We hope that you had a wonderful Christmas, with your families, friends, and loved ones. We would also like to wish you a prosperous and happy New Year as you ring in 2018.
Below, we will introduce you to this week's Member of the Week, outline some of the top headlines from the past week, and get you up to speed on legislation.
PLEASE NOTE: The next WPT Weekly Insider will be sent on Wednesday, January 3, 2017.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,
PROPERTY TAXPAYER OF THE WEEK
This week's Property Taxpayer of the Week brings us to Eau Claire, where we'll become acquainted with Professional Hair Design Academy, and Shawn Rauckman, son of the company's founders, Will and Gigi Rauckman.
The company began in 1994, when Will and Gigi operated several hair salons. When the area's cosmetology school shut down, it was this couple that stepped up and filled the need in the community by purchasing the school from its previous owner and re-opening. That's when they moved to their location on Highway 93 in Eau Claire, where they currently reside.
We asked Shawn, who has been with the company since 2010 after shifting gears from his career as a business attorney in the Minneapolis and Eau Claire, what challenges that his family's business faces.
"Enrollment in higher education is down overall. Total enrollment has fallen every year since 2010," he told us. "As such, colleges are competing for fewer and fewer students. Where the cost is a determining factor for students, competing with taxpayer-funded technical colleges offering similar programs is difficult even though the quality of education offered by a private school is objectively better."
Shawn and WPT have been in contact about this very issue. Earlier in the fall, it was brought to WPT's attention that the "Youth Options" program at DPI is designed to get 11th and 12th graders in public schools to attend a "postsecondary institution for the purpose of taking one or more courses for high school and college credit." The program is designed to get students familiarized with a career field while they are still in high school.
According to the DPI website, institutions of higher education are defined under the Youth Options statute as the University of Wisconsin System, a technical college, a tribal college, nonprofit institutions, and private institutions.
Professional Hair Design Academy should fall into the "private institutions" category, but has had a bureaucratic nightmare with being allowed to participate in the program, thus forcing them to continuously compete with big government dollars and the entire area technical college system.
"Most for-profit colleges have fallen victim to negative headlines about the industry. Recent closures of larger institutions like ITT Technical Institute and Globe University stemming from fraudulent and deceptive practices by those institutions has resulted in a negative perception of the for-profit college industry," Shawn said.
The Rauckmans have also reached out to their lawmakers, providing data to show that taxpayers could save over a million dollars annually by making changes to the technical college system.
"The biggest challenge that PHD Academy faces with state government stems from the manner by which state technical colleges are providing programs of study funded by taxpayer dollars with little or no transparency to the taxpayer about the quality or need for those programs," he said.
"According to at least one representative of the local technical college, student tuition revenues fund only about 18% of the cost of educating students. The remaining cost is funded by taxpayers through local property taxes and state subsidies. In many cases, private colleges can and do offer similar programs of study that better prepare students without any cost to taxpayers."
It sounds like the perfect storm of adverse circumstances; bureaucratic nonsense, declining enrollment, and deaf ears. But the family still takes immense pride in their work, their 12 employees, and approximately 40 students.
"I am proud of the impact that PHD Academy has had on the lives of its students. Since my parents began operating the school, we have graduated several hundred students from our programs. By providing every student with a quality and affordable education, we have opened the doors for those students to become successful cosmetologists and massage therapists," Shawn said.
PHD Academy has belonged to WPT for more than twenty years, and Shawn told us that he feels our organization has been a critical voice in Madison for all state property taxpayers.
"WPT's President, Mike Marsch, and Government and Member Relations Director, John Jacobson, have always been willing to listen to our concerns and assist us with finding answers."
Our organization will continue to work with Shawn and PHD Academy to find more answers with the state's Youth Options program, and hope to report back to members in a future Weekly Insider. We appreciate the Rauckmans' willingness to share their story and concerns with the entirety of our membership, and thank them for their years of dedication to property tax fairness and reform.
