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30th Chippewa Valley Rally, Update 1, Dec 19, 2023
 Chippewa Valley Chamber Alliance
Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie
30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally details
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Contact: Scott Rogers, VP Governmental Affairs
Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce


Issues Update: Chippewa Valley Rally
   This is the first in a series of regular Issues Updates, leading up to the 30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally, scheduled for Wednesday, February 28, in Madison. Organized by the Chippewa Valley Chamber Alliance, the Rally is a critical event that brings business and community leaders from Chippewa, Dunn, and Eau Claire counties to Madison to build relationships and advocate for important regional economic issues.

Where do we stand on the issues from the 2023 Rally?
   The 29th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally this past March was one of the most successful ever in terms of regional priorities being included in the state budget or enacted into law. That includes the Science and Health Sciences Building at UWEC, Heritage Hall renovation at UW-Stout, shared revenue reform for local governments, repeal of the personal property tax, and enactment of legislation to address housing supply and affordability.
   That means this coming year's Chippewa Valley Rally will be important for expressing "thanks" to policymakers for those actions, as well as continuing to advocate for those issues that still need to be addressed.
   The purpose of this newsletter is to bring you up to date on what's transpired since the 29th Annual Rally earlier this year. We'll recap each issue, provide current information on which have been successfully resolved, and identify those that are still pending. Continue reading below for those details.
   The specific issues for the 2024 Rally are under development. We'll cover those in future updates as they are finalized. 

Ready to register for 2024?
   Put the Rally on your calendar right now, then click the link below for more information.
30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally
 • Wednesday, February 28, 2024, Madison
    Click here for details and registration

Above: Participants gather in the Capitol Rotunda at the 2023 Chippewa Valley Rally


2023 Chippewa Valley Rally Issues Statements
Capital investments at regional UW System campuses

Completion funding for the UWEC Science and Health Sciences Building
   This building will house UWEC’s STEM and Health Sciences departments and the intensive research laboratories they require. The Science and Health Sciences Building includes 10,000 square feet of laboratory spaces funded by Mayo Clinic to further their research partnership with the university, allowing for enhanced collaboration with UWEC faculty and students, as well as a permanent home for the high performance supercomputing array donated by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. These modern teaching and research spaces, in addition to new Nursing simulation teaching laboratories, will help UW-Eau Claire continue to produce the STEM and health sciences graduates regional industries need.


Status: The Wisconsin 2023-2025 State budget includes a total of $231,326,000 for the demolition of Phillips Hall and the building of the Science and Health Sciences Building. The Regents and the State Building Commission have both signed off for the start of construction, expected to begin next summer.

UW-Stout Heritage Hall Renovation Project
   First included in the UW System Capital Plan in 2007, the UW Board of Regents has prioritized the requested $138.9 million in capital funding to undertake major renovations and additions to modernize UW-Stout’s Heritage Hall. The renovation addresses instructional environments, operational efficiency, and state-of-the-art workforce training and services. Built in the early 70s and now serving more than 2,000 students every year, this 133,000 square foot building was graded as “fail” in nearly every category in an independent architectural study.
   The Heritage Hall Renovation Project supports UW-Stout’s capacity as Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University to address forecasted workforce needs in hospitality and tourism, health and wellness services, childcare, and education by increasing Stout's already unmatched post-graduation employment rates. The renewed applied learning spaces, expanded development of career-focused programs, market-driven professional development offerings and community services, and innovative collaboration with business and industry will enhance its value to the state’s economy, taxpayers, and students.

The 2023-2025 State budget includes $138,887,000 for the
      renovations and additions to Heritage Hall.


UWEC Science & Health Sciences (L) and Stout Heritage Hall (R) renderings. Both projects were 2023 Rally priorities and were funded in the 2023-25 State Budget.


2023 Chippewa Valley Rally Issues Statements
Economic development and tax reform

Consider tax reform initiatives that would eliminate or significantly decrease the state’s income tax burden
This would enhance the state’s competitiveness and ability to attract and retain talent, while potentially providing an opportunity to address other tax fairness issues without jeopardizing overall state revenues and essential services.


Status: Although the state budget initially included individual income tax cuts for all four of the state’s tax brackets, the governor vetoed the cut for the top two. This means the state is projected to have a $4 billion surplus at the end of the 2024-25 fiscal year. The legislature subsequently passed a $2 billion "middle class tax cut" as part of a bill that originally was introduced through the Governor's call for a special session on childcare in September, but which was substantially reworked to instead create a child care tax credit, the tax cut, and other provisions. The Governor vetoed the bill on November 20. 


