The past year and a half has been the hardest time most small businesses have ever seen. Many, unfortunately, did not survive. For those of us that did, we’re still working through supply chain backups, materials shortages and the growing worker shortage. So when it looked like Wisconsin was going to end an outdated business tax that none of our neighboring states subject their small businesses to, many of us thought some relief was on the horizon.
But then Gov. Tony Evers took out his red pen and killed a bipartisan bill that would have ended one of the most ridiculous taxes in our state.
While businesses in Wisconsin pay taxes on our land and buildings just like homeowners do, what many do not realize is that we also pay annual personal property taxes on stuff like office furniture, telephones, fencing, security systems and other items on top of the sales tax we paid upon purchase. This 170-year-old tax is so outdated and so burdensome to small businesses that our neighbors in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan have all already repealed their personal property taxes.
This year there seemed to be hope. After seeing how badly Wisconsin businesses have suffered these last 18 months, the Wisconsin Legislature, on a bipartisan vote, passed a bill that would have repealed the personal property tax and even passed a separate provision in the state budget that would have covered revenue losses for local governments. The bill saw overwhelming support, so much so that not a single public group or individual spoke against it at a June 23 public hearing. The bill also won the support of local chambers of commerce, agricultural trade groups, co-ops, contractor groups and the state’s tourism industry.
It seemed like a win-win, but then Evers killed it with the stroke of his pen. He vetoed the bipartisan personal property tax repeal, burdening Wisconsin’s small businesses with this $245 million tax for another year.
In his veto message, Evers made excuses about not liking certain things that were eliminated, but publicly available legislative records show that nobody from the Evers administration could even be bothered to show up to the public hearing held by the Legislature’s budget committee just two weeks prior to his veto.
We’re also left wondering why legislators were able to work across the aisle enough for members of both parties to support this bill but the governor couldn’t figure out how to pick up a phone and call legislators to share his concerns.
Wisconsin businesses have faced unprecedented challenges since early last year, and in many cases, Evers didn’t make it any easier on us. Now, when he had the opportunity to rid our state of an outdated tax, a tax that red and blue states alike have repealed, he turned his back on us.