Tag Archives: legislation

Amazon & California

The DPACC does not take positions, nor do we do endorsements of legislation or candidates.  I bring this article today simply because I’ve been watching this entire drama unfold and find this is an interesting step by Amazon in the current and future battle of online retailers collecting (or, not collecting) sales taxes from their consumers:

Amazon Deals with California

After years of refusing to collect sales tax from online purchases, Amazon.com has struck a deal in California. Retailers and state governments elsewhere are hoping for similar treatment.

This is a departure from Amazon.com’s previous stance on online tax collection. In response to other states “Amazon laws” requiring online tax collection, Amazon.com has taken New York to court and canceled its relationships with affiliates in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

California looked to be the stage for the next Amazon show-down. Amazon organized a campaign to repeal the law at the ballot box. Wal-Mart and other big retailers lined-up in opposition of Amazon, arguing that online retailers get an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar merchants by not collecting sales tax.

Surprisingly, Amazon backed down. The company struck a deal that will require online retailers to collect sales taxes in California starting in fiscal 2013.

Brick-and-mortar retailers view this as a game-changer. If Amazon will pay sales taxes in California, why not in other states? The optimism may be premature, but states would love to see additional sales tax revenue.

A few related articles:

Stateline.org: Amazon deal with California may set precedent for online tax collection
St. Petersburg Times: California to the rescue on sales taxes
The Journal Gazette: The retail Goliath retreats
ACCE Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Main Street Fairness Act  (this is pending legislation and is neither an endorsement nor repudiation of the legislation, purely informational)

Seven weeks & change…

… until tax day!  Wow, how time flies when there is a major deadline looming!    But, wait!  There are 3 extra days this year.

From the IRS.gov website, “taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2010 tax returns and pay any tax due because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15. By law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do; therefore, all taxpayers will have three extra days to file this year. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Oct. 17 to file their 2010 tax returns. ”

I made a commitment this year to get my family’s taxes done early so as not to stress; not only am I done, but my money is here (well, federal in electronic transit)!  Yes, I’m excited.  However, my taxes are pretty simply as I’m no longer running a business.  For those of you who still have the 800 pound gorilla in the room, I’m not only NOT a tax accountant, I don’t play one on TV and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night … fortunately,  our friends at Hawkins, Ash, Baptie & Co. have the following advice, tips and news:

New Law Provides Tax Relief for Individuals and Businesses
The recent Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Act) includes many taxpayer-friendly provisions for individuals and businesses. Listed below is information on several of them.

  • Lower Tax Rates. The Act extends the 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35% federal income tax rates on ordinary income through 2012. It also extends the 0% and 15% federal income tax rates on most long-term capital gains and dividends through 2012. Without the new law, most long-term capital gains would have been taxed at 10% or 20%, and dividends would have been taxed at ordinary rates of up to 39.6%.
  • Marriage Penalty Relief. Getting married can cause a couple’s combined federal income tax bill to be higher than if they were single. Tax reduction legislation in 2001 eased this marriage penalty by tweaking the lowest two tax brackets for married couples and giving them bigger standard deductions. The Act extends this relief through 2012.
  • Social Security Tax Reduction. The Act cuts the Social Security tax withholding rate on employee salaries from 6.2% to 4.2% for 2011. This temporary change affects the first $106,800 of 2011 wages. The maximum savings are $2,136 for unmarried individuals and $4,272 for couples. The Social Security tax component of the self-employment tax is cut from 12.4% to 10.4% for 2011, so self-employed folks will benefit, too.
  • Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). As you may know, it has become an annual ritual for Congress to “patch” the AMT rules to prevent millions of additional households from getting socked with this add-on tax. The patch primarily consists of allowing bigger AMT exemptions and allowing personal tax credits to offset the AMT. The Act provides an AMT patch for 2010 and 2011.
  • American Opportunity Education Credit. The American Opportunity credit can be worth up to $2,500, be claimed for up to four years of undergraduate education, and is 40% refundable. It was scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. The Act extends this credit through 2012.
  • College Tuition Deduction. This write-off, which can be as much as $4,000, or $2,000 at higher income levels, expired at the end of 2009. The Act retroactively restores the deduction for 2010 and extends it through 2011.
  • More Generous Student Loan Interest Deduction. This write-off, which can be as much as $2,500 (whether you itemize or not), was scheduled to fall under less favorable rules in 2011 and beyond. The Act extends through 2012 the more favorable rules established by 2001 legislation.
  • Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). For 2011, the maximum contribution to federal-income-tax-free ESAs was scheduled to drop from $2,000 to only $500, and a stricter phase-out rule would have limited contributions by many married joint-filing couples. The Act extends through 2012 the more generous contribution rules established by 2001 legislation.
  • State and Local Sales Taxes. For the last few years, individuals who paid little or no state income taxes had the option of claiming an alternative itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes. The sales tax deduction option expired at the end of 2009. The Act retroactively restores it for 2010 and extends it through 2011.
  • Smaller Tax Credit for 2011 Energy-efficient Home Improvements. The 2009 Stimulus Act provided that 30% of 2009 and 2010 expenditures for energy-efficient insulation, windows, doors, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment in U.S. residences could qualify for a credit, up to a maximum credit amount of $1,500, over the two years combined. The Act extends the credit through 2011, but the credit percentage is scaled back to only 10%, and the lifetime credit limit is only $500. The $500 credit cap is reduced by any credits claimed in 2006-2010.
  • First-year Bonus Depreciation. The Act generally allows 100% first-year bonus depreciation for qualifying new assets that are acquired and placed in service after September 8, 2010, through December 31, 2011. It also allows 50% first-year bonus depreciation for qualifying new assets that are placed in service in calendar year 2012. For a new passenger auto or light truck that is used for business and is subject to the luxury auto depreciation limitation, the bonus depreciation breaks increase the maximum first-year depreciation deduction by $8,000 for vehicles acquired and placed in service by December 31, 2012.
  • 15-year Depreciation for Leasehold Improvements, Restaurant Property, and Retail Space Improvements. The 15-year straight-line depreciation privilege for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail space improvements is retroactively restored for property placed in service in 2010 and extended to cover property placed in service in 2011. (Without the favorable 15-year depreciation rule, these assets would have to be depreciated straight-line over 39 years.)
  • 100% Gain Exclusion for Qualified Small Business Stock (QSBS). The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (enacted last September) created temporary 100% gain exclusion (within limits) for sales of QSBS issued after September 27, 2010, through December 31, 2010. The Act extends the window for taking advantage of this change by one year to cover QSBS shares issued after September 27, 2010, through December 31, 2011.