Address the squeeze on local governments and outdated funding formulas
Despite the overall improved nature of the tax burden carried by Wisconsin residents, local governments face financial challenges based upon revenue and levy limits, as well as long-outdated municipal shared revenue and school funding formulas. This has led to referendums disproportionally increasing property taxes, as well as the imposition of vehicle registration fees, because they are the only tools available to them. It is time to review the state’s promises and restrictions on these units of government, and consider the appropriate balance among property, sales and income taxes.


Status: The 2023-2025 Wisconsin State Budget includes an increase to the shared revenue formula. Counties and municipalities will now see a minimum 20% increase. This was done in part by dedicating 1/5 of the state’s sales tax revenue for local aid. The budget also repealed the personal property tax.


A 2023 Rally team in the State Capitol.

2023 Chippewa Valley Rally Issues Statements
Workforce development

Provide state leadership on talent attraction and retention
It’s essential for the state to help address the workforce shortage through initiatives to attract and retain talent – including marketing the positive attributes of the state and its regions to attract new talent, encouraging former residents and students to return, highlighting opportunities for transitioning veterans, and keeping Wisconsin graduates in the state.


Status: In the budget, the legislature included a requirement that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) expend at least $4 million from its existing appropriations on workforce attraction and retention initiatives, including at least $2 million to attract and retain veterans. This provision was vetoed by the Governor.


Address housing supply and affordability
Wisconsin’s housing shortage across all levels is closely related to the workforce crisis, as well as having a detrimental effect on affordability. We support innovative efforts on the state level to increase supply and affordability, including things like a sales tax exemption for workforce housing developments, tax credits for workforce housing creation, a workforce housing rehabilitation loan program, a local housing investment fund program, and reviewing regulations, policies, and building codes to ensure that they are up to date and do not unnecessarily hamper construction activities or increase costs. State policies, regulations and statutes should encourage infill development, creation of missing middle housing types, compact growth, efficiency of public resources, and the ability to build the types of housing demanded by the marketplace.


Status: The state budget includes $525 million toward affordable housing. 5 bipartisan bills addressing affordable housing were also signed by Governor Evers as part of the budget. Assembly Bills 264-268 include: creating a residential housing infrastructure revolving loan fund program, creating a main street housing rehabilitation revolving loan fund program, limit residents’ ability to block new housing projects, and creating a loan program for developers converting commercial buildings into residential ones.


Address the childcare crisis
The availability and affordability of childcare has become an increasingly acute issue for employers, families, and childcare providers. This has inhibited the ability of families to take full advantage of employment opportunities and for employers to have full access to the potential talent pool. What’s more, childcare providers are faced with a business model that makes it challenging to pay competitive wages and deal with regulatory hurdles. Covid relief funding has provided stopgap assistance to maintain some capacity, but is temporary and inadequate to provide a long-term solution.

There is an urgent need for innovation on the part of the state to address the funding, business model, and regulatory oversight of early childhood care and education in ways that will effectively deal with availability, affordability, and accountability for quality and safety. This by necessity must address the business model for childcare providers, especially in their ability to attract and retain motivated, high quality staff.


Status: The Governor, Democrats, and Republicans have not come together for any compromise in the childcare area. 


The state budget did not include any funding for Child Care Counts. The governor called a special session on Sept. 20 and requested $340 million to continue the Child Care Counts program. The legislature took up the bill, but substantial reworked it without proving the Governor's requested funding. On October 16, the Governor directed $170 million in federal funding to the Child Care Counts program.


Republicans also introduced a package of child care-related bills which passed the Assembly on Sept. 14. These bills include: increasing the child to teacher ratios, decreasing age limits for child care teachers, creating a new category of large family-based day care providers, allowing those without employer-sponsored flexible spending accounts to open state-issued child care savings accounts, and creating a new renovation loan program administered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The Governor and Democrats have so far opposed these bills.


Separately, a bill was introduced in December that creates a tax credit for employers who assist their workers with childcare services and/or expenses and is also supported by the Wisconsin Early Childcare Association. It had a hearing in the Assembly and action is pending.


Eliminate backlogs in occupational licensing and institute regular reviews of standards
There is a need to address Wisconsin’s occupational licensing system both in terms of the efficiency and effectiveness of the service the Department of Safety and Professional Services provides to licensed occupations, and to provide a periodic review of the need and appropriateness of all occupational license standards.

Professionals in many occupations have reported significant backlogs in receiving credentials from DSPS, hampering their ability to work and earn a living. It’s important for DSPS to take steps to improve the management of these functions to be responsive to the needs of these professions.

Government regulation and licensure is appropriate when it provides necessary standards to ensure public safety, professional competence, and fairness. It is important to keep regulations up to date based upon changes in technology and best practices. Regulations should not be burdensome in ways that inhibit responsible activities, or serve to block appropriate economic competition. The state should have a system to periodically review the need, value, and standards for each profession subject to occupational licensing.

