A legislative committee has voted to advance legislation that would give apprentices a tax break on tuition after Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a similar proposal last year.
The state Assembly’s Committee on Workforce Development gave its approval to the bill, called Assembly Bill 973, on Tuesday. If officially adopted, it would offer a tax break on tuition to the roughly 14,000 students who enroll every year in apprenticeship programs recognized by DWD. The bill, introduced last week, comes after Evers decided in December to veto a similar proposal after finding it would duplicate existing tax benefits and wouldn’t apply to apprenticeships paid for by labor unions or employers.
Following various revisions, the proposal up for a vote Tuesday was able to win support from an array of labor interests. The Construction Business Group, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 and the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters joined other industry interests, such as the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Builders Association, in backing the bill.
But labor groups weren’t unanimous. Other unions, such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Wisconsin Laborers District Council, were still among the opponents.
“The groups that came together on this oftentimes cannot agree on what to order for lunch, but everyone agrees that there is a critical shortage of skilled construction professionals in Wisconsin,” said John Schulze, legal and government affairs director for ABC of Wisconsin. “This consensus legislation will send more money to high schools providing tech ed, and put more money in the pockets of high school students and adult apprentices who are pursuing the skills necessary for great-paying, family-sustaining lifetime careers that cannot be sent overseas.”
The bill would provide a tax break for expenses associated with apprenticeships, as well as for related tools, materials, travel and other costs. It would put $2.5 million into the Career and Technical Education Incentive grant program to encourage school districts to offer technical instruction, dedicate $2 million to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Apprenticeship Completion Award Program and set aside $550,000 to reimburse youth apprentices for costs associated with those programs.
The bill would also provide technical-college credit to students who complete apprenticeship courses in high school. The Assembly committee separately approved an amendment that would make the cost of books and parking associated with an apprenticeship tax-deductible.
The Assembly committee approved the bill in an executive session Tuesday in an 8-1 vote. Two of the committee’s Democrat members joined their Republican colleagues in supporting it. Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, voted against it. Committee Republicans meanwhile voted down a Democratic amendment that would have done away with the tax credits in the bill.
The proposal comes as the latest of several attempts to advance a tax credit for apprenticeship tuition. Apprentices who are seeking to work for non-union contractors often pay tuition for their training whereas their counterparts in union-funded training programs do not.