Local government retaining a portion of sales taxes collected by the state seems to be gaining traction at the Capitol, the delegates said.
February 27, 2023 01:00 PM
SUPERIOR — Winter weather shrunk the delegation that headed to Madison last week for the annual Superior Days lobbying effort.
Despite that, delegates said the event was one of the more productive ones they’ve seen in recent years.
“It was one of the better Superior Days that I have been to,” said Superior Mayor Jim Paine, who has attended 15 times dating back to when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. “I am very pleased at how it turned out, especially the reception over our issues. It’ll take a couple of years to really assess the success of Superior Days 38, but it’s possible it could be one of the most successful ever, especially if the local revenue changes pass.”
Among the issues the delegation lobbied legislators for was keeping 20% of state-collected sales taxes local to help pay for government services. Gov. Tony Evers included the measure in the state’s biennial budget.
Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said sales tax could mean about $8 million for Douglas County, significantly more than the $2 million in shared revenue the county has received for the last 20 years. While there are many details still to be worked out, he said he was optimistic it would pass this year.
“It felt different down there,” Liebaert said.
He had the opportunity to meet newly elected state Sen. Romaine Quinn, R-Cameron, and it was probably one of the better meetings Liebaert said he had. He said Quinn is likely to be a rising star in the Wisconsin Senate.
Kelly Peterson, director of the Superior Business Improvement District, said this year was first year she’s ever attended Superior Days.
She was pleased to meet Quinn, and Rep. Chanz Green, R-Grand View, who represents a portion of Douglas County, but she was disappointed that Rep. Angie Sapik, R-Lake Nebagamon, didn’t attend.
Liebart, who shared Peterson’s disappointment, said the weather did have an impact on legislators and staff not being at the Capitol. Even before he headed to Madison, Liebaert said he got a call from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wondering if the delegation would be down in light of the winter storm warnings.
Superior City Councilor Tylor Elm estimated that the size of the delegation was reduced by about 30 percent because of the weather.
The 2022 lobby effort was also diminished because of snowstorms.
“I was pretty frustrated with the weather,” Paine said.
However, Paine said he was still encouraged because agency and legislative meetings went well, and he’s confident that local government will see an increase in revenue this year.
Jim Caesar, director of the Development Association, said there seemed to bipartisan support for the sales tax issue, so he expects something will get done on it, but he wasn’t sure how well other legislative issues were received. Delegates also lobbied for the university to retain reciprocity payments made by out-of-state students and improved Medicaid reimbursement rates.
Peterson noted that university and high school students who traveled to Madison were engaged in the effort, and of the eight legislators her lobbying team was assigned to meet with, she said they were able to meet with legislators or staff of six of them.
“I was really proud of our delegation,” she said.
Douglas County Supervisor Sue Hendrickson, who served on Peterson’s lobbying team, said they actually had the opportunity to address three legislators directly, including Rep. Donna Rozar, R-Marshfield, and Rep. Clint Moses, R-Menomonie, who seemed to understand well the issue with Medicaid reimbursement rates.
“I think we’re going to get some real pressure from (Moses) on the state budget as far as that Medicaid reimbursement,” Hendrickson said. “He was very astute and eager to listen.”
Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or email@example.com.