Central Wisconsin Days: Issues and Outcomes
Highlights from state budget addressing childcare, tax reform, housing
BY Angel Whitehead
CENTRAL WISCONSIN — As the dust settles following the recent Wisconsin budget announcement, Centergy Inc. and stakeholders are taking stock of the implications for their region. The budget, a reflection of the state’s commitment to progress and development, has garnered significant attention for its provisions on critical issues affecting central Wisconsin, notably childcare, tax reform, and housing.
Centergy’s Central Wisconsin Days, held in April, convened to tackle these precise challenges. Now, Centergy is sharing outcomes from dedicated advocacy endeavors.
The Ask: Centergy supports efforts to close the childcare gap and shrink this barrier to employment. Centergy asked our legislators to consider a structural change to childcare policies for all types of providers for sustainable long-term increased access for families. Examples include tax credits or other incentives for businesses that offer employer-sponsored childcare or childcare supports (Partner Up Program), new/continued funding for childcare workers that include stipends and scholarships, and grants to help fund the development of new childcare centers.
The Outcome: No structural changes to childcare policies in the state budget. Reforms could still happen through the regular legislative process.
Over $9 million was made available for the Partner Up! program in May 2023.
$5 million for TEACH scholarships for childcare workers is in the state budget.
The Ask: Centergy supports efforts to significantly reform the Wisconsin tax system. Centergy asked area legislators to consider initiatives that would lower the top marginal personal income tax rate for our citizens, eliminate the personal property tax for our businesses and maintain the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit at its current level for our top industries. Centergy also supported reforming the shared revenue formula for our local governments to assure fairness for both rural and urban communities.
The Outcome: The Joint Committee on Finance budget lowered and compressed the income tax brackets from 5 to 3 and lowered the top rate to 6.5 percent, but the Governor vetoed the entire package. The legislative majority has indicated it will attempt to accomplish its goal through the regular legislative process.
The personal property tax is eliminated.
The Manufacturing and Agricultural Tax Credit is maintained.
The shared revenue formula is reformed based on a bi-partisan deal between the Legislature and Governor Evers. There is also a $1 billion increase in school funding.
The Ask: Centergy supports legislative efforts to meet the current and future housing needs of Wisconsin employees. This includes an increase in the annual amount of low-income tax credits certified by WHEDA, with 35 percent set aside for rural communities under 10,000 population, as well as the creation of local housing investment funds. Centergy also supports state policies, regulations, and statutes that encourage local innovation, incentivize the creation of buildable lots, expand mixed-use TID options, extend the life of TIF districts, infill development, housing rehabilitation, creation of missing middle housing types, compact growth, the efficiency of public resources, and the ability to build the types of housing demanded by the marketplace.
The Outcome: Assembly Bill 39/Senate Bill 40 relating to WHEDA tax credits with a rural set-aside cleared committees in mid-June and is ready for a floor vote this fall.
On June 22, Gov. Evers signed 5 bi-partisan bills related to affordable housing:
Assembly Bill 264, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 14, creates a residential housing infrastructure revolving loan fund program, allowing a residential housing developer to apply to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) for a loan to cover the costs of installing, replacing, upgrading, or improving public infrastructure related to workforce housing or senior housing.
Assembly Bill 265, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 15, creates a main street housing rehabilitation revolving loan funding program, allowing an owner of rental housing to apply to WHEDA for a loan to cover the costs of an improvement to workforce housing to maintain it in a decent, safe, and sanitary condition or to restore it to that condition.
Assembly Bill 266, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 16, establishes a new procedure for certiorari review of local land use decisions regarding residential development, providing that the new procedure for certiorari review is the only review available for a decision of a political subdivision regarding an application for approval, such as a permit or authorization for building, zoning, driveway, stormwater, or other activity related to residential development.
Assembly Bill 267, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 17, makes various modifications to the Workforce Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program administered by WHEDA, including but not limited to:
Specifying the home must be a single-family residence that the applicant occupies as the applicant’s primary residence and that was constructed at least 40 years prior to the date of the loan application;
Allowing eligible rehabilitation to include the removal of lead paint, asbestos, mold, or other environmental contamination;
Allowing eligible rehabilitation to include repairing or replacing flooring or an interior wall or ceiling, or an internal plumbing system; and
Requiring WHEDA to establish policies and procedures to administer the loan program and the policies and procedures must, to the extent practicable, address credit underwriting guidelines and loan repayment requirements.
Assembly Bill 268, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 18, creates a commercial-to-residential conversation revolving loan fund program under WHEDA, allowing a developer to apply to WHEDA for a loan to cover the costs of converting a vacant commercial building to workforce housing or senior housing; and
Requires the housing associated with a conversion loan must be new residential housing for rent or for sale and must consist of 16 or more dwelling units.
Looking Ahead – Collaborative Action for a Stronger Future
As Centergy reflects on the implications of the Wisconsin budget, the region is poised for collective action. Stakeholders, residents, and policymakers are urged to engage in constructive dialogue, forge partnerships, and actively participate in shaping the future. By working together, central Wisconsin can seize the opportunities presented by the budget to create a more vibrant, resilient, and equitable region.
Save the date for 2024 Central Wisconsin Days on Feb. 13, 2024.
Centergy, Inc. is a 501(c)4 nonprofit regional marketing and economic development organization. Its purpose is to foster collaboration among private and public-sector leaders throughout the five counties of central Wisconsin that make up the Centergy Region: Adams, Lincoln, Marathon, Portage, and Wood.