Commentary: Wisconsin can do better for businesses

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

Come to Wisconsin. We are bad for business.” That motto would probably not attract many businesses.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the message we are sending to business owners and professionals who may be looking to relocate or expand here.

Forbes recently released its first “Best States for Business” study. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin ranked near the bottom of the list. We were 39th overall among the 50 states.

The top five states to do business in, according to the Forbes study, were Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, Utah, and Colorado (quite a recovery for a state that was reduced to ruins after the Taxpayer Bill of Rights).

Forbes ranked states according to six categories: regulatory environment, business costs, economic climate, growth prospects, labor and quality of life.

Wisconsin underperformed badly in nearly every category. We ranked 42nd for regulatory environment, 39th for economic climate, 38th for growth prospects, 30th for labor, and 27th for business costs. Our quality of life was ranked sixth in the nation. Had this category been removed, we would have been even lower on the list.

Unfortunately, not many business owners and professionals are looking to move to a state with a high quality of life and a government that overtaxes, overspends and over-regulates.

Why should you careω

Despite political attempts from both Republicans and Democrats to improve our business environment, we are underperforming in the categories that matter to businesses. Talented people who create jobs and pay a lot of taxes are leaving or not coming here because of it. They realize that they will keep more of the money they make elsewhere. And that means we are all paying more in taxes and fees to make up the difference.

What can we do to fix the problems that make Wisconsin bad for businessω

Democrats believe that the solution to our problem is not that we are taxing people too much. They believe the problem is that we are not taxing the right people enough. The liberal answer to lower our tax burden and boost the economy seems to be – tax business owners and executives more. In their minds, these people are not paying enough in comparison to the rest of us and that is not fair.

If that is true, then the top five states in the Forbes study must be taxing their businesses more than we are. That is not the case. According to data from the Federation of Tax Administrators, all five states have a much lower corporate income tax rate than we do. In fact, two out of the top 10 states have no corporate income tax.

In Wisconsin, we automatically tax 7.9 percent of all business profits, regardless of how much the business makes. That’s on top of the 35 percent the federal government takes. To put this in perspective, if you own a small business in Wisconsin and you make $10,000 in profits, you will automatically pay nearly $4,200 in state and federal taxes. Talk about unfair. Raising taxes on businesses is not the answer. Eliminating the corporate income tax is. We also need to reduce the regulatory burden that often prevents businesses from expanding and creating more jobs.

Wisconsin can do better.

State Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Green Bay) represents the 2nd Assembly District. This column first appeared at WisOpinion.com, a media partner of Small Business Times.

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