We hope your work week is off to a great start, and that your weekend was enjoyable.
As always, this week will bring you our weekly Property Taxpayer of the Week, News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin, circulating legislation, your weekly poll responses, and an all new Weekly Member Poll.
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
For this week's Wisconsin Property Taxpayer of the Week, we'll travel all the way to southernmost region of the State of Wisconsin to Jackson Monument Corp in Beloit, where we'll meet and learn a bit about owner Rick Elliot.
Rick was born and raised in Beloit, and went to Parks College of St. Louis University, where he studied aerospace engineering. We know what you're thinking; "do you need a degree in aerospace engineering to own a company that specializes in customer personal monuments and custom headstones?"
The answer is no, and it was actually a national tragedy that led Rick back to Wisconsin.
"Shortly after graduating, the shuttle challenger exploded, causing me to shift career paths. I came back to Beloit where I worked for the police department for five years," Rick told us. "I left BPD in 1998 to join my father at Jackson Monument Corp, due to his health."
The company has quite the lengthy history, dating back to an era long before Rick was even around.
Jackson Monument was founded 150 years ago, in 1867 by A S Jackson, who operated the business in downtown Beloit until Rick's grandfather, B B Elliott bought it in 1923.
"My grandfather ran the business in downtown Beloit until 1955 when he built a new building on the edge of town next to the 'new' cemetery. He built a new showroom sales area and a shop area where the memorials are created," Rick said. "We are still at this location, though many remodels and additions have taken place. My father joined the business in 1957 upon leaving the Air Force."
As it turns out, this industry has its own set of challenges- "I want it now syndrome" is what Rick calls it. "aka Walmart syndrome," he said."
"Granite is a difficult material to shape, carve, and letter. Its hardness is what causes this and also makes memorials last for centuries. The process to carve memorials takes time. Granite comes from all over the world and shipping can add numerous months to timelines. Our industry is looking for the best quality granite that can be found. Unlike a granite counter top, memorials are exposed to mother nature's best 24/7."
And the demand for workforce is not as big as it once was. At their peak, Jackson Monument employed ten people, including sales and manufacturing. He said they would receive the block of granite and cut and chisel the block. "Your choice of colors was grey," he added.
"Today we employ three people due to automation of many jobs and receiving sized markers and monuments from the quarry instead of large blocks."
Not only does Jackson Monument face the challenges of "I want it now syndrome," but they are now facing competition, and from a very unlikely competitor, the City of Beloit government.
"Cremation numbers have risen considerably over the past two decades," Rick told us. "There are many ways to inter and memorialize cremation burials. One popular method is an estate columbarium."
A columbarium is a unit of storage that can hold 2 to 4 cremains and allows for engraving of the deceased's information.
"These units are the biggest challenge for my business since the City of Beloit will be selling [them]. The [city-owned] cemetery believes they need to sell [the columbariums] because the cemetery is not self-supporting," Rick explained. "They have chosen to compete against private industry in an unfair manor since they are not required to pay sales or use tax. I pay 5.5% use tax to the State of Wisconsin, on memorials and equipment I purchase. Though my business is located in the Town of Turtle, surrounded by Beloit, I pay residential property tax."
"So, the city is competing against me using my own property tax money, as well as [the cemetery] pays no state tax, so they compete on an uneven playing field since their costs are lower to begin with."
Rick has tried to make contact with elected officials on the local level, but has not been successful.
"I spoke to the city council about this in May and have seen no action. Phone calls are returned weeks to months later with little to no information shared," he said.
And this isn't just happening in Beloit, according to Rick, "in Waukesha County in 2010 or 2011. The action was stopped by a memorialist and five funeral homes. [They] were trying to sell all cemetery memorials, caskets and burial vaults."
Rick believes if Beloit is successful, they will also start trying to sell caskets and vaults, in direct competition with his and other businesses in the area.
How are businesses supposed to survive when governments with relatively unlimited tax exemptions, perks and corner-cutting-abilities are undermining the private sector, even on the local level? This is a great question, with a real life example right here.
WPT appreciates Rick's commitment to his community and to providing a very important service to his customers, and we thank him for his longtime membership and willingness to share his story in this week's WPT Insider.
Last week, WPT added the new WPT Ag Hub to our website. Thank you to everybody for the positive feedback and for the suggestions. We are in the process of adding more information and resources on both the state and federal levels.