New Estate and Gift Tax Rules

  • Estate tax legislation has been debated in Congress for several years. The recent Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Act) includes estate tax provisions for individuals who died in 2010, as well as those who die in 2011 and 2012. Here is a brief summary.
  • $5 Million Estate Tax Exemption and 35% Rate. For estates of individuals who die in 2010 through 2012, the Act establishes a $5 million federal estate tax exemption with the 2012 amount indexed for inflation. Big estates are taxed at 35% above the $5 million threshold.
  • Electing out of the Estate Tax in 2010. For estates of decedents who died in 2010, executors are permitted to elect out of the estate tax rules (the default rules), and instead choose the modified carryover basis rules for property transferred at death. Although no estate tax will be due, assets transferred at death will not get the step-up in basis to date of death fair market value, and the transferees will owe income tax on the appreciation on those assets. Determining whether to follow the default rules or elect out of the estate tax will depend on many factors that will require professional guidance.
  • Unused Estate Tax Exemption. For the first time, married individuals who do not use up their estate tax exemptions will be able to pass along unused amounts to surviving spouses. In other words, unused exemptions of individuals who die in 2011 or 2012 (but not 2010) will be “portable.”
  • Unlimited Basis Step-ups for Inherited Assets. For heirs of decedents who die in 2011 and beyond, the rule is reinstated that allows the federal income tax basis of inherited capital-gain assets (such as real estate and stock) to be stepped up to reflect fair market value on the date of death. This favorable rule is also reinstated for decedents who died in 2010, unless the estate elects to instead use the modified carryover basis rule. With the restoration of the unlimited basis step-up rule, heirs will not owe any federal capital gains taxes on appreciation that occurs through the date of death-as long as that date is after 2010 or, for decedents who died in 2010, if their estate does not elect to use the modified carryover basis rules.
  • Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions and Rates Are Equalized. The Act sets the lifetime federal gift tax exemption for 2011 and 2012 at $5 million-with the 2012 amount indexed for inflation (likewise for the generation-skipping transfer tax exemption). Thus, the gift and estate tax exemptions are equalized for 2011 and 2012. This is a huge improvement over the previous $1 million gift tax exemption (which continued to apply for 2010). An unmarried person can now give away up to $5 million while alive without paying any gift tax, and a married couple can give away up to $10 million. However, to the extent you dip into your gift tax exemption, your estate tax exemption is reduced dollar-for-dollar. The tax rate on 2011 and 2012 gifts in excess of the $5 million exemption is 35%, the same as the estate tax rate. Again, due to sunset provisions, the gift tax exclusion reverts back to $1 million after 2012.

Minimizing estate and gift taxes is a complex process. So, please contact experts for help.

*Note: not ME … the experts!

Madison & Bahrain?? No!!!

A few days ago, I was getting ready for my day and, as is my pattern, I turned on CNN.  It was the top of the hour and the lead story was fronted by a split screen of Bahrain – burning in protest against their government – and the Rotunda in the Capital Building of  Madison, Wisconsin, filled with protesters.

I was dumb-struck.

As *anyone* who has ever spent more than 180 seconds with me will tell you, THAT is not a common occurrence.

As a Chamber CEO, one of my chief responsibilities is working with our partners to bring new businesses, both expansions and relocations, as well as skilled professionals and workers to our area.  We have some geographic issues that are stumbling blocks for some to even consider Northeastern Wisconsin.  Namely, the weather, the weather and the weather.  And, well, the cheesehead.  I distinctly recall before I moved here a decade ago, during the year before we came, every person whom I told where we were going said to me, “you know it is cold there, right?”  Keep in mind, I was living in Reno, at 4,500 feet above sea level and 30 minutes from Lake Tahoe, home of some of the best downhill snow-skiing on the planet!  I wasn’t in Southern California for heaven’s sake!

