A bill before the Wisconsin Assembly that would allow the city of Superior to create an exposition district cleared the Committee on Ways and Means on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
Members voted 8-2 during an executive session to adopt an amended version of Assembly Bill 167.
The amendment, offered by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, caps bonding for the district at $20 million and requires dissolution of the district once all bond and other contractual obligations are met.
Milroy said the goal of the amendment was to alleviate concerns committee members had during the public hearing in September about creating a taxing authority that would go on indefinitely.
While the committee unanimously adopted the amendments, only Reps. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, and Kevin Petersen, R-Waupaca, voted against the bill.
It garnered the support of Committee Chairman John Macco, R-Ledgeview, and Reps. Robert Wittke, R-Racine; Bob Kulp, R-Stratford; Barbara Dittrich R-Oconomowoc; Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport; Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha; Kalan Hayward, D-Milwaukee; and Tip McGuire, D-Kenosha.
The exposition district would allow the city to leverage addition hotel/motel taxes and consumption taxes on prepared food and beverages to provide financing for the public portion of investments in the city’s future. It would allow the city to move forward in creating assets that would improve the quality of life in Superior and complement assets already in Duluth to take advantage of that city’s thriving tourism economy.
The idea was the result of a nearly three-year, industry-driven study by Bettercity Superior on what Superior could do to improve the city’s economy.
A small group of business, education and political leaders from the city traveled to Madison on Sept. 26 to testify on behalf of the bipartisan legislation introduced by Milroy and 10 other representatives.
Bruce Thompson, president of Bettercity Superior, said the testimony and support was critical to the committee’s decision.
“Unlocking this very unique economic development tool for Superior will make us a very appealing community for public/private partnering to create some of the quality assets missing in the region that Superior can capture,” Thompson said. “Scheduling for full Assembly vote is the next step and Speaker Robin Vos must be convinced to do so. We are working on it.”
Thompson said scheduling for a public hearing on the companion in the Wisconsin Senate is being worked out for November or early December. The companion bill is set to be considered by the Committee on Economic Development, Commerce and Trade.
With an Assembly floor session planned in November, Milroy said he's going to push for a vote on the bill.