Apple, Wal-Mart back Wisconsin sales tax holiday bill
MADISON — Two of the nation's largest and best-known corporations, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Apple Inc., are lobbying in support of a Wisconsin bill that would waive sales taxes on purchases of some computers and back-to-school supplies one weekend a year.
No one from either of the companies appeared at a Tuesday hearing in support of the bill, but online records show they combined for 20 hours of lobbying on the measure after it was introduced last year.
The hearing on the sales tax holiday idea comes as Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers await an update later this month on the state's budget picture. The better the news, the more likely that the sales tax holiday idea will be seriously considered.
The Republican-backed proposal had been languishing until Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said last month that if the state's budget can handle it, he would like to make Wisconsin the 18th state to have a sales tax holiday. Iowa is Wisconsin's only neighbor that does it, and the sales tax exemption applies only to clothing sales up to $100.
While Vos is supportive, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said last month that some of his members viewed it as a gimmick. That could pose a problem for the proposal, which must pass both the Senate and Assembly and be signed by Walker before taking effect.
Democrats and even one Republican, Rep. Michael Schraa, of Oshkosh, raised concerns about the sales tax holiday idea during Tuesday's hearing. Schraa said it would put a burden on small business owners who would have to reprogram their cash registers to not charge sales tax. He said a better approach would be an across-the-board sales tax cut.
Democrats said they didn't believe consumers lured to the stores on the sales tax holidays would actually spend more on other products, as the bill's supporters argued. The state Department of Revenue estimates the bill would cost the state $14.5 million in lost revenue.