents of a balanced budget amendment cite tax, spending, and debt as the absolute need for such an amendment. Opponents of the measure feel that having a balanced budget clause would not allow for the country to take on debt, for example, in the event of a nation catastrophe, when more cash could become a necessity. Opponents also believe that the convention, which is not legally bound only to the subject of a balanced budget amendment, could turn into a "free for all" convention where massive changes are made to the nation's founding document, while one party controls most state governments, and all branches of federal government. This concern was countered by the fact that 38 states would need to ratify any amendments made to the US Constitution. Additionally, Senate President Roger Roth (R-Appleton) will introduce an amendment to the bill that would subset the call for a convention after seven years. At this time, it was unclear whether or not that amendment had enough votes to pass.


Referenda in your community · repealing sales tax on and providing free feminine hygiene products in state owned and operated buildings · eliminating minimum age for hunting mentorship program · creating groundhog hunt · Capitol Christmas Tree and your traditions

When there is a referendum in your community, generally speaking, are you:

Schools is the most predominate, when necessary I agree. I follow all of the research.

Schools...building NEW schools & razing the old building. VERY poor foresight. Seeing 3 years down the road instead of 25.

School construction- unfortunately the district did not get what they paid for.

I support them if they can sell me on it. Usually they cant.

Not enough information, depends what it is for.

School districts often use hired consultants to shepherd their pet projects thry a referendum thinking if it's worded better people will fall for it.

The Verona referendum was too high. No city this size needs one hundred eighty million dollar school. The homeowners' taxes are going to go through the roof.

I voted for a construction referendum because the old middle-high school was so bad it was actually unsafe. A couple of years ago they came to school in the morning and a beam had fallen down- fortunately it was over night when nobody was in the room.

School operating budget and building repairs/maint. I supported the extra spending.

They are always asking for more money for new projects. Need to maintain what they have instead of letting it fall apart.

A lot of referenda we see tend to all revolve around two things... Making the school bigger (in a town with declining enrollment) and sports. When will they have a referendum for EDUCATION... or efficiency...??? We even watched the school district of Stanley build a new big sports area... and do it in a very under-handed manner. NO thank you.

Last referendum didn't have an end date- no way I'd ever vote to give the school unlimited time to spend extra money.

Schools; unsure of price tag (was a few years ago). I support it because our community needs school growth. Parents are choosing to send their kids to area districts.


Schools around Wisconsin are choked for lack of revenue. Taxes are used to provide a civilized society, for items for the public good, like roads and schools, and too many people are selfish me-first people. We had a $22m school building improvement referendum five years ago, and it passed 70/30 because our village strongly believes in education. I support them completely, and I wish the state of Wisconsin would let local school boards do what they think is correct, tax what is necessary. If they vote against the wishes of the community, they can be removed from office.

One lawmaker would like to: 1) repeal all sales tax on feminine hygiene products, and 2) require that the state provide free products in all state-owned and operated facilities.

Good idea or bad idea?

This is ridiculous and will lead to more silliness.

Supply (buy) your own absorbant materials.

Can't these females carry their own supply, we didn't have this when went to school or worked. Why all this free stuff?

What's next?

Ridiculous! How about beer and shoe laces next?

Why free products in state buildings?

Another legislator looking for their moment of fame.

Take the sales tax off but how are they going to pay for the freebies? Condoms should be free also.

Every woman in the state requires these products. Why should those in government and state positions get special treatment? At what point will they start asking for free lunch?

Cradle to grave care. Yea sign me up for the free stuff. NOT. Is this lawmaker on drugs too?

Good to repeal the sales tax. BAD to require the state to provide the product free. WHO HAS TIME FOR THIS?

Who will pay for it. Taxpayers are paying for enough handouts already.

I am a woman, but I don't understand why everyone else should be forced to pay for the woman who needs these products. The additional cost has to come from somewhere within the budget.

I can see the tax side of things, but to give these products out for free, come on, can we help a person is born male or female.

This might be good policy but the proposal is monumentally stupid idea for public relations reasons.

I'd also like to see free razors and shaving cream in state-owned and operated facilities as well. I would of course like to be able to buy these items sales tax free. Might also be nice to have some free sunscreen for my bald head provided at all of the state parks!

What next are we going to exclude from sales tax?

The State Assembly is voting this week to eliminate the minimum age for mentored hunting. If you were a State Representative, would you vote:

Just what we NEED...A TODDLER sporting a shotgun. A weapon s/he can barely lift, much less shoulder.

Keep the age of 12, make these kids wait, they will be more mature handling a gun.

Same reason we have age limits on driving, drinking, etc.

Safety first.

Less than 10 year old with a gun?? Accidents happen.

Ten years old for mentored hunting is just fine. Now you want ot put guns in the hands of two year olds. Let's teach everyone to kill when they're young.

Hunting requires a certain amount of instruction and maturity.

we need to have some minimum age standards for children using guns. We all know parents who would not be good mentors and use this as an opportunity simply to add to their ability to fill the freezer. Allow younger children to accompany parents while hunting but maintain the minimum age at which they can handle a firearm. Its a right of passage that children need to look forward to, much like getting a driver's license.

