From WisBusiness.com …
— The state Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Menasha Corp. and against the state in a high-profile sales tax case that will cost the state nearly $300 million.
A divided court affirmed the appeals court decision in the case, ruling that the state incorrectly collected sales tax on customized computer software sales.
In addition to the $265 million collected from companies with similar tax situations, the ruling means $28 million that would have been collected this year won’t have to be paid.
The decision stems from a lawsuit brought by the Neenah-based Menasha Corp. It argued computer software it purchased was customized and not subject to sales tax.
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— Suburban Chicago-based CDW Corp., a provider of technology products and services, has contracted with Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) to buy nearly 12 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy a year as part of a corporate initiative to reduce its carbon footprint.
The company’s two Madison-based enterprise data hosting centers – formerly part of Berbee Information Systems – total 10,500 square feet. The company said the facilities will now be run by 100 percent renewable energy. CDW purchased Berbee in 2006.
The hosting centers house storage equipment and network infrastructure necessary to manage IT equipment and applications on behalf of customers.
“This effort will provide an annual carbon offset of 12,649 tons – equal to the CO2 emission from electricity use by about 1,500 average Madison residential homes,” said Phil LaForge, director of hosting and managed services for CDW.
— Supporters of John McCain and Barack Obama held dueling events Thursday in advance of McCain’s campaign appearance in Hudson scheduled for today.
Former GOP state Sen. Cathy Stepp and small business owners convened in Milwaukee to express support for McCain’s recently released economic plan. McCain is set to discuss the proposal today in what’s being billed as a women’s town hall meeting.
Bob Kraft, CEO of First Edge Solutions, a south side Milwaukee printing business at which the press conference was held, said taxes and health care are the key issues for him and his business.
“His economic initiatives are extremely important to where we’re looking as a company,” Kraft said. “How can we at First Edge Solutions invest in continuing to give jobs, and invest in the people and technology going forward if we have to be concerned about an increase in taxes going forward?”
Stepp, who along with her husband owns a trucking company and a used semi-truck dealership, praised McCain’s economic plan to address high gas prices. She said McCain believes in addressing those problems head on, “not just with flowery words and flowery speech.”
Stepp also said Obama’s economic plans would harm businesses.
“Wisconsin and our country cannot afford a leader who will slam the doors on growth to the job providers this economy counts on,” Stepp said.
Rick Baas, of Feba Films and GOAL Realty, praised McCain for his plans to hold the line on taxes and eliminate earmarked spending.
“Sen. McCain understands that with increased taxes you’re going to harm our economy,” Bass said. “You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to understand that when you take money out of private business, out of individual’s pockets, the economy will shrink.”
— Cory Liebmann, of the progressive organization One Wisconsin Now, attended the press conference under the auspices of the group’s Town Hall blog. Liebmann passed out press releases challenging McCain’s record on women’s issues and questioned the wisdom of McCain’s plan to give some $4 billion in tax breaks to oil companies.
Stepp replied that it’s important to have a “multi-faceted approach to bringing relief at the pump to everyone.”
“If we’re able to give incentive to oil companies to encourage them to be expanding their drilling capacity, to look at off-shore drilling and other ideas the senator has talked about, then that’s what we need to be doing,” Stepp said.
*Listen to the audio:
*See the One Wisconsin Now press release:
— Dem U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin said in a conference call today that McCain “has no short-term economic plan” to provide relief to middle-class taxpayers and that he instead favors tax breaks for corporations and “multi-millionaires.”
“Families are hurting right now,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin and Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton joined in the call on behalf of Obama’s campaign to talk about the Illinois senator’s economic plan, especially its benefits to working women.
Both Lawton and Baldwin supported Obama’s primary opponent Hillary Clinton in the primary.
Lawton touted several aspects of Obama’s plan, including tax cuts for the middle class, expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act, expanding child care tax credits and raising the hourly minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011. She called the plan “a recipe for success.”
— Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has signed the proposed Great Lakes water compact.
Now all eight Great Lakes states and the two Great Lakes Canadian provinces have adopted the compact, which is designed to protect the Great Lakes water from being diverted outside of the area to far-away dry regions.
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Wis. Supreme Court decision blows hole in budget: A Wisconsin Supreme Court decision has blown a $265 million hole in the state budget. And state lawmakers may have to cancel their summer vacations and campaign plans to come back to balance the books. The divided court ruled Friday that the state improperly was collecting sales tax on customized computer software sales. That means that an estimated $265 million collected in taxes from companies over the years must be returned. Another $28 million that was planned to be collected this year won’t have to be paid, deepening the state’s budget problem. The ruling is the result of a lawsuit brought by the Menasha Corporation of Neenah. It argued computer software it purchased was customized and not subject to sales tax. The Supreme Court agreed.
