Repeal Of Personal Property Tax Gains Steam In State Legislature

Tax On Small Businesses Funds Schools, Local Government

Wisconsin state Capitol
Laura Zimmerman/WPR

More Republican state lawmakers are lining up behind a push to end Wisconsin’s personal property tax, a move that could come with a big price tag for state government.

The personal property tax applies mostly to small businesses, which pay taxes on the value of their equipment, like refrigerators or manufacturing machinery. According to estimates from the state Department of Revenue, the tax brings in about $261 million per year to help fund schools and local governments.

Several GOP lawmakers are now pushing to repeal the tax as part of the state budget.

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“Locked myself in the office this evening to develop a plan to eliminate the state’s personal property tax,” Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, tweeted on Tuesday night.

Kooyenga is the author of the Assembly GOP transportation and tax plan that rolled out last month.

Last week, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s office said the repeal “is certainly still on the table for this legislative session.”

Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday he’s open to the change, but only under certain conditions.

“I want to make sure that the property tax relief that we’re providing for homeowners across the state is maintained, I don’t want it to be one at the expense of the other,” Walker said. “So, if there are ways they can chip away at that without taking away from the property tax relief we proposed in the budget, then we’re willing to look at it.”

Aside from a movement to insert the tax repeal in the state budget, a separate bill is moving through the state Legislature to do the same thing.

Small business owners from across the state testified in support of the measure at a public hearing in the Capitol last week.

“By investing in our business, we ended up with a higher tax bill,” said Ted Balistreri, a small business owner in the Milwaukee area. “In fact, at a time when we could use help the most, when we have just spent a lot of money remodeling a store, the tax is the highest.”

Opponents to the bill argue its supporters haven’t offered a good way to replace the estimated $261 million annually that would be lost if the tax were repealed.

“I think that the personal property tax is not a good and fair tax, but just to repeal it without a plan to backfill the dollars that municipalities and schools and counties rely on is not a good idea,” said Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville.

The bill repealing the personal property tax has yet to receive a vote in committee.