Wisconsin DOR Secretary: How La Crosse’s Economy is Bucking the Trends

Greater La Crosse is performing well in GDP growth, low unemployment, and personal income growth.

The head of the Wisconsin Departement of Revenue Peter Barca told members of the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce that our La Crosse numbers look solid except in one are. The numbers are. 


La Crosse


GDP 3.7% 2.9%
Labor Force Growth 0% .01%
Unemployment 2.7% 2.9%
Personal Income Growth 3.0% 2.4%

“The Chamber Lens”: What Visit Means for Businesses

  • GDP Growth: La Crosse having a growing GDP indicates we have a healthy economy, one stronger than other areas of Wisconsin. A growing GDP shows the value of the goods our area produces as increasing and doing so at a rate higher than other products produced in Wisconsin. This helps spark investment.
  • Labor Force Growth: Our jobs are stagnant, which results in the common concern heard by businesses- there is no workforce and growth is therefore tough. This ripples into personal growth and unemployment numbers.
  • Unemployment: We continue to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state- second to Dane County (which is heavily supported by government and higher education). While this means we have a lot of people out earning money, it also inhibits our growth. If companies can’t employ the people needed to make the product quantities their customers need, their growth is suppressed. Investment in automation technology in manufacturing and other service fulfillment begin to make up for the human workforce.
  • Personal Income Growth: When our labor market is not growing, companies must attract workers from other local companies. One way to do this is by paying more. This resulting in higher personal income growth in our area.

In light of discussions about a recession coming from a few people in the financial industry, an attendee asked Sec. Barca what his office is doing to prepare. The Secretary did not directly answer the question, which is not surprising since an official OR statement can trigger people to not invest and hence spark a recession.

Chamber Pride: Our impact

Secretary Barca estimated that the collection of online sales tax from out of state companies will result in $60 million coming into the state. This was an issue the Chamber advocated for during our Washington DC Fly-In. Remember that sales tax includes a 1/2-percent sales tax for the county. This is estimated to bring in at least $200,000 in additional revenue to the County.

Other notes of business interest

Financials: The secretary’s slides show where the state takes in revenue and where it is spent:

  • Income: 52.5% is from personal income tax, 33.7% is sales and use tax
    • Note: they do not collect lottery tax dollars that relieve property taxes
  • Expense/Budget: 34.5% K-12 schools, 171.% Medical assistance, 7.4% corrections (this surpassed the UW system’s budget three years ago)

What his office does that impacts your business:

  • Economic projections
  • Regulate alcohol, tobacco, and gaming
  • Education and training on taxes (dales and use, etc.)
  • They are partnering with the WEDC to focus on entrepreneurship because Wisconsin ranks the lowest in terms of start-up companies
  • NEW: the Department is now requiring companies to enter the North America Industry Classification System (NAICS) code to associate with your business so they can segment communication relevant to specific industries. To find your NAICS code, go to https://mailinglists.com/duns-number-sic-and-naics-code-lookup

Resources You Can Use:

  • Tax Incentive Finder: Wisconsin has a variety of tax deductions, exclusions, exemptions and credits available to Wisconsin businesses. Our Tax Incentive Finder is a tool that allows you to search by industry type or incentive type to get information about the Wisconsin tax incentives that work best for your business. https://www.revenue.wi.gov/Pages/Businesses/Incentives.aspx
  • Reports by Industry, Tax Type, etc.: Informational and statistical reports relating to the Wisconsin economy, and our state and local tax system. In addition, there are reports about state aid programs for local governments, and tax relief for individuals. Documents appearing here also include economic and policy analyses. https://www.revenue.wi.gov/Pages/Report/Home.aspx


Other Speakers at the Event:

Anthony Chergosky, UW-L [slides available]

The Climate

The budget process determines who gets what when and how. Party polarization plus the governor does equal conflict. But a budget did get signed!

What did we get:

  • $82 billion in spending for the next two years
  • Raise in property taxes
  • State income taxes are down
  • The decline in Medicare expansion (WI=up to 100% poverty rate covered, the proposal would expand to 138%). We are now apart of the 14% of states that do not cover this expansion.
  • Infrastructure: increases $465 million through title fee increases by $95, annual registration fee by $10. Rejects gas tax increase to 8%.
  • Higher Ed: tuition freeze maintained. $58 million in general operating (about 1/2 of what Gov Evers wanted), $1 billion in building upgrades and new construction
  • K12: Gov Evers used the line item veto to provide another $65 million in K12 than initially approved by the legislature, equaling $570 million additional (he had proposed $1.4 billion)

Both consider this budget a “win”


  • The Governor vetoed 78 items. The governor has the ability to strike words and numbers from the budget, resulting in lots of discussions.
    • Ex. A grant program for school-owned buses using alternative fuels. It became a grant for alternative fuels.
    • Ex. Spending $100K on research for chronic wasting disease in farm-raised deer. Instead became spending $100K into research on chronic wasting disease in deer. This allows his administration greater leeway in how the funds are spent.

The Road Ahead

  • Medical marijuana is split
  • Redistricting/Gerrymandering: The supreme court chose to dismiss a redistricting lawsuit. They consider it politics, not law. Many electeds had hoped this would resolve the dispute.
  • Voter interest in the 2020 elections is off the charts high. Voters are fired up.

Sen. Jennifer Shilling

  • “We are in an arranged marriage with two very different values.”
  • Sparta bike trail reopening: the funding is there that they can continue to apply for.
  • The budget for education appears to be set. the veto pen was used creatively to fund some of the Governor’s priorities.
  • “The legislative process is broken. Something won’t go to the floor if all Republican votes won’t pass it.”
  • Gov. will continue with Medicare expansion efforts and gerrymandering/fair maps. It’s important to draw the maps regardless of which is the majority party.

Many secretaries are out talking about the budget this week.