Professional standards regulations should be harmonized with other states to make it easier for competent professionals to move from one state to another for employment opportunities.


Status: The state budget includes $145 million of funding to the Department and Safety and Professional Services. This includes 18 additional staffing positions, however most of these are temporary positions, spanning 2-4 years. This also includes $6 million for technological investments within the department. Organizations whose employees are subject to licensing say processing has improved, but more progress is needed.


Ready to register for 2024?
   Put the Rally on your calendar right now, then click the link below for more information.
30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally
 • Wednesday, February 28, 2024, Madison
    Click here for details and registration


Rally participants with Sen. Jesse James

2023 Chippewa Valley Rally Issues Statements


Prioritize continued expansion of broadband access to unserved and under-served areas.
Availability of broadband has become as essential in today’s economy as electricity and telephone service. Connecting rural Wisconsin towns, villages, and communities with reliable broadband requires a strategic and thoughtful approach. As funding is deployed, it should prioritize appropriate data collection, mapping, and sufficient speeds. Cooperatives, telephone companies, and middle-mile backbone networks all play a critical role in broadband delivery.


Status: Although not directly included in the state budget, Wisconsin was awarded $1.055 billion for broadband from the federal government through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. 20% of this amount will be awarded by the state in the summer of 2024, through competitive grants. The rest will be awarded in 2025.


Build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure to include major highway corridors and rural areas.
With significant federal funding for EV stations on the way, the preparation, planning, and investments in building out Wisconsin’s charging station network must include small and medium-sized communities. Economic development partners like local electric utilities will play an important role in fulfilling the needs of the traveling public. Legislative action is appropriate to incentivize the production and deployment of charging infrastructure. It’s important for all parties to work together to solve the issues that held up legislation in the last session, balancing the need to encourage private enterprise with the need to increase access.


Status: The state budget did not include any funding toward increasing electric vehicle charging stations, although Wisconsin is set to receive $78.5 million from the US department of Transportation through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program over the next 5 years. However, with these funds it is required that customers are charged by the amount of electricity used, but current Wisconsin law states that only regulated utilities are allowed to charge by amount of electricity used. Statutory changes are needed, and a bill was introduced in the fall to address the issue. Action is pending. 


Expand passenger rail service to the Chippewa Valley and other major state cities
We support the expansion of passenger rail service in high-potential Wisconsin corridors as a needed and worthwhile investment for the economic future of our state. The Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha train service has been one of the most successful services in the country, and similar benefits should be provided to other major state economic centers. Frequent service to more cities will help attract and retain business and the talent critical to its success; provide a convenient, economical, and environmentally-friendly alternative to driving; accelerate economic growth opportunities; improve quality of life; increase tourism; and add resiliency to our transportation system.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides significant federal funding for corridor development that is for the first time on par with federal funding formulas for other modes like highways. The next step in eligibility is to submit corridors for designation by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) by its March 20 deadline. We support the anticipated submission to FRA of the Chicago-Milwaukee-Chippewa Valley-Twin Cities corridor by Wisconsin DOT, and an Eau Claire-Menomonie-Hudson-Twin Cities regional corridor by the Chippewa-St. Croix Rail Commission.


Status: In late March, WisDOT submitted four corridor applications to the FRA, including one for potential additional Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities trains via Madison and/or Eau Claire, as well as one to the Fox Cities and Green Bay. The Chippewa-St. Croix Rail Commission submitted an application to pursue an Eau Claire-Twin Cities corridor. In December, FRA  announced that all five Wisconsin-based grants were funded. These studies are the first step to put Wisconsin and the Chippewa Valley in the pipeline for  passenger rail expansion.


Position Wisconsin to benefit from coming federal infrastructure funding opportunities
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes significant competitive and formula funding for state and local investments in water infrastructure, roads & bridges, aviation, and freight & passenger rail. It’s important for Wisconsin to be prepared to seek and utilize these funding streams in all areas where they will provide benefits to our economy.


Status: WisDOT and other entities in the state have been actively pursuing federal funding opportunities for Wisconsin infrastructure projects.


Coming soon... Issues Statements for 2024


Ready to register for 2024?
   Put the Rally on your calendar right now, then click the link below for more information.
30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally
 • Wednesday, February 28, 2024, Madison
    Click here for details and registration

Thanks for reading this first Issue Update for the 30th Annual Chippewa Valley Rally.
If you have comments or questions, contact Scott Rogers, Vice President G
overnmental Affairs, at the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce: 715-858-0616 or rogers@eauclairechamber.org

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