Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

A bill that would eliminate the state’s personal property tax starting next year was largely supported Wednesday in a public hearing, where backers touted it as a business-friendly measure that would remove unnecessary burdens.

But Dems on the Senate committee worried the funds wouldn’t be completely backfilled by state aid, leaving municipalities and property taxpayers covering the costs in the future.

While the bill from GOP authors Reps. Bob Kulp, Dan Knodl and Sens. Duey Stroebel and David Craig guarantees that taxing jurisdictions will be reimbursed by the state for the loss of personal property tax revenue, it does not make any appropriations. But the authors told committee members the funding would be handled by the Joint Finance Committee during budget deliberations.

They and business owners from around the state also criticized the personal property tax as prohibitive to both emerging and existing businesses.

Ted Balistreri, one of the owners and operators of Sendik’s Food Market, said the tax punishes those that invest profits back into their businesses to buy new equipment, like shelving, coolers, hot water heaters and more, by levying taxes on them that “never end.”

“When we need help the most, when we just spent a lot of money remodeling a store, we are taxed the most,” he said.

And Bud Styer, a member of the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners board, said because of current exemptions few people pay into it.

“The hole used to be paid by everybody, now it’s paid by just a few. I don’t see how that’s fair. I don’t see how that’s common sense…” he said. “We don’t want to be the burden for that hole, this small little group.”

Meanwhile, representatives from the Wisconsin Counties Association and League of Wisconsin Municipalities, which had previously opposed efforts to get rid of the personal property tax, said the two groups are “not opposed to this legislation.”

Still, Counties Association Director of Government Affairs Kyle Christianson and Curt Witynski, LWM assistant director, flagged some areas of concern. Christianson said under the bill, state aid payments to municipalities in the place of the tax revenue are “frozen in time,” which could mean that local governments are “essentially losing revenue” over time.”

They also wondered whether the state would “remain committed to making this reimbursement in future years,” a concern echoed by Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, who said the bill doesn’t have a “source of revenue” to begin with.

“There is no revenue in this bill,” Vinehout said. “This resolution has not been met.”

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