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New law aims at revitalizing main streets

Dan Thompson

If it is true that all politics is local, it is equally true that this adage applies to growing Wisconsin’s economy, which benefits all of Wisconsin.

A problem facing small and large cities alike is how to rebuild and revitalize downtowns when faced with deteriorating, outdated and often unusable buildings. That is why recently passed legislation that allows state resources to be put directly into revitalizing Wisconsin’s main streets is key to growing a vibrant Wisconsin economy.

I am referencing legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker that increases the amount of the historic building tax credit to 20 percent of qualified rehabilitation expenditures (Act 62). This legislation passed the State Assembly 88-4, and the State Senate concurred with a vote of 31-2.

The law helps lessen the burden of increasing renovation and revitalization costs, which in turn, has hindered municipalities from finding developers for rebuilding projects.

Walker when signing this law, stated, “The passing of this legislation will revitalize downtown districts across the state.”

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities, a nonpartisan association consisting of 190 cities and 394 villages throughout Wisconsin, wholeheartedly agrees.

The impact of the legislation to Wisconsin’s economy is significant. Most of the state’s commercial and manufacturing facilities are located in cities and villages. In fact, 70 percent of Wisconsin’s population lives in a city or village.

And 87 percent of the state’s manufacturing property value is located in cities and villages; 89 percent of the state’s commercial property value is located in cities and villages.

A majority of Wisconsin’s income and sales tax revenue comes from taxpayers in cities and villages.

League President and Beloit City Manager Larry Aft said, “We are confident the increase in the tax credit will stimulate job creation and economic growth in our communities. We appreciate Governor Walker including this legislation as part of his special session on economic development. When the governor and the Legislature work collaboratively with municipal leaders, good things happen.”

There has been criticism of Wisconsin’s Legislature and its lack of ability of working together. However, when it comes to building Wisconsin’s infrastructure, legislators from both parties have demonstrated their understanding of this critical element in advancing Wisconsin’s economy through their support of this key piece of legislation.

For the state to flourish, state and local leaders must work together. A thriving state-local relationship is critical to the success of our state and should be invested in and nurtured. We thank legislators from both parties, and Walker for understanding this — and signing this significant piece of legislation into law.

Dan Thompson is executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.