Free Tuesday Trends sample: Historic buildings rising, minimum wage mixed, Milwaukee arena tax falling

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Rising

Historic buildings: Preservationists and municipal leaders celebrate as the governor signs a second increase in a tax credit to help cover the cost of rehabilitating historic structures. Lawmakers had already increased the credit to 10 percent of qualifying costs from 5 percent earlier this year. But backers pushed through another hike to 20 percent of the restoration budget for structures built before 1936. To supporters, the move is an important step in encouraging the preservation of historic buildings rather than seeing them fall to the wrecking ball. It’s estimated the credits could cost the state at least $8.6 million over the next two years, which raised some concerns among fiscal hawks. But proponents argue the extra revenue generated through the redevelopment projects could more than make up for that loss by stimulating job creation and economic growth — particularly in downtown areas. Gov. Walker signs the measure in downtown Green Bay, where local officials say at least two local projects stand to benefit from the increased credit.

Mixed

Minimum wage: Increasing the minimum wage appears to be a winner with the public, but don’t expect such a proposal to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled state Legislature. The latest Wisconsin Economic Scorecard poll finds some three-quarters of registered voters surveyed support an unspecified bump in the minimum wage. The survey is released just days after legislative Democrats call for a hearing on legislation that would bump the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $7.60 — and index the rate to inflation thereafter — and nearly coincides with a slew of national protests by low-wage workers. Backers of the minimum wage hike argue it would help those workers, boost local economies and lessen the need for public assistance programs. Critics, however, argue such an increase would eliminate jobs that many teens and college students use as their entrance to the workforce — and that it would hurt the very people an increase is designed to help.

Falling

Milwaukee arena tax: Supporters of efforts to build an arena to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center have made the argument that a facility of that kind in downtown Milwaukee has an impact throughout the metro area and southeastern Wisconsin. And local officials have said that any public assistance for a replacement must not be borne entirely by city or county taxpayers. Those arguments echo the contentious debate over the construction of Miller Park in the mid-1990s. The current home of the Milwaukee Brewers ended up being funded largely through a sales tax boost in Milwaukee County and its four neighboring counties, but that decision continues to stir emotions outside Milwaukee County — particularly in Racine County. And getting those counties’ support to replace the Milwaukee Bucks’ home appears to only be getting harder. The Waukesha County Board is expected to back a resolution opposing a regional arena tax; if adopted, Waukesha would join Racine and Ozaukee counties in formal opposition to such a tax. The move comes as a 48-member task force starts considering the needs of Milwaukee’s cultural attractions. A new Public Policy Forum report estimates those at about $1 billion — including up to $450 million to replace the 25-year-old arena.