I told them what I tell everyone – we chose Wisconsin because of their commitment to community, tradition and progressiveness; world class public education and the strong work ethic of Wisconsinites.

As I stood in disbelief, staring at my television screen, my thoughts were filled with those reasons I had told people.  And I wondered where that Wisconsin had gone.
I’m a Political Scientist by training and avocation.  I love politics.  Yes, odd I know.  But I love our system of government.  It is all about compromise and finding the elements in any given issue that all sides can live with … not what they *want* … but what, at the end of the day, they can stomach.   What I know and what history bears out is the following:

(Danger Will Robinson, idioms and idiomatic expressions are just ahead)

  • You know you have good public policy when all sides leave the negotiating table a little ticked off but feeling like they can live with the decisions reached.  These feelings mean there were no “winners” and no “losers” just people who compromised their wants for their needs all in the spirit of moving their organization, their community, their state, their nation, their people forward.  Having said that, all sides will feel like they won and feel like they lost.  Such is the nature of compromise.
  • If one side is jubilant and another side is so angry they are beyond the capacity for rational thought, it is very clearly NOT good public policy.
  • Good public policy is what we can expect and must demand from those we elect to represent us.  NOT what we “want,” but good public policy.  THAT is the heart of a representative democracy such as the one we were lucky enough to be handed by a group of wise and brave men in 1776.
  • Good public policy ONLY happens after reasoned, thoughtful, intelligent and measured discussion and negotiation amongst all sides of an issue.  *hint, there usually aren’t just two sides*
  • Good public policy takes time to go through that process.  Grandma was right, “haste makes waste” and “act in haste, repent in leisure.” We must demand our representatives take the time to get it right.  It just too important.
  • In Wisconsin, as in the country as a whole, I believe all people agree we have to make hard financial choices.  I haven’t talked to anyone in the last week who doesn’t agree with that.  Teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers – everyone agrees that we are in difficult financial times and that everyone, public employee, private employee, everyone must share the pain to fix our financial house as a people.
  • The devil is, as always, in the details.

Is our public financial house out of order in Wisconsin? Damned straight it is.  It has been for the decade I’ve been here – and longer!  I’ve listened to State Senator Rob Cowles rail about the structural deficit in our state budget since the day I met him in the later part of  2001.  He was right then, he is right now.  Yes.  We absolutely must fix it.  It can only be fixed however, by reasoned, thoughtful, intelligent and measured discussion and compromise between all sides.   No quick fixes, no easy answers, no silver bullets.  No answers that fix today by mortgaging tomorrow.

I call on all sides – the Governor, the Republican leadership in the Senate and the Assembly, the Democratic leadership in the Senate and the Assembly, WEAC & AFT (the teachers’ unions), Wisconsin Public Workers Union, AFL-CIO, AFSCME (state, county & municipal employees union), the Firefighters union(s), Police Officers union(s), Correctional Officers union(s) and any public collective bargaining units I’ve not specifically mentioned (no slight intended Ladies & Gentlemen, I assure you!!) to pull back, let everyone catch their breath and then get to the bargaining table. Work together in good faith.

Legislators, take a long look at all elements of the legislation, because there is a lot more there than just the public workers benefits and collective bargaining – the hole we are in is much deeper than that.  Make sure you aren’t fixing today by mortgaging and raising costs for the taxpayers tomorrow.  Be judicious.  Be studied.  Be cautious.  Be open-minded.  Get it right.

This is currently classified as a budget issue and the issues of collective bargaining in the aggregate are issues that are not budget issues.  Pull those aside and let’s all get to addressing the immediate need of the State’s fiscal problem.

It is time to create good public policy. The fiscal situation of the state must be addressed and I believe everyone involved knows that and is willing to make concessions,  give up what they want for what they (and we) need.  To create GOOD public policy.

Let’s get Wisconsin known again for our strong sense of community and tradition.  Our world class educational system.  Our strong work ethic.  Our ability to craft solutions that not only address our issues and needs, but also serve as a model for the rest of the nation.  And yes, for Cheeseheads, beer and the 13 time World Champion Green Bay Packers.  Please let those of us who are working to recruit companies and individuals to our great state sell those wonderful things and not have more mornings watching CNN like this last week.

Just, please, for God’s sake, get to working together so the beautiful & historic Rotunda of the Capital in Madison is never again split screen in comparison with a flaming Middle East.  We deserve better.

Roth IRA Conversion Bill

The purpose of this legislation is to provide individuals and families more flexibility and greater options for managing their retirement savings. Increased flexibility allows Wisconsin residents and their financial planners to more easily plan retirement.

AB 648 adopts federal tax policy to allow Wisconsin taxpayers to convert from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA penalty free, so long as they pay the income tax on the transaction. State law also conforms to federal law in allowing taxpayers to spread out any tax owed because of a conversion over two years rather than having to pay it all at once. Finally, AB 648 also adopts provisions of the federal Heroes Earning Assistance and Relief Act that gives members and their families more options for managing their finances.

information provided from Rep Ted Zigmunt

Some Wisconsin legislative updates

Received yesterday word that:

Among the bills the Assembly will take up is AB 767.  The legislation is the first proposal developed by Wisconsin’s Partnership for a Stronger Economy, a bipartisan working group of businesses and lawmakers formed to develop new ideas to create jobs.  Among other things, the legislation would give small businesses a majority vote on the Small Business Regulatory Review Board and create a small business advocate at the Department of Commerce.