I think that 12 is a bit young for some kids to be solely responsible for a firearm. At 12 years old, some young adults lack the focus and maturity. Some young adults are perfectly suited to handle a firearm but how do you determine which ones do have that skill set and which ones don't?

Today's children, and even those of ten years ago, don't get gun safety. My generation grew up with guns. We knew what they were, how to use them, and how to be SAFE with them. Today's kids are indoctrinated with games at YOUNG ages to shoot other people with guns. Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield, Quake, Halo... All teach you to shoot PEOPLE with guns. I think we leave the age as it is, to show that we, as adults, have a conscience.

Safety first.

WE have to draw the line somewheres. Keep it the way it is now.

Do we really need to teach toddlers how to kill stuff? C'mon.

Even at 12 years old a gun usually is too much to handle.

The State Senate will vote this week to remove the groundhog from the endangered species list and allow for year round hunting of the animal. If you were a Senator, would you vote:

MUST we kill every animal for sport?

They've become a pest.

If you have them digging up your property, you would vote yes.

They are a rodent that does a lot of damage, what purpose do they serve?

Why hunt them? Are they good to eat? Do we have to kill everything?

They are a nuisance animal.

I've never seen a groundhog in the wild. There must not be many of them around my part of the state.

I think a year round hunt is excessive.

Really? THIS is even ON this list?

Yeah, this is fine. Arbys has a new venison sandwich. Maybe they should have groundhog sandwiches too?

McDonalds could use some variety on their menu.

I am getting tired of them destroying my property.

The Capitol Christmas Tree plans are now in full swing, with Governor Walker requesting school children, parents, and teachers to send in their ornaments, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the State Capitol building. Are you looking forward to the holidays? When do you put up the tree? After Thanksgiving? December? What's your favorite part of the holidays? Food? Family? Giving Gifts? Receiving? Any big plans this year?

I love decorating and put up several trees. I start the weekend of opening deer hunting and the main one goes up after Thanksgiving. Love buying, wrapping, and giving gifts.

NO...December,...Family...Avoid the insanity of 'after Thanksgiving (day) shopping.


Never look forward to Christmas, but we do have a small tree put up in December. We spend time with our son & family.

My favorite part of the holidays the last several years has been there is a small moment in time where it seems people across our country are actually civil to each other and put aside their differences, unfortunately this time seems to be shrinking every year as well. We have forgotten how to treat others and do a terrible job of following the golden rule

Family, food, giving thanks, and football

Christmas is a sham. Individuals and families who struggle to pay ordinary monthly expenses are faced each Christmas with a feeling of obligation to buy gifts for family. Can't wait for January 2!

I like buying gifts that I think the recipient will enjoy but sometimes I'm really off the mark. Oh well, it's still a wonderful season that seems to bring out the best in us.

I don't look forward to the stores pushing Christmas stuff three months before Christmas! My favorite part is first celebrating our Savior's birth in church and then the family, food, gifts, etc.

I like the holidays because it means more time with family but dislike how commercialized it's become.

I enjoy the family time. Also when government is on break because they can't pass any legislation!

Christmas in our family is a multiple day event. Christmas Eve we host a large party for family and friends. Christmas Day is for immediate family. Christmas Day night is another family dinner and party. Usually the following weekend is another dinner for family who didn't make it into town or we travel around. Great time of year. Awesome to be with family.

We just got our health care increase. It was 400%. Christmas? Ha. Thanks. Maybe leave the Capitol bare, and do more to cut costs.

December Family.

No big plans this year. Usually put tree up after the Thanksgiving Holiday. Family and the birth of the baby Jesus is my favorite around Christmas. Not into receiving gifts or giving gifts, way too overrated.

Since we had kids, we have lots of traditions. I can't say I love them, but the kids do, so what the heck.

Tree goes up the week of Christmas. I suppose the food and music is my favorite part. I'm an old guy; giving is always more fun than getting.


It seems like a "Groundhog Day" headline, where it just keeps repeating itself month after month. But according tot he latest dairy summary from the USDA, Wisconsin produced 271.5 million pounds of cheese in September, which was up 2.2 percent from last year, though down a half a percent from August. This means that Wisconsin has produced more cheese products (year-to-year) for 27 consecutive months. About 1.01 billion pounds of cheese was produced nationally, making the national average higher by 2.7 percent month-over-month, but 1.4 percent lower than August. The breakdown is as follows: American Cheese 77.5 million pounds, Cheddar 52.4 million pounds, Italian cheese, 142.3 million opounds, Mozzarella 92.3 million pounds.Dry whey output was up 16.7 percent from last September at 28.6 million pounds.


He won three elections in four years, and now he'd like to officially have a third term as Governor of the State of Wisconsin- Scott Walker has announced that he needs more time to get some things done in Wisconsin. The two-term governor said he is looking ahead to the future, and wants "a state where everyone shares in the economic prosperity whether you live in a big city or a small town. Fro mone end of the state to the other we want people to share in the Wisconsin comeback." Walker officially kicked off his re-election announcement tour, with scheduled stops around the state with his family and his No. 2, Lt. Governor Kleefisch. Walker, alongside his entourage, told supporters that the business and tax climates have improved, and that more people are working than ever before in the State of Wisconsin. The election will be held in less than one year, on November 6th, 2018. The primary election will be held on August 14th. There are currently seven democrats vying for the seat.