Special Interest Smorgasbord

A report on the favors for special interests approved by the legislature and the governor in 2011 and 2012

May 21, 2012

Summary

Pig at restaurant table set with a feastDespite repeated claims “ Wisconsin is broke,” GOP Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature approved dozens of bills sought by business, construction, real estate, transportation and other powerful special interests during his first 15 months in office. This report, “Special Interest Smorgasbord,” identifies 55 state budget proposals and legislative bills signed into law that benefit those special interests.

Part I of the report reviews policies that have an identifiable cost such as direct state spending, tax cuts, tax credits or other financial breaks paid for by state government and taxpayers. Part II of the report reviews policies that provide special interests with clear breaks and benefits through relief from regulatory, liability, local control or other issues but have no state cost or an undetermined public cost.

The policies with an identifiable price tag collectively cost the state $334.5 million in fiscal year 2012-13 – mostly in lost tax revenue – and grow to at least $438.9 million by 2020-21. The total cost will exceed $2 billion over 10 years. Legislators and the governor accepted $23.6 million in campaign contributions from 2009 through 2011 from the special interests that benefited from their actions (Table).

Annually, these special interest breaks will cost a Wisconsin family of four $235 beginning July 1, 2012 and continue growing to $291 a year in 2020-21.

However, Wisconsin families face even higher future costs because the legislature and the governor did not fully fund the current state budget; enacted two income tax increases for low- and middle-income families; and made more than $1 billion in cuts to education and health care programs that serve a substantial number of state residents.

Introduction

Each two-year session of the legislature typically results in the passage of several hundred legislative bills, many affecting Wisconsin businesses and taxpayers. The 2011-12 legislative session which began in January 2011 and ended in March 2012 was notable since new Republican Governor Scott Walker ran for office on a pro-business platform, and had the luxury of having both houses in the legislature controlled by fellow Republicans. The result was a series of bills that provided significant tax breaks or benefits for investors, companies, industries and other wealthy special interests.

The policies approved by Walker and the legislature cost state taxpayers money now and in the future. This is because many of these breaks and giveaways are phased in over time and not fully funded in the current budget. This practice is not unique to the current administration and makes it possible to take actions that aren’t affordable now but can be done if the costs are spread out over future years. But this way of paying the state’s bills also commits future legislatures to pay for today’s decisions and leaves less money for future needs. This creates the so-called structural budget deficit – a pay-by-credit-card spending practice that Walker criticized during his 2010 campaign for governor.

The policies highlighted in this report add to the multi-billion dollar list of tax exemptions and other breaks Wisconsin already provided to businesses, wealthy investors and other special interests. That list – the state Department of Revenue’s “Summary of Tax Exemption Devices” – includes allowing corporations to carry forward for 15 years any net operating losses at a cost of $182 million annually; exempting computer services and advertising services from the state sales tax at an annual cost of $148 million and $65 million, respectively; and exempting private nonprofit foundations from corporate income taxes which costs $32 million annually. Some notable tax exemptions for individuals include the itemized deductions credit for charitable contributions which costs the state $90 million annually and the partial deduction for capital gains which costs $69 million annually.

The additional business and investor tax breaks provided by the legislature and the governor in the 2011-12 legislative session will cost taxpayers $334.5 million, or $235 a year for a family of four during fiscal year 2012-13, even though the governor said repeatedly “ Wisconsin is broke!” That cost is estimated to grow to $438.9 million annually, or $291 a year for a family of four, in 2020-21. And as the governor’s 2011-13 budget decreased taxes on business, it increased income taxes on low- and middle-income individuals by $40 million in 2012-13 by reducing the amount of the earned income tax credit for lower income families and repealing indexing of income limits at which the homestead tax credit is available. The budget also cut state aid to the University of Wisconsin System, K-12 public schools, technical colleges and health programs that serve millions of Wisconsin residents by about $1.5 billion over the biennium. Some of the cuts led to fee increases, such as the $36 million annual increase in UW tuition.

