The state budget is on track for passage by the end of June. Still there are speed bumps as Governor Walker and legislative leaders and members of the Joint Finance Committee sort through hundreds of amendments and proposals and working papers. They remain committed to some kind of tax cut. The size and distribution remain uncertain. Then there are unexpected speed bumps like disclosure of the University of Wisconsin System cash balance of $1.045 billion.
The UW System historically has a love/hate relationship with the legislature with either party with rare exception. The UW-Madison in particular has had historic wrestling matches given that the lion’s share of its funding does not come from the state legislature but rather private funding and revenues from research most recently from medical research like discovery of stem cell application to humans.
What’s this debate have to do with your office(s)? Even if you don’t have family members attending one of the UW System schools you likely employ UW System students from time to time. Maybe you’re in school or soon to return? A tuition freeze is appealing to many. It also is a good example of how legislators focused on state budget issues get distracted or otherwise involved with new issues. For the UW System this issue could not have come at a worse time but that’s a story for another day.
Then there’s Congress and internet hearing aids sales and more. Just when many thought that the Marketplace Fairness Act was likely in moth balls as it has been for years it pops up. The US Senate just days ago passed this legislation on a 69-27 vote. Now attention turns to the US House of Representatives and key Republican majority party members like Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan. For almost 20 years this issue of requiring out-of-state sellers collect and remit sales tax to the states has been largely ignored by both houses of Congress. This also fuels state legislative interest including in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue reports that all state laws are in place to collect sales tax revenue from internet and other out-of-state sellers. No further legislative action is necessary. Still there are legislative efforts to fine tune state laws and educate the public about the need to even this competitive marketplace playing field not to mention collect hundreds of millions of tax dollars. As they say politics makes strange bedfellows. Legislators who champion this issue are especially concerned that taxpayers understand that this is a collection issue. This is not a new tax. In the past the failure to make this critical distinction has hurt efforts to make any progress on this key main street retail issue.
In the meantime statehouse politics is never ending. There’s simply no rest for the weary. After the 2010 November elections the Republicans took over the Governor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office and both houses of the legislature. Then came furious protests followed by recall elections in 2011 and 2012 then the Presidential Election in November 2012. The Republicans continue to hold all that they won in 2010 but are taking nothing for granted as the 2014 elections loom. Just last weekend the State Republican Party met to energize rank and file members. Come June 7-8 the State Democratic Party will do the same.
Soon you’ll also have more time and opportunity to meet Governor Walker, legislative leaders in both parties and your local state senators and state representatives as one fundraiser after another are arranged. You’ll also have a chance to meet and greet your U.S. Senators and local Congressman/woman and/or their possible opponents. All this makes for continued legislative interest in reforming the state’s campaign finance laws. This truly is a never ending story.
For now here’s hoping you’re swamped with Spring and Summer office visits. Even though just days ago it snowed enough to blanket the mid-state annual fishing opener. Governor Walker intended to bring his pole but took a pass in favor of warmer weather. From last year’s drought to this year’s snow in May it’s tough to be in charge of retail inventory!