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Legislating the way it ought to be

It doesn't happen often enough at the State Capitol, but it did last week. For at least one bill, on one day, the legislative process worked the way it is supposed to, the way that fourth-graders across the state are told it works when they study Wisconsin government.

That's good news on multiple fronts. It means your elected representatives can work across the aisle. And it's good news because the bill that passed could help pave the way for the restoration of a once proud and bustling vacation hotspot in Northwestern Wisconsin.

As many fans of the American Birkebeiner, and those who have a connection to or memory of the Telemark Resort in Cable know, a group of investors has been working with the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce, the Bayfield County Economic Development Corporation and local elected officials on a planned $47 million project to bring new life to the Telemark Lodge.

Early last year, the group approached me to fill me in on their plans and asked for my help in drafting and passing legislation that would allow the town of Cable to create a tax incremental district. They explained that the ability to use tax increment finance is a small, but important part of their overall financial plan. Unfortunately, this economic development tool is available to cities, villages and some larger towns, but not to smaller towns like Cable.

I was happy to work with them to identify the approach most likely to lead to a bill being passed. We investigated a number of alternatives that would meet the objectives of the town and the developers without raising objections from those who have legitimate concerns about the use of tax incremental districts. Once we had drafts the group was comfortable with, I approached my colleague, Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R- Marathon, explained what we were working on and asked if he would be willing to meet with the group.

Although Cable in in my senate district, Hayward is in Sen. Petrowski's district. A revitalized Telemark Resort would have a tremendous economic impact for Cable. It would also benefit Hayward and all of Northwestern Wisconsin.

Sen. Petrowski was not only willing to meet with them, he was willing to take the lead on the bill and help get it passed.

I'm happy to report the bill has passed and is on its way to the governor's desk for a signature. Although it by no means guarantees the Telemark renovation will proceed, it is a vital part of their plan, a plan that we all want to succeed.

Kudos to Sen. Petrowski for working on a bill for a community that lies outside of his senate district. And kudos to all of the people in Cable and Bayfield County who have been working so hard to help bring the Telemark Lodge back to life.

Janet Bewley, D-Delta, represents the 25th District in the Wisconsin Senate.

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