Providing tax breaks to businesses and other special interests also means families will now pay an even larger share of state taxes. A December 2010 Department of Revenue study indicates that between fiscal year 1985 and fiscal year 2010, the individual income tax increased from 45.2% of total state levied general purpose taxes to 50.2%. Meanwhile the share paid in corporate income and franchise taxes decreased from 9.3% to 6.9%. Property taxes followed a similar trend. During the same time, net property taxes as a percentage of personal income increased from 2.49% to 3.12% for residential property, but only rose from .74% to .87% for commercial property. Property taxes also decreased for manufacturing, from .21% to .12%, and for agricultural property, from .53% to .13%, during the same time.

Finally, these special interest giveaways have done little to pull the state’s economy out of the dumpster. The governor pledged to create 250,000 new jobs over four years – presumably with the help of the breaks identified in this report – but the state gained only 5,900 private sector jobs during the governor’s first 15 months in office and Wisconsin was last in job creation among the 50 states between March 2011 and March 2012.

Part I of the report reviews bills enacted into law in the 2011-12 legislative session that provide a specific tax break or benefit to special interests and their total cost in millions of dollars and for a family of four based on a state population of 5,694,236 as of January 2011, and a 0.6 percent annual growth thereafter. The cost of these measures was cited by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and affected state agencies as the bills moved through the legislative process.

The special interests that benefited from these breaks contributed $13.7 million to Walker from 2009 when he began his run for governor through 2011. Those same special interests also contributed $9.9 million to legislators, including $7.5 million to majority Republicans who often spearheaded passage of the measures.

Part II of the report reviews laws that provide a clear economic, competitive, regulatory or other type of advantage to special interests but had no cost to the state or whose tangible or intangible costs to taxpayers or consumers could not be determined.

The special interests cited as supporting each of these measures was taken from information from the Government Accountability Board’s lobbying database, legislative hearings and other public statements.

Part I : Policies That Provide Tax Breaks And Other Benefits For Special Interests