Also scheduled was a vote on Senate Bill 190.  Small businesses are often victims of hidden automatic renewal clauses in equipment and service contracts.  The clauses can negatively impact small businesses’ bottom line with unexpected costs, hurting their ability to grow.  SB190 would provide greater consumer protections for small businesses by requiring advance written notice of contract renewals, similar to what landlords provide to residential tenants.

“Small businesses are the engine of our economy, creating 65 percent of new jobs over a recent 15-year period,” said Representative Nelson.  “With this proven record of success, we need to give them the tools and resources they need to expand and create jobs.”

Yesterday (Wednesday), Governor Doyle signed into law the American Jobs Act which the Assembly passed earlier in the session. The new law would prevent the state from using taxpayer dollars to purchase goods and services from companies that outsource jobs to other countries.

More on Wisconsin’s Climate Change Legislation

Earlier this week, I posted an entry about the named, “Clean Energy Jobs Act” and told you I’d been looking for unbiased information on the legislation.

Now, from the state’s WISCONSIN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, a report summarizing the implementation to date of the policy recommendations in the final report of the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming (July 2008)* by legislation, primarily 2009 Assembly Bill 649 and Senate Bill 450 (referred to collectively as “the bill”), and actions of state agencies.

I’ll attach the full report (it has great tables & charts & graphs!!)  but afew things:

Many of these recommendations are such that Executive Branch agencies could implement them with their current statutory authority and resources; others require legislation for implementation, either to provide the directive or authority to implement the policy or to fund the initiative, or both.

Several caveats must be kept in mind in using the table. The recommendations in the report vary considerably in their detail and clarity. Few of the report’s recommendations include enough specific details to constitute drafting instructions. For some recommendations, the concept of a major new program is articulated in one or two sentences, leaving the reader to provide the details. In some cases, the report has recommendations in different templates on the same or a similar topic, which the report did not reconcile. The report also uses auxiliary words like “should” and “could” which in many instances require further interpretation of the relevant text. Thus, for many of the recommendations, there is room for interpretation of their detail.

With regard to the bill, all of the major topics in this legislation can be traced to one or another recommendation in the report.  Some closely replicate the report’s words while others look quite different. There are many individual provisions of the bill that do not have specific origins in the report, but that it includes as part of the implementation of an initiative called for in the report. In some cases, the provisions in the legislation go beyond the corresponding recommendation in the report. This analysis does not attempt to compare the text of the bill and the Task Force report.
Whether actions by a state agency implement a particular Task Force recommendation can also be a somewhat subjective matter. In some cases, agencies have taken specific actions in direct response to the report. In other cases, agencies have been engaged in activities related to recommendations in the report, but not necessarily in response to the report. As with the legislation, these actions vary with regard to how closely they follow the specific wording of the report.

C.O.R.E jobs legislation

This is via Wisconsin Business Council on the C.O.R.E jobs legislation winding its way through the Wisconsin Legislature.

Committee passes C.O.R.E. Jobs Act

Madison (News Release) — The Wisconsin C.O.R.E. Jobs Act took another major step toward becoming law Thursday when it was passed unanimously by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance. Senate Bill 409 was authored by Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls), Rep. Louis Molepske, Jr. (D-Stephens Point) and Rep. David Cullen (D-Milwaukee).

“This was an important vote, because it showed strong bipartisan support by members of both the Senate and Assembly,” said Sen. Lassa, who chairs the Economic Development Committee. “The urgent need to revive Wisconsin’s economy and create good-paying jobs is bringing all sides together over this bill.”
“The CORE Jobs Act is a critical part of our ongoing efforts to get Wisconsin’s economy back on track,” Sen. Kreitlow said. “Working with private sector leaders and economic development experts, we crafted a plan that will help bring jobs back to Wisconsin and spur the private investment necessary to grow our economy.”

The committee also approved an amendment that increased the incentives for venture funds to invest in new Wisconsin Businesses, and allows the Department of Commerce more flexibility in allocating job creation tax incentives and grants.

C.O.R.E. stands for Connecting Opportunity, Research and Entrepreneurism. The bill was structured
around three goals: Creating New Jobs and Businesses, Retaining and Building Existing Wisconsin
Businesses, and Educating and Training our Workforce. Provisions in the bill include:

Creating New Jobs and Businesses

  • Expanding the Accelerate Wisconsin program by adding $3 million more in tax credits for 2010 to spur investment in Wisconsin companies with the credits increasing to $20 million a year thereafter.

The current amount of tax credits available each year is $5.5 million.

  • Grants to help partner small and mid size businesses with research institutions, including the

University of Wisconsin comprehensive campuses, to commercialize new technologies faster.

  • A micro-loan program to help entrepreneurs start their own small businesses.
  • Support for a UW system-wide business plan competition similar to the one at UW-Madison.
  • Funding a regulatory ombudsman to provide one-stop help with the state’s permitting and approval process.

