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State legislature continues focus on tax relief

A Column of Personal Opinion by State Senator Sheila Harsdorf

While the State Legislature concluded its legislative session this spring, work continues in the State Capitol as hearings are being held on a number of complex issues that may be considered next session.  I am pleased to have been appointed to two committees that are considering further reforms to Wisconsin’s tax structure as we keep the focus on reducing our state’s tax burden and improving our state’s business climate.

Last week marked the first meeting of the Legislative Council Study Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical College System Funding and Governance.  Given the reliance of technical colleges on the property tax and the interest in reducing the property tax burden, technical colleges have received a significant amount of attention from citizens and legislators.  This Study Committee seeks to look further into the issues that have been raised in regards to the role of local and state technical college boards and the funding of technical colleges.

The Study Committee is charged with looking at the technical college system to determine if changes to the governing structure are appropriate, as well as considering changes to the mix of property taxes and state funding.  As the vice chair of this Study Committee, I am pleased that we have area residents involved in technical fields participating as members of the Study Committee.

Given the concerns I have heard from taxpayers in our region, I have long supported reforms to the technical college property tax levy.  To this end, I authored legislation in a past legislative session proposing to increase state aid while reducing the technical college property tax levy.  This past session we made progress in this effort by passing legislation to reduce the technical college property tax levy by increasing state funding for technical colleges.  The tax relief package we passed this spring used over $400 million of the state’s budget surplus for property tax relief by reducing the property tax levy for technical colleges.

I am also one of a number of legislators who are part of the Legislative Council Steering Committee for Personal Property Tax.  The personal property tax is an issue I hear frequently as I visit our Main Streets and talk to small business owners.  Many small business owners express their frustration with paying onerous taxes on equipment such as ovens, cameras, or compressors year after year, after having paid sales taxes on the same piece of equipment when it was purchased.  This tax is burdensome for small business owners to track, imposes double-taxation of equipment, and is a hassle for local property tax assessors to administer.  The committee will be fact finding and considering reforms that may be advanced.

Which state tax do you believe is in most need of reform?  Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by visiting my website at or calling my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745.