  • Increase funds for highway projects in the 2011-13 state budget, including a $125 million transfer from the state general fund to the transportation fund during 2011-13; permanently allocate .25%, or $35 million in general taxpayer dollars to the transportation fund annually beginning in fiscal year 2012-13; transfer $60 million in revenues from other state funds to the transportation fund in 2011-13; and replace $115 million in transportation fund monies for highway projects with $115 million in borrowing paid for with general taxpayer dollars in 2011-12. These actions provide $335 million in funding for highway projects from the state’s general fund and other sources which generally have not been used to pay for highway projects in several decades. In 2012-13 alone, $137.6 million was diverted from the general fund to the transportation fund. These actions make future general fund budgets more difficult by siphoning off revenue otherwise available for education, health, or other budget priorities. In the past, Walker and Republican legislators frequently criticized Democrats for raiding state funds to pay for other bills. The budget, known as Act 32, was approved on a party line vote by majority Republican legislators and drew support from a wide array of special interests including business, manufacturing, construction, banking, agriculture, transportation and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: $97 per family of four in 2012-13 from general fund sources, excluding new bond financing.
  • Cut corporate taxes by allowing a business to carry forward a loss incurred before January 1, 2009 among one of its business groups and not yet used by January 1, 2012 against the income of all other members of the combined group. The corporation could use up to 5% of the total pre-2009 loss for each year up to 20 years. The 2011-13 budget provision would generally be used by large corporations and will cost the state $37.2 million in lost revenue in 2012-13 and annually thereafter. Known as Act 32, the budget drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, agriculture, transportation and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: $26 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • Provide $48.6 million to increase state tax credits for businesses in 2011-13 and beyond. These increases in the 2011-13 state budget include $9 million more for the Jobs Tax Credit, $37.5 million more for the Enterprise Zones Tax Credit and $2.1 million more for the Beginning Farmer and Farm Asset Owner Tax Credit. The budget, known as Act 32, drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, transportation, agriculture and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost:$27 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • An income or franchise tax credit of between $2,000 and $4,000 for each new Wisconsin job a business creates. The law, known as Act 5, will cost state taxpayers $33.5 million a year beginning in 2011-12. It was approved by majority Republican legislators and drew support from six special interests including business, manufacturing, tourism and leisure and road builders who contributed $3.65 million to Republican legislators and $8.14 million to Walker.
Cost: $24 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • A non-refundable state income tax credit of up to 6.5% of the amount of any federal tax deduction taken by taxpayers who set aside money in health savings accounts. The law, known as Act 1, mostly benefits wealthier taxpayers who are working, able to set aside funds to purchase their own health insurance, and who itemize their federal tax deductions. But this law does little to help low- and middle-income individuals keep up with skyrocketing health care costs. The law will cost the state $28 million in lost tax revenue in fiscal year 2012-13. The bill was approved by majority Republican legislators and supported by 13 special interests including business, manufacturing, health care and banking who contributed $6.57 million to GOP legislators and $12.29 million to Walker.
Cost: $20 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • Create up to eight additional enterprise zones where businesses receive state income and franchise tax credits at a total cost of $23.2 million annually for 10 years. The law, known as Act 26, was approved by majority Republican legislators and sought by four special interests – business, manufacturers, gasoline service stations and dairy and milk producers – who contributed $1.67 million to Republican legislators and $3.14 million to Walker.
Cost: $16 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • An individual income tax deferral for individuals who invest the proceeds of a capital gain into a qualified Wisconsin business within 180 days of the sale of the asset generating the gain. The 2011-13 state budget provision would generally be used by individuals who have made a capital gain and are interested in deferring taxes on that gain by investing it in a Wisconsin company. The provision will cost the state $20.2 million in lost revenue in fiscal year 2012-13 and annually thereafter. The budget, known as Act 32, drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, transportation, agriculture and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: $14 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • An individual and a corporate tax credit based on a company’s agricultural or manufacturing production income. The Domestic Production Activities Credit – a part of the 2011-13 state budget – is phased in over four years beginning in tax year 2013 and will cost the state $10.1 million in lost revenue in 2012-13. The cost will increase to $128.7 million in 2016-17 and annually thereafter. The budget, known as Act 32, drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, transportation, agriculture and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: $7 per family of four in 2012-13; $85 per family of four in 2020-21.
