Living in the Twin Cities media market makes tracking developments in Madison difficult under normal circumstances. With so much media attention drawn to the natural and man-made national tragedies of the past weeks, one can be excused for not noticing that a 2017-2019 biennial state budget was finally passed by lawmakers in Madison.
While the debate over state-wide transportation funding and increased financial support for K-12 education garnered most of the headlines, there are other less publicized budget matters that have been on our radar at the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau:
- Owners of small businesses in Wisconsin will no longer pay property taxes on machinery, tools and patterns not used for manufacturing. This will result in approximately $74 million in savings for small businesses in Wisconsin. The personal property tax is a double taxation on businesses as they already pay sales tax on the purchase of these items. The loss in revenue for local jurisdictions resulting from this partial repeal of personal property taxes will be replaced by funding from the State of Wisconsin. Personal property taxes are not collected from businesses by Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, or Illinois.
- A provision added to the budget at the last minute by the Assembly denies cities, villages and towns the ability to use condemnation — acquiring private property from unwilling sellers for public use — to expand or build new sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and trails. This will be applauded by property rights advocates, but it also has the potential to serve as a barrier to St. Croix County attracting cyclists using the new St. Croix River Crossing and the future loop trail that will connect the new bridge and the Stillwater lift bridge. Without bike trails to connect the loop trail to shops, restaurants, and hotels in St. Croix County, spending by cycling tourists (which is big business these days) will likely stay in Minnesota.
- The budget as passed by the Legislature designated I-94 between exit 4 and just east of exit 10 as a major highway development project. This designation was removed from the budget by Governor Walker using a line-item veto. Major highway development projects are long-term solutions to the most serious deficiencies on highly traveled segments of the highway system. With approximately 70,000 vehicles a day using this four-lane stretch of I-94 in St. Croix County, major highway designation is long overdue.
In early February of 2018, a delegation from our area will be discussing these issues and more at the annual Greater St. Croix Valley Legislative Day in Madison. All are welcome to join us for this opportunity to emphasize the importance of our region to the future of Wisconsin.