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Tony Evers vetoes bills eliminating personal property tax, creating legislative human resources office
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GOV. EVERS | OTHER ACTIONS

Tony Evers vetoes bills eliminating personal property tax, creating legislative human resources office

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Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday vetoed measures to eliminate the state’s personal property tax and create a new legislative human resources office, while signing several bills including one that deregulates natural hair braiding.

Evers earlier in the day signed the GOP-authored 2021-23 biennial budget, which includes setting aside more than $200 million to backfill local governments for the elimination of the personal property tax, which businesses pay on furnishings and equipment. However, the governor ultimately vetoed the bipartisan bill to officially do away with the more than 170-year-old tax.

In a veto message, Evers said he objected to the “unusual and haphazard process by which the Legislature pursued the repeal of the personal property tax which has created potential unintended consequences for railroad and utility taxes as well as the manufacturing and agriculture credit.”

Evers said the proposed bill could potentially apply to the state’s ad valorem utility taxes, which are based on property values of utility property.

“Should this treatment be applied to the courts in order to adhere to the Wisconsin constitution’s uniformity clause, the state could easily lose tens of millions in general fund tax revenue, if not more,” Evers wrote.

Evers has asked the Legislature to pass a new bill that addresses any unintended impacts to allow for an elimination of the personal property tax.

Human resources office

Another bill vetoed Thursday would have established a nonpartisan human resources office with a director appointed by and reporting to the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, which Republicans control.

The office would have provided human resources services to the Legislature, and also with establishing a formal complaint process to review and investigate allegations of harassment, discrimination, retaliation, violence or bullying by legislators or legislative or service agency staff.

Open records advocates raised concern over specific language in the bill regarding confidentiality that they said could be used to shield investigatory records from public access.

“While I would support a clean bill that establishes a Legislative Office of Human Resources, I cannot support a bill that would be used to hide official misconduct from public scrutiny,” Evers wrote in a veto message.

Paper mill funding

Evers also vetoed a bill that would have spent $65 million in federal stimulus funds to save two shuttered paper mills — the Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids and the paper mill in Park Falls formerly known as Flambeau River Papers.

Evers objected to using federal COVID-19 stimulus funds on the two paper mills, as the funding source would not provide the long-term assistance needed to revive the mills and keep them open.

“With this veto, Governor Evers turned his back on thousands of families and jobs in Central and Northern Wisconsin — but he still has the opportunity to do the right thing,” bill co-author Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, said in a statement. “He has the authority to allocate these ARPA funds to help the mill — something (Rep. Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa) and I asked him to do more than a month ago. It’s past time for him to act.”

Hair braiding

Evers also signed into law a bill to allow people to braid hair without a barber or cosmetology license.

The measure was pushed by state Democrats as an effort to address racial inequities in the state and a means to enhance entrepreneurship. Bill sponsors, Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison, and Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, who are Black, have described hair braiding as a natural and ancient craft.

The proposal also has been supported by Republicans as a deregulatory effort.

Muskrats, beavers

Another bill signed into law Thursday makes it easier to kill beavers and muskrats that are damaging roads.

Current law allows the Department of Natural Resources to capture, shoot, trap or relocate wild animals that are causing damage or a nuisance. However, firing a gun within 50 feet of the center of a road is prohibited.

The new law creates an exemption from that 50-foot rule for government officials looking to kill beavers and muskrats that are damaging a road.

Fave 5: State government reporter Mitchell Schmidt shares his top stories of 2020

Choosing my five favorite stories of 2020 seems almost paradoxical.

This year has felt like one exhausting slog of pandemic stories, state Legislature updates and, oh yeah, a presidential election thrown in for good measure. Thanks to a split government, there's been no shortage of politically-charged stories here in Wisconsin and the partisan divide has, maybe unsurprisingly, felt as wide as ever throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

I don't know if "favorite" is the best way to describe them, but here are a few stories from 2020 that stood out to me:

Back in March, Gov. Tony Evers issued the state's first public health emergency in response to the then-emerging pandemic. At the time, Wisconsin had reported eight total cases of COVID-19.

As the pandemic progressed, positive cases and deaths climbed and state lawmakers battled over the appropriate response. In May, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Evers' stay-at-home order, a decision that still resonates today with the state's coronavirus-related measures.

One story I was particularly excited about before I officially started working for the State Journal was the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. However, like most things this year, the pandemic drastically altered that plan.

In non-pandemic news, the state in October formally denied billions of dollars in state tax credits to Foxconn Technology Group — a story we managed to get before any other outlet in the state through records requests and sourcing.

Lastly, in November I worked on a story about how GOP-drawn legislative maps once again disproportionately benefited Republicans in state elections. Wisconsin is headed toward another legal battle next year when the next batch of 10-year maps are drawn.

Feel free to read my top stories below, or check out my other state government articles from this year, (by my count, there have been more than 300 so far).

Also, thanks to all the subscribers out there. This year has been challenging on so many people, so your support is so much appreciated.

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