  • Prohibit the Department of Health Services from penalizing nursing homes with fines and forfeitures for violations of state law if the department has levied fines for the same offenses as violations of federal law. The law, known as Act 70, benefits nursing home owners whose operations commit multiple violations of state and federal laws. The law will cost the state $1.8 million annually, beginning in fiscal year 2012-13 in fines and forfeitures that would otherwise have gone to the common school fund. The measure was approved on a bipartisan vote in the legislature and supported by health care institutions and local officials who contributed $777,984 to legislators and $670,082 to Walker.
Cost: $1 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • Tax credits of up to 10% of the cost to invest in dairy and livestock operations are extended for five years. Rather than limited to tax years that begin before January 1, 2012 the tax credits would now be available for tax years that begin before January 1, 2017. The law, known as Act 15, benefits farmers and corporations that own dairy and livestock farms and will cost the state $1.6 million beginning in fiscal year 2012-13. It was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote with support from four special interests – agriculture, business, manufacturing and banking – who contributed $3.44 million to legislators and $4.95 million to the governor.
Cost: $1 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • An individual income or corporate tax credit for up to two years for businesses and corporations that move more than 51% of their employees (or employees who have wages totaling at least $200,000) to Wisconsin at a cost of $500,000 annually. The law, known as Act 3, was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote and supported by seven special interest groups including bankers, manufacturers and builders who contributed $4.61 million to legislators and $8.28 million to Walker.
Cost: <$1 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • A state sales tax exemption for modular and manufactured homes that are sold in Wisconsin and used in real property construction activities outside Wisconsin. Wisconsin has at least two manufacturers of such homes who could benefit from this provision. The 2011-13 state budget provision will cost the state approximately $300,000 annually in lost tax revenue. Known as Act 32, the budget drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, transportation, agriculture and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: < $1 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • An individual income tax exclusion for the sale of a Wisconsin capital asset purchased after December 31, 2010 and held for at least five years. The provision would generally be used by any individuals who invest in Wisconsin companies. The 2011-13 state budget provision has no state fiscal impact until 2016-17, but is expected to result in a $79 million annual revenue loss when fully phased in by 2020-21. The budget, known as Act 32, drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, transportation, agriculture and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: $0 per family of four in 2012-13; $52 per family of four in 2020-21.
  • An Enterprise Opportunity Zone for the City of Beloit that is expected to cost the state $1 million per year in lost tax revenue for five years, and may be extended for an additional five years. The Department of Commerce makes such designations to provide tax breaks to encourage businesses to locate in a specific geographic area to further economic development. The measure, known as Act 37, was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote and drew support from five special interests including business and manufacturing interests which contributed $3.06 million to the legislature and $3.89 million to Walker.
Cost: <$1 per family of four in 2012-13.
  • A $25 million increase in the amount of economic development tax credits available to businesses that expand or locate in certain areas of Wisconsin. This will cost the state $6.3 million per year for fours years beginning in fiscal year 2014-15. The law, known as Act 4, was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote, and had the support of six special interests, including bankers, builders, manufacturing and business who contributed $4.38 million to legislators and $8.36 million to the governor.
Cost: $0 per family of four in 2012-13; $4 per family of four in 2014-15.
  • A state sales tax exemption for advertising and promotional direct mail. The 2011-13 state budget provision will cost the state $500,000 annually, beginning in 2013-14. Known as Act 32, the budget drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, transportation, agriculture and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: $0 per family of four in 2012-13; < $1 per family of four in 2013-14.
  • A state sales tax exemption for snow-making and snow-grooming equipment and related fuel, parts and accessories. Wisconsin ski hill operators and manufacturers of such equipment would benefit from the exemption. The 2011-13 state budget provision will cost the state $200,000 annually, beginning in 2013-14. Known as Act 32, the budget drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, transportation, agriculture and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: $0 per family of four in 2012-13; < $1 per family of four in 2013-14.
  • An Internal Revenue Code update to state law to reflect changes in the treatment under the federal IRC for long-term care insurance, certain retirement plan contributions, rollovers to Roth IRAs and state and municipal bonds. The 2011-13 state budget provision will cost the state $347,000 per year beginning in 2012-13. Known as Act 32, the budget drew support from business, manufacturing, construction, banking, transportation, agriculture and other interests which contributed $6 million to Republican legislators and $11.8 million to Walker.
Cost: <$1 per family of four in 2012-13.

