Lawmakers advance bill to eliminate property taxes for businesses

NOW: Lawmakers advance bill to eliminate property taxes for businesses

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MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- Lawmakers are inching closer to eliminating property taxes paid by businesses under a bill that's gaining bipartisan support.

The Legislature's budget committee passed the proposal Wednesday with one Democrat Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) joining Republicans in support. Earlier in the week the bill to repeal property taxes on businesses also found bipartisan support in a Senate committee Tuesday.

Republicans introduced eliminating the tax which businesses pay on equipment and other furnishings by setting aside $202 million in the state budget to pay for it.

More than 40 groups and organizations support the bill, but it remains unknown if Gov. Tony Evers would sign it as it's expected to pass both chambers next week.

Over the last few years, lawmakers have offered exemptions for businesses paying property taxes, and now that Wisconsin is expected to receive a record surplus over the next few years, Republicans want to give some of that back to taxpayers.

"This is our chance to engage and recognize those businesses and give them some relief they are in dire need of," said Rep. Daniel Knodl (R-Germantown).

Lobbying groups pleaded with lawmakers to pass the bill to help businesses who have suffered from losses due to the pandemic.

"This Legislature, and hopefully the governor, are on the verge of making history by fully repealing a 172-year-old tax and providing tremendous incentive to businesses when they need it the most," said Michelle Kussow, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Grocers Association.

Some Democrats who voted against the tax cut in committee worry the funding set aside by Republicans to replace the loss in property tax revenue wouldn't be returned to local governments.

"I have concerns local governments will be on the hook if this committee does not decide to release these funds in the future," said Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine). "Republicans on this committee have a track record of underfunding and punishing local governments at almost every turn."

The city of Milwaukee is also in opposition of the bill because they fear it would shift the tax burden on homeowners.

The AFSCME International Union and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also registered in opposition to the bill.

The Assembly and Senate plan to vote on the proposal next week, then vote on the state budget.

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