Possible Changes to Wisconsin’s Municipal Liquor License Law
By Tom Larson
Several lawmakers are considering changes to Wisconsin’s Municipal Liquor License law which, among other things, establishes quotas for “Class B” liquor licenses. Several attempts have been made in recent years, but those efforts were unsuccessful due to strong opposition by the Wisconsin Tavern League and others.
Under current law, a Class B liquor license is required for selling alcoholic beverages that will be consumed on licensed premises. To restrict the number of liquor licenses that can be issued, the law imposes a quota on the number of Class B liquor licenses a municipality can issue based upon the municipality’s population. An exception to the quota exists for full-service restaurants that have a seating capacity of 300 or more persons.
The current quotas have had a negative impact on economic development throughout Wisconsin. According to a survey by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities in 2012, 140 of the 254 respondents (55.1%) had issues all the of the class B liquor licenses available. Only 68 of the respondents (27%) had only one or two liquor licenses available. More importantly, 19 of the municipalities indicated that they a full-service restaurant considered, but then decided against locating in their municipality for the principal reason that the community did NOT have a class B liquor license available.
Modifying the law to allow greater flexibility and availability of class B liquor licenses is a top legislative priority for NAIOP-WI. We will be working closely with lawmakers and other interested parties during the remainder of the legislative session to hopefully make improvements to the law.
Legislature Considers Repealing Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Law
To reduce infrastructure costs for local governments, Representative Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) and Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) have introduced companion bills (Assembly Bill 32/Senate Bill 49) to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. While legislative leadership in both houses have indicated that a full repeal of the law is doubtful given the lack of support for such a measure, they have expressed optimism for some changes to the law such as upping the threshold, revising the formula for determining the prevailing wage on a project and reducing the paperwork involved.
Both supporters and opponents have produced conflicting studies to support their position. Opponents of prevailing wage highlight a recent report prepared by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance showing that Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law increases public construction costs to taxpayers by up to $300 million annually. The report attributes these higher costs, in part, to the flaws in the way the state calculates prevailing wage rates. For example, the low response rate to DWD’s surveys, ultimately skewing the state-set prevailing wages. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance noted DWD’s the state’s employer survey, which is used to set prevailing wages, received a response rate of only 10 percent, compared to 76 percent response rate to the survey used by the federal government. According to the report, this low response rate skews the wage rates established by the state. Moreover, Wisconsin averages only the upper portion of the wage distribution it receives, rather than using all wage survey responses to calculate prevailing wages. As a result, the report determined that Wisconsin’s prevailing wage rates are 44 percent higher than Bureau of Labor Statistics package rates.
However, supporters of the prevailing wage law have produced their own report that highlights how repealing the law would damage training, safety and job creation in the construction industry while not saving the state a significant amount of money. The report compares Wisconsin to states that do not have prevailing wage laws and concludes that repealing the law would reduce worker incentive and diminish or eliminate the projected savings of repeal. Drawing comparisons between wages and productivity, the report maintains that the bidding the government uses on public works projects under the current prevailing wage law “reinforces rather than undercuts this symbiosis between higher wages, higher productivity, safer workplace, healthier lives, retention of experience, transmission of skills and middle-class blue-collar construction careers.”
While it is too early to tell whether the legislature will enact either a full repeal of the law or make significant modifications, NAIOP-WI will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that any changes to the law will have a positive impact on the commercial development industry.
Joint Finance Committee to begin voting on state budget
Next week the voting starts on the state budget in the Joint Committee on Finance. The committee traveled the state and received input from the public during four marathon hearings and next week they begin the process of putting their mark on the 2015-2017 Wisconsin State Budget.
The committee is set to begin debate and voting on the following topics of the state budget:
- Secretary of State
- Public Service Commission
- State Treasurer
- Department of Revenue – Lottery Administration
- Department of Administration – Division of Gaming
- Supreme Courts
- Circuit Courts
- Court of Appeals
- Judicial Council
- Judicial Commission
- Employment Relations Commission
For those that cannot get enough of the state budget or state government, you can tune in to watch the Joint Committee on Finance at www.wiseye.org. Recent upgrades allow you to now watch the proceedings on your desktop or Smartphone.