Efforts to preserve more historic buildings have gotten a boost from the legislature. A state program that gives tax credits to developers for restoring historic buildings would double in size under a bill which has received final approval from the state Senate. The measure increases the state historic tax credit from 10 percent to 20 percent, and offers a state match of 20 percent for those buildings built prior to 1936, according to information provided by the measure’s Senate sponsor, Green Bay Republican Rob Cowles. The legislation also streamlines the credit approval process, decouples the credits from their federal counterparts to allow flexibility for projects in Wisconsin, and includes a mechanism to ensure the credits are paying for themselves.
The bill gained Senate approval on a 31-2 vote after earlier passing the Assembly, 88-4. The action comes only months after the legislature voted in the state budget bill to raise the credit from its previous level of 5 percent. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated the bill would cost taxpayers $8.6 million over the next two years, based on the level of past use of the 5 percent credit. The Milwaukee journal Sentinel reported Fiscal Bureau staff acknowledged that quadrupling the credit could lead to significantly higher cost to the state, should developers increase their use of the program.