News and Releases from Around the State

League Applauds Governor Walker’s Signing of Bi-Partisan Historic Building Tax Credit

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities and local officials from around the state today praised Governor Scott Walker for signing Special Session Assembly Bill 4 (SSAB 4). The League also applauded the leadership of Rep. Weininger (R-Green Bay) and Sen. Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) for their role in enacting an increase in the Historic Building Tax Credit. The State Senate and Assembly passed SSAB 4 with overwhelming bi-partisan votes of 31-2 and 88-4, respectively.

“The Historic Tax Credit Bill will stimulate job creation and economic growth in our communities” said League President and Beloit City Manager Larry Arft. “We appreciate Governor Walker’s leadership in including this legislation as part of his special session on economic development and he and the Legislature working collaboratively with municipal leaders.”

“I want to thank Rep. Chad Weininger for introducing and guiding this bill through the legislative process,” Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt stated. “Increasing Wisconsin’s historic tax credit percentage puts our city in a better position to work with developers on reviving underutilized buildings in our downtown.”

Oshkosh City Manager Mark Rohloff commented on the key role played by Senator Rick Gudex, the Senate lead author of the bill, “Sen. Gudex understands that the tax credit increase allows Wisconsin to compete with neighboring states for developers willing to make significant investments in redeveloping our older buildings.”

“This represents an example of how the Governor and Legislature can continue to work with local leaders on a bi-partisan basis,” added Racine Mayor John Dickert, who also praised Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) for playing a key role in advocating the bill’s passage.

Governor Walker offered to work collaboratively with local leaders on issues impacting municipalities when he addressed League members at their Legislative Lunch in April. The League passed a resolution at its annual conference in October to work collaboratively with the Governor and Legislature on job creation and economic growth at the local level. The League of Wisconsin Municipalities is a voluntary, nonprofit, and nonpartisan association of Wisconsin cities and villages working to advance municipal government. First established in 1898, the League’s membership consists of 190 cities and 394 villages.

-Dan Thompson, Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities


Report Details Economic Success of Focus on Energy

Energy efficiency program has proven to provide major return on investment.

Energy efficiency is both a money-saver and a job-creator for Wisconsin, producing a $7 return for every dollar invested. That’s according to an independent analysis of the economic impact of Focus on Energy, a program that has been reducing energy costs for businesses and homeowners for more than a decade.

“These are encouraging statistics that speak to opportunity for individuals, business leaders and families alike,” said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy group. “The efficiency measures installed by Focus on Energy last year will create thousands of jobs in the private sector, increase Wisconsin consumer’s disposable income by hundreds of millions of dollars and increase sales of products and services by hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The report shows that Focus on Energy projects in 2012 alone created nearly $1.5 billion in economic benefits through lower energy bills and avoided utility costs associated with electricity, gas and emissions. The report also focuses on economic sustainability of clean energy by looking at “job- years,” meaning the number of years of individual employment, created by Focus on Energy projects. The 2012 projects already have helped to create or sustain 1,423 job-years with the prospect of that number growing to 6,596 over the lifetime of the projects.

“As the EPA prepares to establish carbon regulations, Focus on Energy is playing an important role in establishing best practices to cut pollution at a very low cost and reduce our dependency on coal power and other dirtier energies,” said Reopelle. “This report quantifies how the Focus program is benefiting all Wisconsin ratepayers and how we can position Wisconsin to be a leader again.”

Focus on Energy assists almost 200,000 Wisconsin residents and businesses each year with funding support from the state’s utilities. The program was born in 2001 with support from Clean Wisconsin.

-Keith Reopelle, Senior Policy Director, Clean Wisconsin


Dept. of Transportation: 52 people died in traffic crashes in November 2013

A total of 52 people were killed in 49 traffic crashes last month, according to preliminary statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Traffic fatalities last month were 16 more than November 2012 and seven more than the five-year average for the month of November.

Last month was tied for the sixth safest month of November in terms of traffic deaths since World War II. The safest month of November since World War II occurred last year with 36 traffic fatalities, and the deadliest was in 1973 with 110 fatalities.

Eleven people died in crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period from 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 27, to midnight on Sunday, December 1.

As of the end of November, 496 people have died in Wisconsin traffic crashes this year, including 80 motorcycle drivers, four motorcycle passengers, 37 pedestrians and 10 bicyclists. Traffic deaths through November were 72 fewer than during the same period in 2012 and 34 fewer than the five-year average.

“Although traffic fatalities this year are down about 13 percent compared with the same period last year, we know that far too many people continue to die nearly every day because of drunken driving and not wearing safety belts,” says David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety.

“To protect individuals, families and whole communities from the tragic effects of traffic crashes during the upcoming holiday season, law enforcement agencies throughout the state will be on the lookout for unbelted motorists and drunken drivers during the annual Booze and Belts mobilization from December 13 to 21. We’re striving to attain zero preventable traffic deaths in Wisconsin. And there’s no better time of year to make progress toward that goal than right now.”

-David Pabst, director, WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety


COWS: Local Living Wage Ordinances: Experience, Evidence & Best Practice. New Report from Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) Shows Positive Effects of Living Wage Laws

Cities and counties looking to create more good jobs and improve quality of life for their low wage workers have few policy options. But the living wage ordinance, a local law requiring firms that contract with local government or receive taxpayer benefits to pay their workers a decent wage, has proven to be an effective tool.

A new report released today by COWS, Local Living Wage Ordinances: Experience, Evidence and Best Practice, provides an overview of the evidence on living wage laws already in effect in the United States. In the two decades since Baltimore passed the first modern living wage ordinance in 1994, more than 140 other cities and counties have followed suit.

The City of Milwaukee was an early living wage adopter. There is now sufficient evidence from this experience to make clear that living wage laws are an effective mechanism for raising the incomes of low-wage workers with limited negative impacts on unemployment or public costs.

Local living wage ordinances require firms doing business with the local government or benefitting from local government expenditures or subsidies to pay their workers a specified wage, often calculated in relation to the hourly rate a year-round full-time worker would need to be paid in order to stay above the federal poverty line. Many living wage laws also provide valuable health-insurance supplements, which increase health care affordability for low-wage workers, and protections against unfair job loss for employees of public contractors and subcontractors.

Jody Knauss, lead author and COWS consultant, states, “The claim that raising wages inevitably leads to layoffs and tax increases isn’t backed up by experience.”

A 30-city comparison of cities with and without effective living wage laws found no differences in employment or employment growth between the two groups. Multiple case studies show that a link between living wage laws and tax increases hasn’t existed. Instead, a variety of other factors including higher worker productivity, reduced turnover, and lower profits keep contracting costs in check.

Knauss further notes that while Wisconsin law prevents cities and towns from passing local minimum wage laws generally applicable to all workers in a community, the state specifically allows local living wage laws for employees of contractors who provide services to a local community and employees who perform work funded by financial assistance from a locality.

Read the Executive Summary and Full Report here:

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