Last week, WPT met with several lawmakers to discuss something that is likely of interest to our more rural members- the Managed Forest Law, and some potential changes to that law. Currently, if a property owner enrolls a certain number of his or her acres into the program, they receive a property tax reduction if they leave that land open to public recreation. It's a great program. And not only does it allow for property taxpayers to get a little bit of help with their overall tax burden each year, it also allows for Wisconsin sportsmen to enjoy some beautiful natural areas that they would not otherwise have the ability to access. The changes that are being discussed would be to give the benefit of the Managed Forest program to Wisconsin residents, who live here, pay other taxes here, raise their families here, and add to the community. In other words, either only Wisconsin property owners could enroll in the Managed Forest program, or out-of-state landowners could only receive a small reduction in their property tax by enrolling in the program. We love tourism in this state, and we love people from any state in the nation or anywhere in the world that come to visit the Dairy State, but should wealthy, out-of-state Illinois residents be getting the same tax breaks as Wisconsin property owners? Could our local counties, towns, and municipalities use some new roads, or like to have some services restored? The dollars that out-of-state property owners are saving by enrolling in the Managed Forest program would go straight to local communities, not the state. The question of uniformity has been raised. The Wisconsin State Constitution says that all taxes in our state must be applied uniformly. We understand that, and we are familiar with the "uniformity clause" and its implications. But consider this- property tax would continue to be applied uniformly. We propose not changing property tax, but rather who can benefit from property tax incentives. From that side, the uniformity argument could not apply. As always, we want to hear from you. This week, we will add a question in the weekly survey specifically to address your thoughts on this topic. Take a moment to comment after you answer the multiple choice option. 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 email@example.com directly and I'd be glad to assist, or call (608) 255-7473.
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
MASSIVE TAX OVERHAUL PASSES THROUGH CONGRESS, SIGNED INTO LAW BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
Last week, President Trump signed the most wide-reaching tax overhaul in the United States in a generation, reaching into the finances of every single American, small business, corporation, and corner of the country.
The bill lowers taxes for pretty much every single American and small business in the country, with one small caveat; the only tax cuts that are permanent will be the effective corporate tax rate, which will be lowered from 35 percent to 21 percent. The reason individual and small business tax cuts will only last eight years is due to a Congressional rule that requires them to be renewed after that length of time.
Popular middle class tax deductions and cuts, such as student loan interest and medical expenses have been preserved.
The Obamacare mandate that requires Americans to have health insurance or receive a penalty has been fully removed beginning in 2019.
Married couples earning more than $470,700 would see their rate drop from 39.6 to 37.
A lot of media attention has been focused around how much state and local tax can be deducted from federal tax. The bill was originally restricted to only allowing up to $10,000 in only property tax, but that changed to allow $10,000 to be deducted in any type of state or local taxes. Additionally with property, mortgage loans of up to $750,000 can have the interest deducted. That's a drop from $1 million.
Each income tax bracket will see a lower tax rate, and an almost doubling of the standard deduction. This is big news for all of us. Yes, there will be a noticeable difference in your paychecks, depending on your number of exemptions, dependents, etc.
The Child Tax Credit will be increased to $2,000 per child from $1,000 per child.
A person can leave an heir up to $22 million tax free.
The plan also removes the Alternative Minimum Tax for corporations, and reduces the amount of individuals and families who pay it.
If you want to see the actual income tax brackets, here's a good Forbes list that breaks it down nicely.
Lastly, as you will hear from the media; this bill adds a ton to the national debt, and costs $1.46 trillion dollars. But nearly all economists agree that tax cuts spur economic growth, and can help boost the economy.
HOLIDAY SPENDING SEES LARGEST BOOST SINCE 2011
Retail sales in the United States soared by nearly 5% between November 1 and December 24 according to newly-released numbers by Mastercard SpendingPulse. US retail sales rose 4.9%, and online retail rose 18.1%. Overall consumer spending also set a record when it comes to total dollars spent- an average of $967.13 this year, or nearly $800 billion overall. This adds to lowering unemployment and higher consumer confidence numbers released earlier in the season. Apparel was the big loser, seeing losses in their annual numbers, but home goods such as electronics and appliances saw a large boost of 7.5%. Last minute shopping had a boost, with items such as jewelry seeing a 5.9% jump. Macy's, Costco, Best Buy, Home Depot, Tiffany, Target, Dollar General, Barnes & Noble, The Gap, Sears, Nordstrom, AutoZone, and JC Penney accounted for 75% or more in revenue from in-store sales. Amazon continued to dominate the online sales.