Part II: Policies That Provide Other Benefits Or Breaks For Special Interests

  • Expand the business development projects the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Agency may finance. The law, known as Act 214, allows the agency to finance manufacturing and commercial real estate projects, retail sales companies, research and development activities and long-term working capital. The law also expands the $200 million cap on WHEDA economic development project bonds to $900 million for the next six years. There is no direct state fiscal impact but having more bonds issued by WHEDA may make it harder to market bonds issued by the state since there is only so much demand for bonds associated with any one state. The measure was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote and drew support from construction, banking and real estate interests which contributed $2.40 million to legislators and $5.26 million to Walker.
  • Eliminate compensatory and punitive damages for racial, sexual and other acts of employment discrimination or genetic testing. Current law allows for damages of up to $300,000 in addition to back-pay and other amounts awarded in administrative proceedings depending on the size of the employer, labor organization or employment agency. This law, known as Act 219, eliminates these types of damages, reducing the total amount of damages victims of discrimination can receive in court. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and the measure was supported by seven special interests including business, manufacturing, transportation and insurance which contributed $3.88 million to GOP legislators and $7.99 million to the governor.
  • Limit liability against long-term care providers in civil lawsuits, place stricter limits on product liability lawsuits and cap the amount of court-awarded non-economic damages to two times the amount of compensatory damages recovered by the plaintiff, or $200,000, whichever is greater. The law, known as Act 2, benefits long-term care providers, health care providers, medical personnel, insurance companies and manufacturers. The bill was approved on a party line vote by majority Republican legislators and had the support of 13 special interests including business, manufacturing, insurance, banking, agriculture and health care which contributed $6.76 million to Republican legislators and $12.24 million to Walker.
  • Give a governor greater control over the development and content of administrative rules sought by executive branch agencies and enable actions challenging the validity of any rule to be reviewed by a circuit court in the county where the plaintiff resides or business is located, rather than just in Dane County. This law, known as Act 21, may result in rules that are friendlier to business interests and make it easier to get a favorable judicial outcome if a rule is ultimately challenged. The measure was approved by majority Republican legislators and had the support of a dozen special interests including business, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and energy who contributed $5.34 million to GOP legislators and $10.93 million to Walker.
  • Eliminate the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s authority to regulate prices and conduct rate cases involving the telecommunications industry. The law, known as Act 22, is intended to further deregulate telecommunications in Wisconsin. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and drew support from business and telecommunications interests which contributed $831,670 to GOP legislators and $1.31 million to the governor.
  • Reduce from 12 percent to 1 percent plus the current prime interest rate, the rate of interest that can be charged on money recovered through court judgments, including consumer protection actions. Legislative approval of the law, known as Act 69, was led by majority Republicans and had the support of six special interests including business, manufacturing, construction, transportation, insurance and restaurants who contributed $3.17 million to GOP legislators and $7.10 million to the governor.
  • Create a presumption that a reasonable attorney fee for a winning party in a court judgment should not be more than three times higher than the compensatory damages awarded in the matter. The new law, known as Act 92, is expected to reduce attorney fees awarded in some cases and discourage attorneys from taking certain cases. The bill was introduced by GOP Representative Robin Vos of Rochester after an auto dealer and campaign contributor, David Lynch, complained to Vos about the amount of attorneys fees awarded to one of his customers in a court judgment against him. Lynch contributed $20,800 to Republican candidates from 2007 to 2011, including $5,850 to Walker and $3,000 to Vos. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and had the support of business, insurance, transportation, manufacturing, construction and restaurant interests who contributed $3.17 million to GOP legislators and $7.1 million to the governor.
  • Reduce costs for developers of large residential and business developments that generate substantial vehicle traffic or have large parking lots by prohibiting the Department of Natural Resources from requiring permits for indirect sources of air pollution. The law, known as Act 121, was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote and drew support from seven special interests including business, manufacturing, construction and real estate which contributed $3.78 million to legislators and $7.59 million to Walker.
  • Establish requirements for local communities to impose development moratoriums and limit moratoriums to one year plus a six-month extension if necessary. In order to impose a moratorium, the law – known as Act 144 – requires communities to have an engineer certify that a proposed development would overburden public facilities and pose a significant threat to public health and safety. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and the measure was supported by construction and real estate interests which contributed $1.07 million to GOP legislators and $3.68 million to the governor.
  • Prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from regulating hazardous emissions from agricultural waste using rules that are stricter than federal law. The law benefits so-called factory farms and other large agricultural operations. The measure, known as Act 122, was approved on a bipartisan vote in the legislature and drew support from agricultural interests which contributed $437,554 to legislators and $550,540 to Walker.
  • Reverse auto insurance coverage requirements enacted in 2009. This law, known as Act 14, allows underinsured motorist coverage to be in an auto insurance policy; allows an insurance company to include anti-stacking clauses which prohibit each type of coverage under a policy from being added to the limits for similar coverage for other vehicles for which the person is insured; and reduces the minimum limits for mandatory liability coverage, uninsured and underinsured coverage and medical payments coverage. Legislative approval was led by majority Republican legislators and drew support from local officials and the insurance, road construction and transportation industries who contributed $1.06 million to Republican legislators and $1.76 million to the governor.
  • Overturn a Milwaukee ordinance and prevent all Wisconsin communities from enacting ordinances in the future that require employers to provide employees with paid or unpaid leave for family, medical or health issues. Legislative approval of the law – known as Act 16 – was led by majority Republicans and supported by five special interests including construction, tourism and leisure and business interests who contributed $2.89 million to GOP legislators and $6.7 million to Walker.
  • Provide an exemption from future liability for discharges of hazardous substances in landfills licensed by the Department Natural Resources if those responsible voluntarily investigate and clean up the property to the DNR’s satisfaction. But the liability exemption would extend into the future even if the cleanup ultimately fails to resolve the pollution problem. The law, known as Act 103, was approved on a bipartisan legislative vote and was supported by local officials and business and manufacturing interests who contributed $1.92 million to legislators and $2.84 million to Walker.
  • Require the Department of Transportation to issue permits to billboard owners to trim or remove vegetation obstructing any view of a billboard, or sign on a building for the business in the building along highway rights-of-way under the department’s jurisdiction. The law, known as Act 230, also allows owners to trim and remove vegetation that existed before the sign was erected. The law makes it easier for outdoor advertising companies to ensure their signs can be read by drivers but may result in the destruction of more than $100 million worth of trees, according to department estimates. The law also is estimated to cost the department $90,000 in lost permit revenues. The measure was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote and was supported by tourism, transportation, service station and grocery interests which contributed $1.18 million to legislators and $1.15 million to Walker.
  • Remove some wetlands protections and makes it easier for certain wetlands to be polluted. Numerous changes made by this law include allowing more time for discharges to be stopped. The law, known as Act 118, also allows discharges into woodland ponds without a permit. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans. The measure was supported by 12 special interests including Operating Engineers Local 139, construction, agriculture, business, road builders and manufacturing which contributed $3.44 million to GOP legislators and $7.77 million to the governor.
  • Prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances that limit the ability of landlords to obtain or use certain information about tenants or prospective tenants, such as income, credit history, court records, and social security numbers; show the premises to prospective tenants; and enact additional limitations on security deposits. Legislative approval of the law – known as Act 108 – was led by majority Republicans and supported by real estate and construction interests who contributed $1.07 million to GOP legislators and $3.68 million to Walker.
  • Extend for one year to April 1, 2012, the deadline for a landowner to register any pier up to eight feet wide and installed before February 2004 with the Department of Natural Resources. The law, known as Act 25, benefits pier owners who had not previously registered a pier that may not conform with DNR rules. Legislative approval was on a bipartisan vote and supported by local officials and tourism and real estate interests who contributed $1.17 million to legislators and $1.27 million to Walker.
  • Change auditing and administrative procedures used by the Department of Revenue to process returns and in tax litigation. The law, known as Act 68, is designed to streamline procedures and make it more difficult for the department to penalize individual and corporate taxpayers for various tax disputes. A similar measure introduced in 2007 was estimated to cost the state $6.5 million annually, but this measure’s fiscal impact could not readily be determined. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and had support from business, manufacturing and banking interests which contributed $2.35 million to GOP legislators and $4.40 million to Walker.
  • Revise a state pilot program for trading water pollution credits so that credits could be traded among projects within a river basin rather than just within a project area and eliminate the five-year limit on any credit trading agreement. The law, known as Act 151, makes trading credits easier and thus more likely to be used among industries whose pollution discharges are regulated by the state. The measure was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote and was supported by the paper industry, local officials and the Dairyland Power and WE Energies utilities which contributed $182,039 to legislators and $97,374 to the governor.
  • Set specific time requirements for the Department of Natural Resources to act on permit requests for structures in or near navigable waters, and exempt certain actions from permit requirements, among other things. The law, known as Act 167, makes it easier to build things that could impact navigable waters. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and the measure was supported by six special interests including business, construction, real estate and manufacturing which contributed $2.60 million to GOP legislators and $6.56 million to Walker.
