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EDITORIAL: Assembly should take up tax exemption on the double

In April 2013, this newspaper accused the state Legislature of being “thick as thieves” for not moving sooner to mend an out-of-whack policy that can now cause supposedly tax-exempt entities to bear tax costs.

Lawmakers came close to redeeming themselves earlier this year with a tax exemption that had been tucked away in the state budget. Unfortunately, a drafting error was discovered and the provision had to be removed before the two-year spending plan was passed.

Now, though, a better-drafted version of the same proposal has found its way into separate legislation: Senate Bill 227. The state Senate passed the bill on Friday and Gov. Scott Walker has previously signaled his support.

That leaves the state Assembly. Judging by the support that Senate Bill 227 has received so far, it seems unlikely that it would die in the Legislature’s lower chamber.

No, the real question now is one of timing. Assembly members have announced plans to meet on Nov. 16, but might choose then to only take up a pair of bills dealing with campaign finance and election oversight.

If they leave the tax-exemption bill off the agenda, it will be an opportunity missed. True, if Senate Bill 227 is not adopted this year, the worst result might be that it takes effect several months into 2016 rather than on Jan. 1

Still, some construction-industry representatives have been fighting for 15 years or more for an exemption that would prevent sales and use taxes from being owed on materials bought for school, local government and nonprofit projects. That’s long enough for the state to be collecting money it really had no business getting in the first place.


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