LOCAL EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS RELEASED
The state's Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates of unemployment statistics for metro areas, major cities, and counties in Wisconsin. According to their statement, the numbers were as follows: Metro Statistical Areas: Preliminary November 2017 unemployment rates decreased in all areas when compared over the year to November 2016 and over the month to October 2017. The ratres ranged from 2.1 percent in Madison to 3.3 percent in Racine. Municipalities: Preliminary November 2017 rates decreased int he state's 32 largest municipalities when compared over the year to November 2016 and decreased or remained the same in all 32 when compared over the month to October 2017. The largest over-the-year decline was 1.5 percent in Racine and West Allis. The latest ranged from 1.9 percent in Fitchburg to 4.1 percent in Racine. Counties: Preliminary rates decreased in all 72 counties when compared over the year to November 2016 rates and decreased or remained the same in 52 of 72 counties over the month when compared to October 2017. The largest over the year decline was 2.5 percentage points in Menominee. The latest ranged from 2.0 in Dane, Green, and Lafayette, to 5.3 percent in Iron. Unemployment claims are running at their lowest levels in 30 years.
PRE-PAYING PROPERTY TAX WILL NOT HELP BYPASS NEW FEDERAL INCOME TAX CHANGES
While some states are allowing their residents to pre-pay their December 2018 property tax bills in an effort to try to bypass changes to the new federal income tax law, you will not be able to do so in Wisconsin.
Around the state, local treasurers' offices are being inundated with inquiries.
What's at question is whether or not homeowners can prepay one year ahead and try to claim a deduction for their property tax bills that will be arriving in December of 2018. The new law increases the standard deduction on income tax, but caps local and state tax deductions at $10,000, which means that some homeowners, particularly those with higher values, might see less of a break.
But alas, Wisconsin law currently prohibits homeowners from prepaying their taxes as early as in this circumstance.
WEDC PROJECTS EXPECTED TO CREATE AND RETAIN NEARLY 30,000 JOBS
Governor Walker yesterday announced that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation had a record year for economic development in 2017, with 59 companies from Wisconsin and around the world agreeing to local to or expand in Wisconsin. These projects are expected to create or retain nearly 30,000 jobs and result in more than $11.6 billion in capital investment across the state.
At the top of the project is, of course, Foxconn in Racine County, expected to create up to 13,000 jobs, and generate up to $10 billion in capital investments.
Second was Kwik Trip's $309 million expansion in la Crosse, which is expected to create more than 300 new jobs.
And in third place was Haribo's $200 million manufacturing facility in Kenosha County, expected to create 385 jobs. Haribo is a German candy maker, which is building its North American manufacturing facility in Wisconsin.
For a full list of WEDC-supported proejcts, click here.
TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT STATE'S PRISON NEEDS IN 2018
According to the state, our prisons have the capacity for 17,000 inmates, but are holding more than 23,000 prisoners currently.
Six lawmakers appointed to a new task force will a look at the prison system in Wisconsin, and find next steps for making the appropriate changes needed to fit out state's needs in the short and long term.
One lawmaker, Senator Van Wanggaard of Racine, says that if it's demolishing or rebuilding, something needs to be done. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos agrees, saying that there is likely no way around building a new prison.
The new task force also will take a look at decentralizing the youth prison in Wisconsin, and creating smaller facilities around the state, rather than one or two larger facilities in the center, hopefully making it easier for communities, parents, and the inmates.
The lawmakers are hoping to finalize their recommendations by the end of 2018.
MADISON CHOSEN AS HOME FOR MILITARY'S NEWEST FIGHTER JET
The F-35A Lightning II will have a new home, and that's the State of Wisconsin. More specifically, last week, the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field in Madison was chosen as a preferred site for the planes.
Once the announcement was made, the pomp and circumstance began, with press conferences, official statements, and a lot of touting taking place throughout the state.
