WEDC re-opens historic tax credit with changes

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will revamp the application for tax credits aimed at helping rehab old buildings after partially lifting a moratorium on any new grants.

The state expanded the program to create credits of up to 20 percent of the cost for rehabbing buildings on the state or national historic registries along with those built before 1936 that have no historic value.

WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said those buildings with historic significance will again be eligible for the credits. But the others will not.

Before the moratorium kicked in last month, the state handed out $35 million in credits, far more than the $4 million originally projected. Maley said $20 million of that went to buildings that met the new historic value standard.

Maley said the application will be reworked to require information such as the capital investment, long-term and short-term job creation, and anticipated revenue for local governments if the project is completed. He said the information won’t be used to decide whether the projects should receive the credits, but to help the agency chart the program’s long-term future.

“We want to get a gauge on the true economic impact of each of these projects,” Maley said.

Republicans Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, praised the decision, as did Dem lawmakers Rep. Peter Barca of Kenosha and Sen. Julie Lassa of Stevens Point, both WEDC Board members.

But Barca said he still questions whether WEDC had authority to suspend the program in the first place.

Barca added some lawyers were skeptical WEDC had statutory authority to impose the moratorium in the first place and intends to bring the issue up at WEDC’s next Board of Directors meeting July 28.

Maley said the legislation expanding the tax credit didn’t include specific language on suspending the credit. But he said the agency believes the power given WEDC to oversees the program includes the ability to issue a moratorium.