Retaining and Building Existing Businesses

  • An additional $1 million for the Wisconsin Development Fund, used to attract and retain businesses.
  • Incentives help companies retool for green energy production or manufacturing.
  • Grants to encourage companies to do Farmshoring – a development strategy that brings good jobs to rural areas of Wisconsin instead of sending these jobs overseas.
  • The creation of the Wisconsin Business Intelligence System (WISBIS) to provide economic modeling data to regional economic development entities.

Educating and Training Our Workforce

  • Adding more resources to the popular Advanced Manufacturing Skills Training program grant created in the economic recovery bill from earlier this year.
  • Creation of an employee education investment tax credit. This credit will leverage new resources for skills training and career education by providing $2 million in incentives for businesses who pay university or technical college tuition for low-income employees.
  • Increasing the capacity of the CAP Services Skills Enhancement Program, assisting low-wage earning workers to obtain additional training or education. Workers completing this program have seen an average annual income increase of $10,000.

The C.O.R.E. Jobs Act has been endorsed by the Wisconsin Business Council, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, BioForward, the Wisconsin Technology Council, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, along with entrepreneurs, investors and researchers.

“The widespread support C.O.R.E. has received from the business and investment community shows that this legislation will help stimulate Wisconsin’s economy and create good new jobs,” Lassa said. “It is my hope that the Senate and the Assembly will pass the bill in the coming weeks and that Governor Doyle will sign it into law by within the next few months.”

“I applaud the members of the Finance Committee for moving the bill along quickly and I look forward to seeing the full Senate pass the bill soon,” Sen. Kreitlow said.

Wisconsin climate change legislation

NOTE FROM CHERYL:  this post has been in draft form here at my blog for over a month now.  I’m still trying to find concise, credible, non-slanted, non-partisan information this mammoth and important topic of legislation, but am very much struggling.  However, I read an article at OnMilwaukee.com that brought it back to mind.  So, first, my original blog post … and then below my post, excerpts from the article as well as a link to it.

Recently, Wisconsin’s Governor, Jim Doyle, announced his “Clean Energy Jobs Act.”  As you know, the De Pere Area Chamber of Commerce does not take political positions, but rather, I believe it is our role to provide as unbiased information as possible.  It is not easy with some issues, especially the most important ones, since those are the ones that are most polarizing and bring out the extremes touting their own “worst case scenarios.”

Climate change legislation is one of those issues.  In my mission to find good information, I’m starting with Wisconsin’s Legislative Council, which though it is a department of Wisconsin government is charged with providing non-partisan, unbiased information on proposed legislation to all in the Legislature and all who have interest.  I’m going to post snippets of information from them and links to the full read.  As this legislation develops, I’ll try to keep you updated with new information.

Climate change legislation will impact all of our lives, our families, our jobs, our businesses, our communities and our future in profound ways that we can’t begin to envision yet.  My biggest concern is the “Law of Unintended Consequences.”   We know it will happen so the best we can do is deal with those unintended consequences with immediacy and honesty when they happen.

The legislation was crafted after the work of the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming.  The link is to the website for the group.

Today, I’m going to give just a primer on the legislation and revisit this over the next week (!! months??)  with more information on details.   The “summary” is 8 pages long and the “description” is 65 pages long!!  I’m not even going to include all of the summary, just the “highlights” and you can read it all when you are ready!  With that introduction .. here we go!!

Climate Change Legislation
2009 Assembly Bill 649 and 2009 Senate Bill 450

The bill:

  • Declares statewide goals for the state for GHG emission reductions, energy conservation, generation of electricity from renewable resources, and new building energy use, and goals for state agencies for GHG emission reductions, energy conservation, and energy derived from biomass.
  • Creates the Climate Change Coordinating Council, modeled on the Groundwater Coordinating Council, for the purpose of coordinating state programs and actions related to climate change and advising policymakers on related matters.
  • Establishes a multi-step process for the creation of a quadrennial report to the Legislature and Governor by the Climate Change Coordinating Council that evaluates whether the state is achieving its statewide GHG emission reduction goals and whether any state or local climate change related programs should be modified or created. This process includes the Department of Natural Resources (DNR):

o Periodically collecting or estimating GHG emissions data from man-made and natural sources.
o Preparing a state GHG emissions inventory and analysis of information in the inventory.
o Preparing an assessment for the Council of changes in net GHG emissions and whether current and future statewide GHG emission reduction goals are being, or will be, met.

  • Directs the Climate Change Coordinating Council to promote and coordinate state educational and training programs related to climate change, and directs DNR to establish and maintain the central state Internet site on climate change.

Now the article – it was posted the same week as I began writing this blog entry (January 13th):

The controversy over Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act illustrates a deep philosophical divide that is emerging within Wisconsin’s business community.

In some ways, the emerging chasm pits the politics of tomorrow against the politics of yesterday.

On one side of the divide — in favor of the green jobs plan — stand the coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) and the Wisconsin Business Council.