Truax Field has been seen as the ideal place for the new planes because of its relative proximity to Volk Field in central Wisconsin, and because of the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee. The F-35A Lightning II combines stealth technology and a flying computer with other sensors, radars, and cameras that give pilots much more visibility and capabilities while in the air.
The final step in the process will be an official site assessment and environmental impact analysis at Truax Field. If all goes according to plan, about 18 of the planes would be delivered sometime in 2022.
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
A law professor told the Wisconsin Elections Commission that Wisconsinites are confused by the state's voter ID law. Are you confused by the state's voter ID law?
I have a DL and Passport
If one is confused by the law then perhaps they should not be voting at all
Unfortunately if the law comes across as confusing, then maybe voter will have a difficult time filling out their ballot as well. This is just a talking point for the democrats, unfortunately they portray themselves as the party that has the backs of those who have a difficult time understanding the law. That is how they build their base, by making empty promises to these individuals.
I think the Law Professor needs some more schooling so they can be even more confused.
People can go to the DMV to get an ID card.
If you can't figure out how to get an ID, I don't want you deciding who governns me.
I use DL.
That professor is an idiot. You need an ID for things other than just oting.
No one should be confused. There is no voter fraud and these voter ID are just ways the GOP use to decrease voter participation among the poor and uneducated.
absolutely! this is a liberal trying to circumvent or undermine the Trump election. BY LAW all persons over the age of 18 must possess, on their person when off their private property, a valid, state-issued, photo id...a driver's license will suffice. If, like legal counsel, you cannot afford one, you can get a free photo ID at your local DMV. Without valid credentials and a valid street address, one cannot get any state ID and cannot, therefore, legally vote. "Homeless" have no legal street address and, therefore, no proof that they even permanently reside in a given state or district where they're allowed to vote.
A bill that expands protections for Wisconsin's many ancient and tribal burial mounds is making its way through the legislature with bipartisan support. if you were a lawmaker, would you...
While I support protecting such sites...I am concerned that some 'new' site will be found on land that has been farmed or has houses built on & those landowners will be forced to STOP using the land...Yes, I have visited one site near Madison.
Support but with some common sense applied as well.
I have visited the site in Sheboygan County, they are burial grounds, like our cemeteries they need to be protected
City of Beloit has many mounds
Not everything is sacred.
What's the point if the "Indians" want to protect a certain piece of property, they can purchase it and pay taxes on it like the rest of us.
With Tommy Thompson at the help, a new conservative group in Wisconsin will be actively working to promote renewable energy. How do you feel about renewable energy sources?
I support whatever works and is not more expensive than the regular costs
Where renewables are practical its fine, but oil and natural gas are pretty cheap.
Maybe the solar would help to cut down our electric bill.
If they are cost effective, I'm ok with it, but not at a cost to the state tax payer. The industry should put some incentives into these projects as they will have a huge windfall if their technology is what they promise it to be. There are wind towers in my area, I really do not notice them for the most part. I just wish the energy they supplied was for my consumption and not Chicago area businesses. I hear this time and time again about the energy being produced by wind farms going to large cities, if that isn't the not in my backyard problem.
Don't use my taxes to support it. And don't mandate it so my power bill goes up.
Favor all. Checked into geothermal. It would take 11 years to recoup costs.
Solar would support, not geothermal, we don't have the right climate.
All for it.
We need to support every possible means of creating energy we can get our hands on, no matter how "alternative" they may be. Look at Bloom Energy, who makes who makes fuel cells that can be easily scaled, and can run off the methane from manure pits WITHOUT burning it.
Wind sounds good but the maintenance & nuisance of the wind turbines exceeds any benefit.
What is there to oppose? If we can generate watts at a competitive price, who cares what method is used?
Not at all. Alternative energy is inefficient at best. Too expensive on the front end and requires nearly perfect conditions to be beneficial....i.e., wind speeds with minimal parameters and/or sunshine for maximum periods. Southwest USA good for solar and Coastal regions and again, especially S.W. California with the regular winds coming and going out to sea (Santa Anna winds...etc). Too expensive, too much maintenance and too short a life span. We have rivers - perfectly clean, safe and totally renewable with "Zero carbon footprint."