Kewaunee Fabrications strike ends: The nine-week strike at Kewaunee Fabrications is over, said Boilermakers Local 487 President Bill Classon, following a vote Thursday morning. Classon would not give the vote totals. “The strike is over,” said Classon. “The totals don’t matter.” He said employees received a letter from the company this week that basically stated the company would permanently replace the strikers if they didn’t come back to work. The union met and voted Thursday morning. “The contract passed. People are reporting to work (today) for their regularly scheduled shift,” said Classon. He said the offer was the same one the union membership rejected a week earlier that reduced the insurance premium paid by employees from 15 percent to 12 percent.
MGIC shares plunge 22%: Firm’s credit rating cut over rising mortgage defaults… Shares of MGIC Investment Corp. plunged 22% Thursday after Moody’s Investors Service cut the firm’s credit rating because of rising mortgage defaults. Moody’s said in a statement its action reflects “deterioration in medium-term profitability prospects resulting from historically high mortgage defaults and uncertainty about ultimate losses.” Milwaukee-based MGIC is the country’s largest insurer of mortgages. People who put down less than 20% of a home’s selling price when they buy it often must get mortgage insurance, which covers some of the lender’s costs if foreclosure occurs. Home foreclosure filings were 53% higher in June when compared with the same time last year.
Doyle presents $615K grant for De Pere rail: Green Bay Packaging to benefit from project… Gov. Jim Doyle presented a Transportation Economic Assistancegrant to the city of De Pere Thursday that will provide rail access to Green Bay Packaging Inc.’s new facilities. The $615,000 grant will cover part of the costs of constructing and extending De Pere’s industrial lead by nearly 4,000 feet. A rail spur is also being built to connect to Green Bay Packaging for its transport needs. Green Bay Packaging opened its new folding carton and coating production facility just down the road from its container division in the De Pere Industrial Park in October. “These grants demonstrate how state and local governments can partner with private industry to strengthen the community and grow new jobs,” Doyle said.
Madison drug company Mithridion begins testing its Alzheimer’s medicine: Mithridion, a young Madison drug development company, began Phase 1 clinical trials this week on its first drug candidate, MCD-386. The small-molecule compound is designed to treat Alzheimer’s patients, stopping or slowing the progression of the processes believed to cause brain cell death. Up to 80 people will be enrolled in the first phase of clinical trials, which will take place at an undisclosed Midwest clinic and are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Alzheimer’s patients will not be part of the Phase 1 trials and the drug compound’s effectiveness is not being measured at this time. The goal will be to determine the safety of MCD-386 and the way it is metabolized by humans.
Ladish buys Aerex of Connecticut: Ladish Co. Inc. said Thursday that it has purchased full ownership of Aerex Manufacturing, a Connecticut precision-machining firm, for $14 million in cash and stock. Ladish, a Cudahy-based forger of jet engine, aerospace and industrial components, said Aerex serves the aerospace and commercial airplane industries and has projected 2008 sales of $15 million. Kerry Woody, president and CEO of Ladish (NASDAQ: LDSH), said the two companies have a long-term relationship, with Aerex providing finish machining of titanium forgings produced by Ladish Forging. Aerex is located in South Windsor, Conn. Ladish owns the Stowe Machine plant in Windsor, Conn.
Will Milwaukee sales tax hike boost business here?: Local business owners weigh in on potential impact… While Milwaukee County officials mull the idea of a 1 percent sales tax increase, business owners in Waukesha County are wondering if such a measure will lure new customers across county lines to purchase big-ticket items like jewelry, appliances and furniture. Donna Krumrich-Manke, owner of Krumrich’s Jewelers, 234 W. Main St. in Waukesha, said that in the past, she has adjusted her shopping habits according to area sales-tax costs. Therefore, she expects people who normally shop in Milwaukee County will do the same if the sales tax there climbs by 1 cent on the dollar. “You might make that little extra effort, just like driving around to find the cheapest gas,” she said.
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– TOM BURZINSKI: IT executive and consultant
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– The big idea
– Cutting back ethanol opposed
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LABOR (back to top)
– U.S. jobless claims dip but labor market still weak
– Superior paper cuts print editions, focuses on Web
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INVESTING (back to top)
– Stocks fluctuate from shaky financial sector
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REAL ESTATE (back to top)
– Milwaukee-area residential building permits down
– Real estate slowdown continues
– CDA votes down Army gift of land for homeless housing
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AGRIBUSINESS (back to top)
– New Alice in Dairyland Busy Promoting Cherries & Berries
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TRANSPORTATION (back to top)
– Air Wisconsin usage drops 5.2% in June
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RETAIL (back to top)
– Summerfest has lowest attendance since 1993
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REGULATION (back to top)
– Outagamie County considers 4-day work week
– UW-Madison gives stores scanners to spot fake IDs
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TOURISM (back to top)
– Thinking just like a tourist
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HEALTH CARE (back to top)
– Aurora Health Care seeks to buy cardiology group
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– Wausau Financial Systems to work with Navy Federal Credit Union
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BUSINESS COLUMNS (back to top)
– Jacque Georgia: Market changes are not considered negative
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National Business Roundups ( back to top)
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