The CREWE includes venerable companies such as CleanPower, Alliant Energy, EcoEnergy, Johnson Controls Inc., Xcel Energy, C5•6 Technologies, Axley Brynelson, Madison Gas and Electric, Orion Energy Systems, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin Energy Corp., Poblocki Sign Company, Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, MillerCoors, American Transmission Co., WPPI Energy, DTE Energy Services and Kranz, Inc.

Wisconsin’s business community is a house divided

Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act illustrates a deep philosophical divide within Wisconsin’s business community.
By Steve Jagler RSS Feed Twitter Feed
Special to OnMilwaukee.com

E-mail author | Author bio
More articles by Steve Jagler

Published Jan. 13, 2010 at 1:12 p.m.

Tags: clean energy jobs act, jim doyle, crewe, global warming, climate change, oil
The controversy over Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act illustrates a deep philosophical divide that is emerging within Wisconsin’s business community.

In some ways, the emerging chasm pits the politics of tomorrow against the politics of yesterday.

On one side of the divide — in favor of the green jobs plan — stand the coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) and the Wisconsin Business Council.

The CREWE includes venerable companies such as CleanPower, Alliant Energy, EcoEnergy, Johnson Controls Inc., Xcel Energy, C5•6 Technologies, Axley Brynelson, Madison Gas and Electric, Orion Energy Systems, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin Energy Corp., Poblocki Sign Company, Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, MillerCoors, American Transmission Co., WPPI Energy, DTE Energy Services and Kranz, Inc.

“CREWE strongly supports (Doyle’s) Global Warming Task Force recommendations and will support legislation that preserves the careful policy balance reached by the task force. We are currently reviewing the draft bill,” the CREWE companies said in a joint statement.

“We appreciate the strong leadership of the sponsors and thank them for hard work in preparing the draft. We look forward to working with them in the coming weeks and months to pass and implement legislation that will address climate change, increase energy independence, and create new, clean energy jobs for Wisconsin.”

The plan also has the support of the Wisconsin Business Council, which includes leaders from several of the state’s key businesses, including American Transmission Co., Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, AT&T Wisconsin, Commerce State Bank, Dean Health System, Midwest Natural Gas, MillerCoors, Mortenson Construction, Orion Energy Systems and Park Bank (in Madison).

Phil Prange, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Business Council, held several key positions in the former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson’s administration.

“The Wisconsin Business Council was established to provide a forum for business leaders to come together in the search for mutually beneficial solutions, and we’re cautiously optimistic about the potential of the Clean Energy Jobs Act,” Prange said. “A flourishing private sector is critical to our quality of life and it is clear that environmental innovation also makes sense from a competitive standpoint.”

On the other side of the divide stands the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), which is joined by 22 other business organizations, including the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), in opposition to Doyle’s proposal.

Adding even more intrigue to this philosophical divide among Wisconsin’s business community is the fact that many members of the CREWE and the Wisconsin Business Council in favor of the green jobs plan also are dues-paying members of the WMC, the MMAC and the other organizations that are against the plan.

What will really happen if the bill is approved? For now, I guess it depends upon whom you believe.

I haven’t given up my search for good information, but rather than keep holding this post I want get it posted; especially in light of Tom Barrett (candidate for Governor and good friend of Jim Doyle) saying in the last several days that the legislation must change.  This one is going to be interesting!