I also had a great conversation with the FSA last week regarding individuals who would like to opt out of the Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) program, and instead enroll in the MPP. The official advice from FSA is that you contact the insurance agent from whom you purchased the LGM program to find out about penalties and what exactly is allowed with the program.
In my conversation with FSA, I was also informed that the new enrollment period for joining the Margin Protection Program through USDA has not yet been opened. I was told that the USDA is still in the process of changing the regulations and formulas, and making the necessary adjustments before re-opening the enrollment period. WPT will being you that information as soon as it is made available. We were originally told that the program would be open immediately, and close in the beginning of May, though they decided to go a different route.
Please make sure to check www.wptonline.org/aghub for the most current information regarding the USDA's changes to MPP, and other news. I would also encourage you to get ahold of me directly at email@example.com if there are any pieces of news or information that you feel should be added.
Next, I'd like to discuss the Dark Store legislation that was pending in the state legislature.
As you now know, after gathering information from local governments, lawmakers, other organizations, and most importantly, our members, WPT is registered in favor of the dark store reforms. We don't want anybody to pay any more or any less property taxes than they are supposed to. But what we don't want are big box retail stores paying less and passing those massive $100-million and higher figures on to residential property owners and small businesses.
The legislature will not be acting on the legislation this session. The Assembly adjourned their session until January of 2019, when the new legislature will be sworn in after the elections in November.
Until then, assessors can still follow the letter of the law, and do their jobs by assessing these properties fairly and accurately. Whether or not a big box store might file a subsequent lawsuit regarding their assessment should be of no concern to an assessor, nor should it inhibit accurate assessments from taking place until the reforms are passed.
We will continue to make Dark Stores a priority moving into the next legislative session, and will continue to make contact with legislative offices through the spring, summer, and fall, and making our members' voices heard on this topic. It's critical to the functionality of local governments, and their ability to provide services that our home and small business owners pay for through their property taxes.
If you would like to discuss this or any other topic you read in the report below, please never hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call at 608-255-7473.
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
ASSEMBLY OK'S RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BILL
In their marathon session days last week, the State Assembly voted to green light Governor Walker's plan that establishes a $50 million annual rural economic development program.
The bill would give authority to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to distribute the cash to eligible projects in rural communities. Those communities would be counties with 155 people per square mile or less, which turns out to be 56 counties in the state. The counties would apply for the grants or revolving loans, or join together to apply.
One amendment mandates that WEDC prioritizes under-served communities within the rural counties when deciding on the grant recipients. Under-served means communities that receive lower state aids across the board.
WPT has teamed up with various other organizations to urge the Wisconsin Senate to pass the measure before the end of the legislative session. The Senate is expected to meet once in March, before wrapping up for the calendar year. The legislature is set to return in January of 2019, unless a special session is called to order.
WISCONSIN SEES RECORD MILK PRODUCTION AND DECLINING CROP VALUES IN 2017
According to USDA numbers which have not yet been finalized, Wisconsin produced 30.3 billion pounds of Milk in 2017, which comes in 0.7 percent higher than 2016's 30.1 billion pounds. The amount of production per head also rose to 23,725 pounds, setting a new record, and an increase of 183 pounds from 2016.
Also in the numbers were the number of milk cow operations in the state, with 8,801 licensed. That number is a 503 operation decline from 2016, and only one of three years in generations to be below 10,000 herds. The state had 1.28 million head.
Field and miscellaneous crops had a value of $3.39 billion last year, which is down 7 percent from 2016 according to the USDA's latest Crop Values. Corn for grain production came in at $1.66 billion, down 12 percent from 2016. The state's corn prices averaged $3.25 per bushel, down 3 percent. Soybeans were at $940 million in 2017, down 6 percent. Per bushel, the price dropped a penny to $9.35.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FRAUD BILL HEADS TO GOVERNOR WALKER
If you try to rip off the state by trying to fraudulently claim unemployment benefits, the criminal penalties are about to get harsher.
Under current law, penalties already exist for individuals who try to conceal facts or information related to their ability to obtain the benefit, or the level of wages they earned when they were employed. If an individual is found to have committed fraud, they might be required to pay back the money plus a 40 percent penalty. There is also a current criminal penalty for making false statements in order to obtain the unemployment insurance benefit equal to a $100 to $500 fine and up to 90 days incarceration.
