July 25, 2014

State home sales see first increase of the year

For the first time this year, the number of existing houses sold by Wisconsin Realtors was higher than the same month a year ago.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association says its members sold just over 7,700 homes statewide during June, which is 4.5 percent more than in June of 2013. The median sales price was $159,900, six-tenths of a percent more than the year before.

The group’s Dave Clark says June is typically the biggest month of the year for home sales in Wisconsin, accounting for almost 11.5 percent of all sales for the year. Clark says it’s a good sign that the housing market is headed in the right direction.

All parts of Wisconsin reported gains in sales. However, the improvement for June is still not going to completely erase reductions in sales during the first part of the year. Total home sales were down by almost five percent during the first six months of 2014.

WIBA

State adds 7 counties to EAB quarantine

The emerald ash borer (Photo: DATCP)

The emerald ash borer (Photo: DATCP)

The state Department of Agriculture is adding seven more Wisconsin counties to the list of those quarantined because of the emerald ash borer.

The move comes after the tree-killing insect was confirmed in Columbia, Grant, and Monroe counties. The new quarantines cover those three areas, along with neighboring Richland, Iowa, Lafayette, and Green counties. While EAB has not been found in those counties yet, officials say their proximity makes it likely the insect will show up there.

There are are now 29 counties in the state that are under a quarantine, which means ash-wood products and hardwood firewoods can’t be moved out of them. Businesses must prove to the state that their wood products are pest-free before they can be shipped.

The emerald ash borer has killed millions of trees in the US. It has slowly spread across Wisconsin since it turned up in Washington County in 2008.

Trek president fires back at Walker campaign ad

Mary Burke and Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Mary Burke and Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

The President of Trek Bicycle is accusing Governor Scott Walker of make false implications against the company for political gain.

Walker’s campaign released an ad this week that targets likely Democratic opponent Mary Burke. Burke is a former executive at Trek, a company started by her father. The ad implies that Trek outsourced jobs overseas that could have been done in Wisconsin and that Burke profited from the move. It also argues that those jobs are being done by individuals being paid as little as $2 an hour.

In a statement released Thursday, Trek Bicycle President John Burke says he wants to set the record straight about the issue. Burke says his sister “did not make any manufacturing decisions; I did.”

Had he not made the decision to source the company’s product globally, Burke argues Trek would likely no longer be in business and the 1,000 jobs the company still has in Wisconsin would not be here today. He also fired back at the wage allegations, saying the company and its vendors “strictly comply with all local labor rules and regulations, including prevailing pay rates.”

Walker’s campaign stood by the ad. Spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said “There is no disputing the fact that Mary Burke made millions of dollars off of shipping Wisconsin jobs overseas.”

Mary Burke’s campaign is also working to counter the attack with its own campaign ad, which will begin airing today in several markets across the state. It claims the Walker ad is an “outrageous attack on a great Wisconsin company,” and argues that Burke helped Trek grow into a company that make more bikes in the U.S. than any other company. The ad also criticizes Walker’s administration for providing tax breaks to companies that have outsourced jobs overseas, and argues it’s one of the reasons Wisconsin is dead last in the Midwest for job creations.

Walker ad goes after Burke on outsourcing

PHOTO: WSAU

PHOTO: WSAU

Governor Scott Walker’s newest campaign ad focuses on outsourcing of Wisconsin jobs by Trek Bicycle, the firm owned by the family of opponent Mary Burke. Walker criticized the Democrat during a campaign stop in Wausau on Wednesday.

“They’ve taken state taxpayers dollars to in turn ship jobs overseas. When she’s talking about that, criticizing that of other companies, I think voters need to know that that’s something that Mary Burke has profited from a company, her own family company, that’s taken the taxpayers money and done just exactly that,” the Republican governor said.

The Walker campaign ad features a grandmother reading a bedtime story – one which features images of Burke holding bags of money. Burke has said she had nothing to do with Trek’s decision to create manufacturing jobs in China, although she still owns stock in the company.

“Scott Walker should be ashamed of himself,” said Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki. “Attacking a great Wisconsin company, that his own flagship economic agency held up as an example of a model business just last year, for political purposes is despicable. Trek makes more bikes in the US than any of its competitors, employs nearly 1,000 people right here in Wisconsin. It’s payroll has doubled over the last 20 years and it injects almost $100 million into the state economy every year.”

At odds over Internet sales tax

Competing arguments on Internet sales taxes were in focus Monday. At a Capitol media briefing, Pete Sepp with the National Taxpayers Union said polling finds voters in Wisconsin strongly oppose out-of-state tax collection on the state’s online merchants.

The survey of 400 likely voters was conducted from June 3rd to the 5th, and found that Wisconsin residents opposed, by a 63 to 30 percent margin, the Marketplace Fairness Act. The federal legislation would allow revenue agencies in one state to collect internet sales taxes in another state.

Sepp said the prospect of additional revenues could be a double-edged sword for states. “Every state revenue department that thinks this is a good idea because suddenly revenues will come flowing back to their states, they need to realize this works 45 other ways,” he said, referring to the 45 states which currently collect sales taxes.

The U.S. Senate has passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, also known as e-fairness legislation, but the House has not acted on the measure. “Whether you sell on-line or, whether you sell as a brick and mortar outfit, you collect and submit the tax for where you are located,” said Sepp. “That’s fair, isn’t it?”

“We right now have a ridiculous tax policy that harms Wisconsin businesses,”said Alliance of Wisconsin Retailers executive director Scott Stenger. “It says we’re going to give a benefit to an out-of-state business that employs nobody (in Wisconsin), pays no taxes. We’re going to give them an advantage over a Wisconsin-based business that employs thousands of people and pays taxes. E-fairness legislation simply closes a tax loophole that allows out-of-state companies to avoid collecting sales tax – something the government forces all businesses in Wisconsin to do.”