Enhanced Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resource Programs
Under current law, a number of programs provide a broad range of energy efficiency and renewable resource services, the best known being the program called Focus on Energy. Among other revisions to these programs, the bill:
• Replaces the fixed funding of the current programs with a system that sets funding based on a determination of the energy savings that could potentially be achieved cost-effectively by the programs and the budgets necessary to achieve those savings, as determined by PSC.
• Expands the programs to address energy conservation in the use of liquid petroleum (LP) gas and heating oil, in addition to electricity and natural gas.
• Requires greater accountability of programs administered by utilities, retail electric cooperatives, and large customers, and requires the imposition of remedies in cases where a program has failed to meet its goals because the administrator has not made a good faith effort or has not adequately controlled conditions under its control.
• Authorizes the PSC to allow an investor-owned utility to earn a return on capital invested in energy conservation or efficiency equipment installed on a customer’s premises if the PSC
– 3 –
determines that the investment is prudent and “a cost-effective means of advancing energy conservation or efficiency.”
Enhanced Renewable Portfolio Standard
A renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is a policy that requires electric suppliers (utilities and cooperatives) to ensure that specified percentages of the electricity they sell is derived from renewable resources. The bill revises the current Wisconsin RPS in three ways, requiring that:
• Certain standards be met earlier than under current law.
• Higher standards be met in subsequent years than under current law.
• In the later years, a portion of the standard be met with electricity derived from renewable resources located in Wisconsin. The bill also creates legislative findings that lay out the policy basis for this in-state portion of the RPS.
The bill also makes a number of changes to the sources of energy that qualify for compliance with the RPS. Specifically, the following qualify:
• Hydroelectric power from certain large facilities (with a capacity of 60 megawatts or more) located out of state. (Under current law, no power from large hydroelectric facilities qualifies.)
• Electricity derived from the burning of solid waste if the solid waste: (1) has recyclable and noncombustible materials removed; and (2) is burned in a facility that is owned by a county in this state and that was in service before January 1, 1998.
• Nonelectric energy derived from renewable resources, such as biogas, the thermal output from various sources, or usable light delivered by a solar light pipe.
Under current law, a credit is created if an electric provider has a surplus of renewable energy in a reporting period. The bill revises the statutes governing such credit, specifying that:
• Credits are created when electricity is generated from a renewable resource.
• Credits may be separated from the energy for trading, banking, or use in compliance with the RPS.
• Credits do not expire.
Under the bill, compliance with the RPS is demonstrated by documenting the generation or purchase of credits, rather than documenting the sale of renewable electricity.
– 4 –
Renewable (“Feed-In”) Tariffs
The bill directs PSC to order investor-owned and municipal electric utilities that sell at retail to offer to purchase electricity generated at new small-scale renewable energy facilities within the utility’s service territory under standard purchase terms and conditions prescribed by PSC.
New Nuclear Power Plants
The bill makes a number of changes to the regulation of nuclear power plants by PSC, including the review and approval by PSC to construct a new nuclear power plant under the certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) and “nuclear moratorium” laws. Among other revisions, the bill:
• Applies the CPCN and nuclear moratorium laws to all sizes of new nuclear power plants, irrespective of plant ownership.
• Modifies the findings PSC must make under the nuclear moratorium law to approve a new nuclear power plant, including:
o Replacing the finding requiring a federally licensed high-level nuclear waste disposal facility with a finding on the plan for managing these wastes.
o Requiring consideration of the air pollution from the proposed plant versus feasible alternatives.
o Adding findings on the reasonableness of the cost of the plant, and on the entire output of the plant being needed and used to meet the expected requirements for electricity of utility ratepayers or electric cooperative members in the state.
• Specifies a set of legislative findings that provide the policy basis for the entire output finding in the nuclear moratorium law, and a nonseverability clause under which all of the changes in nuclear power plant regulation in the bill are voided if a court finds the requirement for the entire output finding unconstitutional.
• Adds requirements for funding the decommissioning of new nuclear power plants.
• Applies current PSC regulations regarding modification, operation, and sale of utility owned power plants to new nuclear power plants not owned by a utility.
• Delays the effective date of all of these changes until after PSC has initially implemented the enhanced energy efficiency and renewable resource programs and the enhanced RPS identified above.
Other Provisions Affecting PSC
The bill includes a number of other provisions affecting PSC. Among these, the bill:
• Expedites PSC’s review of proposals for construction of renewable energy facilities.
– 5 –
• Reinforces prohibitions on PSC requiring utilities to conduct energy efficiency and renewable resource programs beyond those programs discussed above.
• Makes extensive technical changes to current statutes, including reorganization, changes in terminology, and repeal of obsolete statutes.
The bill includes a number of provisions addressing GHG emissions from vehicles, either through direct controls and limitations or indirectly through transportation and land use planning and transportation infrastructure. The bill:
• Directs DNR to specify, by rule, vehicle emission limitations identical to the California GHG emission standards and other emission standards applicable to passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty vehicles that are passenger vehicles and have gross vehicle weights of 10,000 pounds or less.
• Authorizes DNR to specify, by rule, vehicle emission limitations identical to the California zero emission vehicle standards, if DNR determines they would be an effective and efficient part of the state’s strategy for meeting the statewide GHG emission reduction goals described above.
• Prohibits operators of freight trucks from idling the truck’s primary propulsion engine, on or off a highway, for more than five minutes in any 60-minute period, except under any of seven specified circumstances.
• Directs DNR to specify, by rule, a state low carbon fuel standard that specifies the allowable weight of GHG per unit energy content of a transportation fuel, if: (1) the Midwestern Governors Association’s advisory group on these standards recommends their design; and (2) the advisor group’s recommendations are endorsed by specified Midwestern governors, including the Governor of Wisconsin.
• Directs the Department of Transportation (DOT), if it prepares an environmental impact statement or an environmental assessment for a transportation project funded partly or totally with state funds, to include in the statement or assessment an evaluation of the GHG emissions and energy use that will result from the project and alternatives to the project.
• Directs DOT, as part of the environmental evaluation of its long-range multimodal transportation plan for the 20-year period ending in 2030, to consider GHG emissions and energy use in the transportation facility or service needs addressed in the plan.
• Changes the preparation of state and regional multimodal transportation plans and transportation improvement programs by:
o Requiring DOT and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to set surface transportation GHG reduction goals; incorporate to the extent practicable, strategies
– 6 –
identified by DOT for reducing GHG emissions from surface transportation into their plans and programs using methods and procedures developed by DOT; and assess and report on the implementation of the strategies and their progress in meeting their goals.
o Prohibiting DOT from providing financial assistance to an MPO unless the MPO has made a good faith effort to incorporate these strategies and use these methods and procedures in its plans and programs.
• Directs UW-Extension to develop a model market-pricing parking ordinance.
• Amends the local government planning grant program administrated by the Department of Administration (DOA) to:
o Require grant recipients to consider whether any area considered for “traditional neighborhood development” (TND) is one of the specified types of areas, and whether making any area a TND would result in a reduction in travel, energy use, or GHG emissions.
o Add a criterion for a grant application to receive preference – that the planning efforts funded by the grant must include consideration of TND.
• Authorizes the agencies administering five state economic development grant or loan programs2 to give greater weight in determining whether to award a grant or make a loan under the program to an application from a municipality or county if the application is for a project that will result in a reduction of travel, energy use, or GHG emissions, or is located in an area designated for a qualifying TND or subject to the green building code, identified below, or to a qualifying “Green Tier” project.
o Changes, where applicable, the required match by the recipient, amount of assistance, or other grant conditions in these programs to further encourage the implementation of qualifying projects.
• Directs DNR to conduct various studies relating to vehicle GHG emissions, including new California vehicle GHG emission standards and idling reductions by other types of vehicles.
With regard to building codes, the bill:
2 These programs, and their administering agency, are the Transportation Facilities Economic Assistance and Development Program (DOT), Brownfields Site Assessment Grants (DNR), Main Street Program (Commerce), Brownfields Grant Program (Commerce), and Forward Innovation Fund (Commerce).
– 7 –
• Requires that the energy conservation portion of the commercial building code be at least as strong as the International Energy Conservation Code, and directs Commerce to create parallel energy conservation provisions in the 1- and 2-family dwelling code.
• Directs Commerce to establish a voluntary green building code that provides greater energy conservation benefits than the mandatory codes.
• Directs DOA to ensure that major state building projects conform to the new voluntary code and that other building projects conform to that code to the extent technically feasible and cost-effective.
• Directs Commerce to establish conservation standards for certain agricultural buildings.
To increase the efficiency of equipment used in the state, the bill:
• Establishes energy efficiency standards for compact audio devices, televisions, and digital versatile disc (DVD) players and recorders, based on standards in California.
• Requires the owners of industrial, non-utility boilers to annually inspect and adjust their boilers to ensure they operate at maximum efficiency.
The bill addresses GHG emissions from state agencies and local governments through the following:
• Directs certain state agencies (those with operations that produce significant GHG emissions) to assess their GHG emissions; set goals for reducing those emissions; and develop and implement plans to achieve those goals.
• Directs the Office of Energy Independence to work with interested school districts to engage voluntarily in the same process as the state agencies.
• Excludes moneys levied by municipalities for energy efficiency measures or renewable energy products from their levy limits.
The bill includes a number of provisions relating to the production of biomass as a feedstock for the production of fuel or energy. The bill:
• Creates an Energy Crop Reserve Program, under which the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) makes payments to land owners to subsidize the establishment and production of biomass crops.
– 8 –
• Directs DNR, with several other agencies, to take a variety of actions to encourage the production of biomass for energy uses from private forest lands in Wisconsin.
• Directs DATCP, with DNR, to study the adequacy of current incentives, in the market and in government programs, to prompt producers to produce enough biomass for use as a bioenergy feedstock to significantly contribute to achievement of the state’s GHG emission reduction goals.
The bill addresses GHG emissions reductions through the following industrial efficiency incentives:
• Directs DNR, as part of its continual assessment and streamlining of air pollution permit obligations, to develop and implement measures to lessen these obligations for projects that would significantly reduce GHG emissions while not requiring a major source construction permit.
• Directs Commerce to annually dedicate 25% of the portion of the volume cap on federally tax exempt “private activity bonds” allocated to municipalities and corporations formed on their behalf for industrial development revenue bonds that are issued to finance a specified “clean energy manufacturing facility” or a “renewable power generating facility.”
If a federal cap and trade program is established or a regional cap and trade program is recommended by Midwestern governors, including the Governor of Wisconsin, the bill directs DNR to report to the Legislature and Governor on the program, including any legislation that would be necessary to implement the program in this state.
This document was prepared by John Stolzenberg, Chief of Research Services, and David Lovell, Senior Analyst.