  • Prevent local communities from prohibiting repairs to nonconforming structures, like docks and boathouses, subject to shoreland zoning based on the cost of the repairs and also prevent local ordinances from being stricter than state shoreland regulations. The law, known as Act 170, will enable nonconforming structures to exist longer. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and drew support from construction and real estate interests which contributed $1.07 million to GOP legislators and $3.68 million to the governor.
  • Create additional exemptions to state rules that limit truck lengths, weights, heights and the types of commodities they transport on Wisconsin highways. Commercial entities have an economic interest in carrying as large a load as possible to reduce their per-unit shipping costs. But truck-size limits are set to ensure traffic safety and limit road damage which is paid for by registration fees and gas taxes all drivers pay. The laws, known as Acts 52-60, were passed on bipartisan votes and had the support of five special interests including road builders, agriculture, transportation, real estate and business which contributed $2.41 million to legislators and $3.58 million to the governor.
  • Increase the length of two-vehicle combination trucks from 65 feet to 70 feet and 75 feet on certain highways, and eliminate required permits. The law benefits the trucking industry and companies that use trucks to ship goods because more products may be shipped at effectively lower fuel costs. However, truck-size limits are set to ensure traffic safety and limit road damage which is paid for by registration fees and gas taxes all drivers pay. Legislative approval of the law – known as Act 243 – was led by majority Republicans and supported by the trucking industry which contributed $70,731 to GOP legislators and $142,330 to Walker.
  • Repeal a sunset provision that would have ended the Department of Transportation’s temporary authority to issue permits to let trucks carry up to 90,000 pounds of granular roofing materials. The previous limit was 80,000 pounds. The department issued only four such permits – all to the 3M Company during January 2011. Weight restrictions are intended to minimize road damage caused by heavy truck traffic and paid for by drivers through auto registration fees and the gas tax. The only support on record for the law, known as Act 20, came from 3M whose executives and political action committee contributed $10,800 to legislators and $10,233 to the governor.
  • Prohibit contracts between motor carriers and the customers whose goods they transport from requiring motor carriers to insure the shippers. The law, known as Act 33, benefits trucking companies by reducing their potential liability costs. The measure was approved on a bipartisan vote in the legislature and was supported by Sentry Insurance and four special interest groups, including the transportation industry, which contributed $672,519 to legislators and $801,047 to the governor.
  • Modify existing agreements between motor vehicle dealers and manufacturers and distributors regarding product liability, warranty reimbursement, service franchise territory and other areas, which is expected to benefit local dealerships over national and international manufacturers, such as General Motors. The law, known as Act 91, was approved on a bipartisan legislative vote and was supported by auto dealers who contributed $165,448 to legislators and $190,715 to Walker.
  • Exempt motor vehicle manufacturers selling service contracts from state licensing and registration requirements. The law, known as Act 226, makes it easier for companies to sell service contracts in Wisconsin. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and the measure was supported by business, manufacturing, insurance, real estate and telecommunications interests which contributed $2.65 million to GOP legislators and $4.58 million to the governor.
  • Exempt ski hill operators from liability if they meet certain conditions and make customers liable for collisions. The law, known as Act 199, may make it more difficult to attribute liability for unsafe conditions on ski hills to operators. The measure was approved by the legislature on a bipartisan vote and supported by insurance, business, manufacturing and tourism interests which contributed $3.13 million to legislators and $3.87 million to Walker.
  • Allow retailers of portable electronic devices, such as cellular telephones and lap tops, to sell insurance for their products at the time of sale without being licensed as an insurance agent if certain conditions are met. The law, known as Act 225, benefits companies that had not sold insurance for their products even though other insurance policies the consumer has may provide coverage for the device. Legislative approval was led by majority Republicans and the measure was supported by five special interests including AT&T and Verizon and the business, manufacturing and insurance industries which contributed $2.05 million to GOP legislators and $3.50 million to the governor.

Table
Special Interest Group Contributions*
To Governor Scott Walker And The Legislature
2009 – 2011

Group Democratic
Legislators
Republican
Legislators
Governor
Construction $85,664 $661,957 $2,831,193
Manufacturing & Distributing $159,538 $893,325 $1,783,172
Banking & Finance $257,107 $873,299 $1,573,755
Health Professionals $416,638 $906,732 $1,190,288
Business $231,854 $582,847 $1,043,913
Real Estate $112,070 $410,466 $850,408
Health Services/Institutions $249,909 $478,439 $655,547
Insurance $155,398 $510,666 $638,549
Transportation $76,229 $319,777 $631,396
Natural Resources $68,205 $288,479 $567,783
Agriculture $75,374 $362,180 $550,540
Road Construction $31,100 $211,468 $501,256
Tourism & Leisure $171,957 $429,117 $407,891
Telecommunications & Computers $120,924 $248,823 $261,330
Energy $144,463 $278,067 $169,833
Local Officials $33,287 $16,349 $14,535
Operating Engineers Local 139 $25,000 $18,763 $12,000
TOTAL $2,414,717 $7,490,754 $13,683,389

*Table shows special interests that supported items reviewed in this report.