The new bill boosts those criminal penalties. If the benefits received totaled $2,500 or less, the individual in question would face up to $10,000 in fines and nine months imprisonment.
The penalty for fraudulently obtaining $10,000 or more would be charged with a felony, face up to $25,000 in fines, and 10 years in prison.
The bill was passed by the Assembly earlier this month, concurred in by the Senate, and will head to Governor Walker for his signature to become law.
WALKER HEALTHCARE PLAN SET TO BECOME LAW
Governor Walker's plan to seek a federal waiver to offer reinsurance for 200,000 individuals in the ACA Marketplace in Wisconsin has cleared both the Assembly and Senate, and will head back to his hands where it is expected to become law.
The plan will cost $200 million, with $50 million coming from the state's Medical Assistance budget. The federal waiver would allow Wisconsin to cover 80 percent of medical claims costing between $50,000 and $250,000.
Governor Walker has been touring the state to discuss his plan, hoping that it will lower premiums for those in the individual market place. He is also pushing for a plan that would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, as well as a plan that would make the waiver received for SeniorCare each year permanent for around 60,000 seniors in the state who use the program each month.
ASSEMBLY PASSES TAX CREDIT AND PRISON REFORM BILLS, BUT FATE OF LEGISLATION UNCERTAIN
The State Assembly last week also passed two of Governor Walker's major 2018 initiatives, though the future of the legislation remains uncertain, evident by comments that came from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald following the Assembly action.
The $100-per-child tax credit and sales tax holiday passed the Assembly, along with the juvenile prison overhaul which included $350 million for a new prison, and $4 million for more prosecutors around the state.
Fitzgerald told reporters that he had been cut out of negotiations between Governor Walker and Assembly leadership, and that the two major pieces of legislation will have "serious problems" getting through his chamber. With the Assembly having adjourned their session for the year, any legislation already approved by the Assembly would need to pass through the Senate unamended.
ASSEMBLY PASSES FIRST CONSIDERATION OF NEW CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
In Wisconsin, an identical joint resolution must pass both chambers unamended for two consecutive sessions, and receive approval from voters statewide in a referendum, in order to amend the constitution.
One such resolution, AJR 93, has passed the Assembly and would amend the constitution to allow judges, when fixing the amount of bail for an individual, to consider the seriousness of the offense, previous criminal history, probability that the accused will appear in court, and need to protect the community and witnesses.
Under current law, judges are only allowed to take into consideration monetary conditions necessary to assure appearance in court. This amendment to the constitution would give judges a breadth of other considerations they may consider when setting bail.
The author, Rep. Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield) said, "we have a duty as state legislators to do what is right in order to keep our communities safe. When we have individuals getting signature bonds or low bails set who have been charged with violent crimes, it is our responsibility to give judges the tools they need to help them take into consideration more than just flight risk when setting monetary bail."
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Do you feel NAFTA is important to your local economy?
Need to see more dairy being sold over seas to support price to farmer with a tarriff, and I know they won't accept it over there at that. THey suppliment their dairy farms in Europe. Ours have a real hard time getting by. Help our farmers.
Canada and Mexico are huge markets for our goods, lets get this figured out
Not being in agriculture I don't know for sure but I'm betting much of our agriculture is involved in export to Mexico and Canad for sure.
maybe needs some tweets but very important to our economy
All markets are important to agriculture
I am just a farmer, so probably not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I am told that exports are key to profitability in the dairy industry. If a working, or "fixed" NAFTA will grow dairy product exports, then lets make it work.
It is a BIG plus for the ag economy. Lose NAFTA and our already low commodity prices will go a lot farther down the tubes.
It's a global economy whether we want it or not. We need partners, the best deal for America is always the preference.
The official plan to offer Kimberly-Clark a 17% tax credit for every one of their jobs paying between $30,000 and $100,000 has officially been introduced. If you were a State Senator:
Keep jobs in Wisconsin. Good to see improvements in the Fox Valley.
Too much corporate welfare.
What about small business? Why don't they get a tax credit?
FAR too much Corporate Welfare Already!...What are we to do?? cave to EVERY employer that threatens to downsize?
We need business to stay in Wisconsin.
So evidently, this is about the union. No surprise!
Hope they stay but how do we slow the corporate welfare?