Legislation being introduced to help small businesses with funding

We all know that getting financing is imperative for all businesses, but especially small businesses to not only grow and thrive but simply to survive.

I’ve received notice of new legislation being introduced to do just that …

State Representatives Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) and Ted Zigmunt (D-Francis Creek) on Tuesday introduced Assembly Bill 532, which creates a program called the Wisconsin Capital Access Program (WCAP), which would expand access to credit for businesses in Wisconsin.

“This proposal expands on a highly successful Capital Access Program which has been in operation in Milwaukee since 1992,” said Rep. Zigmunt. “The State of Wisconsin’s commitment would be funded by a one time appropriation of $350,000 in state money, which could leverage as much as $13 million in lending to businesses”

The program encourages financial institutions to offer loans to small and medium-sized businesses that are slightly riskier than those that would be traditionally approved under conventional underwriting by establishing a loan loss reserve fund. The lender and the borrower pay a small percentage of the loan amount as an up-front insurance premium which is matched by the state and deposited into the reserve fund for the lender to use as additional collateral on the loan.

“The program is not a handout to failing businesses or a taxpayer free-for-all,” said Rep. Jorgensen.
“An additional benefit is that the program has a rather low cost for a large reward,” said Rep. Barca.
Zigmunt added, “Many of my district’s Main Street businesses could benefit from the WCAP by gaining the financing they need to buy equipment and make payroll.”

Daryll Lund, President of the Community Bankers of Wisconsin, says his group is backing the bill, as is the Wisconsin Bankers Association.