I want to hear from you about transportation, education, taxes and the many other subjects under consideration in the 2017-19 state budget proposal! If you have not done so already, there is still time to complete my survey online at www.repkatsma.com. (Look for the "Survey" link at the top-right of the page.)
This week, the legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted on several improvements to Governor Scott Walker's 2017-19 state budget proposal. Of particular note: current law will be preserved regarding apprenticeship and examination requirements for certain licensed professions (especially electricians and plumbers), but it will be easier for new Wisconsin residents to receive state licensure if they were previously licensed in other states. The Police and Fire Protection Fee that you pay on your wireless and landline phone bills will start paying for the modernization of 911 emergency service across the state. And the committee followed the Governor's recommendation to end the rental weatherization program that required rental properties to meet certain energy efficiency standards (a program that has become obsolete and redundant, as modern building codes already include energy efficiency standards). These measures, like the rest of the provisions within the budget bill, are not yet law, but the legislative committee's action moves them much closer to becoming law.
As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions. Best wishes on what should be a GORGEOUS Mother's Day weekend!
Wisconsin: A Better Place to Do Business
Our conservative reforms and responsible fiscal management in Wisconsin are yielding real results. Our state's unemployment rate is down to 3.4 percent, which is the lowest since April 2000 and which significantly beats the national average rate of 4.5 percent. A new report from a UW-Madison economics professor shows that manufacturing, a tremendously important sector of Wisconsin's economy, is growing and creating jobs more rapidly than in the states that border Wisconsin. But there are still plenty of ways left for our state government to make Wisconsin a better place to do business and treat all taxpayers, including business taxpayers, more fairly.
Tax audits are never fun for anyone, and although audits are just part of life for many businesses, current law sometimes places Wisconsin businesses at an unfair disadvantage when disputes arise. I've been working on a bill that I hope will help level the playing field in some of these cases and give businesses a fairer chance. For instance, under current law, if state auditors allege that a business engaged in certain transactions without "economic substance" (without a genuine business purpose), the burden is presently on the taxpayer, rather than the government, to provide clear and convincing proof (the law's highest possible standard) that economic substance did in fact exist. My bill would somewhat reduce the required burden of proof and give that business a realistic opportunity to defend itself. Other parts of the bill would increase businesses' confidence in being able to rely on previous audit decisions, simplify tax filing and help protect taxpayers' confidential information.
Talking about business tax audits might sound a little boring, but these are issues that, taken together, make a difference in our economy. When an employer is considering whether to create a new job position or expand a business in a new location, that employer is taking a risk; but the risk is reduced (and growth is more likely to occur) if the employer can be confident that the government will treat the business fairly, simply and with respect. Overall, I'm proud of the reforms that have already improved Wisconsin's economic climate in recent years, but these new steps will help resolve some remaining challenges.
The Department of Natural Resources' annual "Free Fun Weekend" is coming up on June 3rd and 4th. On those two days, no license will be required to fish anywhere in Wisconsin; vehicle admission fees will be waived at all state parks; no state trail passes will be required on any DNR-owned properties; and ATV/UTV owners may ride trails without registration. Keep in mind that all other regulations (such as limits on size/species of legal fish, ATV safety requirements, etc.) do remain in effect.
Need ideas for taking advantage of this opportunity? Looking for someplace to take the kids? Haven't been fishing in a while but want to try it again at no cost? Click here for suggestions!