I don't know what to say. This is government pandering to a corporation. If Kimberly-Clark were TRULY worth supporting, they would have done things to stay viable here in the state before the gov't had to entice them with deals. Kimberly-Clark needs to get their head together.
What about all the other employers in the state?
Put on a stipulation that the economy re-tool the factories and update, so they are fully invested in staying.
Maybe the union is the problem- the tail wagging the dog.
I hope KC will stay regardless of the State's offer. It is bad precedent for the state to get into the habit of making a sweet offer to any employer who may threaten to move jobs from the state.
Yes,but what about all of the other companies out there?
NO CORPORATE WELFARE.
A plan has again resurfaced that would create a so-called alcohol czar to head up a new Office of Alcoholic Beverage Enforcement. Based on what you have read; Good idea or bad idea?
No. They are a small business, and should have support from customers too.
Government needs to quit wasting our money on useless programs
Just another bureaucrat that would need to justify their paycheck
I think the breweries & wineries should sell their own, why have another person selling and raising the price more?
These are hobbies that grew. Maybe we should have a craft fair czar, a school bake sale czar, a county fair czar, etc. This state has enough regulations, don't need more for these people who aren't trying to make a million.
Not more government.
Just increase the prices. Would this eliminate winery and brewing tours which is a big tourist attraction?
Set an annual production gallonage amount and above that you need a distributor as the rest of Wisconsin's alcohol is regulated. There's more to it than seeming unfairness to small breweries and wineries. It's a tax revenue matter as it's illegal for bars and stores selling alcohol to buy from anyone other than a licensed distributor. Without that check and balance, there would be income tax reporting issues at bars and stores to name just one reason for requiring distributors.
Let the small businesses fly on their own, distributor just cuts into the profits
let the small breweries & wineries do their thing, most jobs are created by the small business & entrepreneurs who start small businesses
If you take the risk to start and operate the business, you should be able to sell your product as you please
It is an asinine idea to require selling thru a distributor. Sounds like some big time lobbying by the distributors.
Appeared to be manipulation by a Senate leader who should know better
Deregulate the industry entirely. I don't see why this product should be treated like any other. If they want to use a distributor, fine, if not, that's fine too.
This is a really bad idea.
The Assembly has passed Governor Walker's welfare reform legislation. After reading the article...
I know a family where the man works full time, woman is partially disabled, yet they are relegated to Badger-Care because of premium cost.
I like the photo ID part.
people are always looking for a hand out
no reason able bodies can't be working for what they need like the rest of us hardworking people
I do not know enough about it, but if it reigns in welfare fraud and abuse I am for it
Need to slow the welfare train.
Drug testing-YES! Requiring getting a job-YES! Welfare has become a way of life for some.
We need to help people help themselves.
I am mostly indifferent to the new requirements, but spending an extra $90 MILLION dollars on the reforms is NUTS.
Today is Presidents Day, which was established in 1885 to commemorate George Washington's birthday. Who was your favorite president, or a president that you admire? Tell us who and why!
Lincoln and Washington fought for freedoms in our nation.
Reagan because he stood for smaller government.
No longer commenting since my comments, which are not any different than the ones I read are no longer published (If this happened, it was entirely in error. WPT's policy is to publish all comments unless they contain vulgarity. Please e-mail email@example.com and share which topic or comment to which you are referring)
George Washington,, he chopped down the cherry tree..."laughing".
JFK, very popular, seemed to care about the people, good ethics.
All the founding fathers, Lincoln. They were leaders. I can't say that about any of our current politicians.
Reagan- he was for everyone
Reagan - a colorful guy and outwardly strong president
Abraham Lincoln...think of the chaos that he faced on a daily basis. Now think of the decisions he made and implemented.
All recent were immersed in murky politics.
Of course it is President Lincoln. He governed with a moral purpose. He used humor to to manage tense situations. He came from poverty and was able to change our country for the better.
Ronald Reagan- because he knew how to tell a joke.
Lincoln, he saved the union.
Didn't we used to celebrate Washington and Lincoln's birthdays separately- one in January and one in February Favorite modern day Pres.-Ronald Reagan who presided over the fall of the Soviet Union, cut taxes and in general used common sense in carrying out his duties. He also loved America-unlike a recent incumbent who told other countries how bad we are!
President Carter wasn't great in office, but he is one of the finest humans to ever serve the public for decades out of office.