A bill that woulds require local referendum before enacting wheel taxes is making its way through the legislature. Good idea or bad idea?
We don't need another tax We do not pay it now, I do not liek them but if the people support it ok then no and no yes and it is just another hidden tax Raised the sale tax A wheel tax is a double tax. You already pay license/registration/insurance. Yes, I consider insurance a tax because 1) it doesn't pay you when you have an issue and 2) the GOVERNMENT requires you have it. Example 278 the GOP is NOT the party of local control. Good idea. The land-owning citizens and tax payers should always be consulted before another burden is placed upon them. How about some government accountability and some common-sense with regards to roads, bridges and especially Roundabouts - what a waste. No
What are your plans for the upcoming holiday? Travel? Stay home? Did you buy any gifts for your spouse, kids, relatives, etc? if so, what did you buy? Merry Christmas to you all!
One sibling hosts Christmas & they live within 20 miles, ...Gifts will be sparse (low wages, high rent)
Saturday, Sunday, family time, Christmas Day staying home resting. Bought gift cards and snacks for the kids. Merry Christmas to everyone!!!
It is our turn to have the family at our house this year. Merry Christmas to all as well!
Everyone comes to our house on Christmas Eve. Exchange gifts, eat, drink. Lots of gifts...six grandkids! Church on Christmas. Merry Christmas to everyone!!!
All the relatives are coming here and wife gets all the gifts.
Spend time w/ family & friends
Yes, I bought gifts for everyone. Sorry, can't tell what I bought until after Christmas. Don't you know the rules?
Gifts for the Grand Kids. Cash for the Kids. They can buy what they want or need. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. GO BADGERS
I plan to hand out Arby's beef & cheddars to all my loved ones
Merry Christmas! aka...Have a very joyous December 25th...and every other day of the year as well.
Travel for New Years!
BILLS SIGNED INTO LAW
No bills to report at this time.
BILLS BEING CIRCULATED
LRB-4985 Memo Diaper Tax Exemption (Krug, Scott) A sales and use tax exemption for diapers and undergarments for incontinence. Deadline: Friday, December 29, 5 pm
LRB-1646 Memo Crowdfunding Projects (Zamarripa, JoCasta) Crowdfunding projects for creating jobs or promoting economic growth. Deadline: Tuesday, January 2
LRB-4926 Memo School Revenue Limit Adjustment (Miller, Mark) The school district revenue limit adjustment for energy efficiency projects. Deadline: Tuesday, January 2
LRB-4623 Memo Massage Therapy Violations (Sanfelippo, Joe) Violations of the law relating to the practice of massage therapy or bodywork therapy, providing a penalty, and providing a criminal penalty. Deadline: Friday, January 12, Noon
LRB-4884 Memo Wetland Mitigation Grants (Cowles, Rob) Grant programs for wetland mitigation and property development projects on Department of Natural Resources lands and making an appropriation. Deadline: Friday, December 29, 1 pm
LRB-4724 Memo Public Defender Board (Tusler, Ron) Public Defender Board regulation and pay of private bar attorneys and making an appropriation. Deadline: Friday, December 29, 1 pm
LRB-4820 Memo Closing Shooting Range (Stafsholt, Robert) The standard of proof required to effect a temporary or permanent closure of a sport shooting range based on an unsafe condition. Deadline: Tuesday, January 2
LRB-1624 Memo Child Placement (Bernier, Kathy) A presumption that equalizing physical placement to the highest degree is in the child's best interest. Deadline: Tuesday, January 9, 5 pm
LRB-4330 Memo Fox Cities RTA (Stuck, Amanda) Authorizing the creation of a Fox Cities regional transit authority and making appropriations. Deadline: Wednesday, January 10, 5 pm
* PLEASE NOTE: ALL LISTS ABOVE ARE NOT COMPLETE LISTS OF COMMITTEE PROCEEDINGS OR BILLS BEING CIRCULATED FOR CO-SPONSORSHIP. IF YOU WOULD LIKE A COMPLETE LIST OF EITHER, OR INFORMATION ON ANY LEGISLATION LISTED ABOVE, E-MAIL INFO@WPTONLINE.ORG.