MON News Summary: Report highlights upcoming changes in state tobacco tax law; Milwaukee business sales outlook improved from earlier this year

— A new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum highlights the state’s continued reliance on tobacco taxes, even as residents are smoking traditional cigarettes less often. 

The report comes on the heels of Gov. Tony Evers signing into law the state budget, which establishes a new 5-cent-per-milliliter excise tax on e-cigarette fluid. That’s a much lower tax than Evers’ original proposal, which would have imposed a 71 percent excise tax on both e-cigarette devices and fluid, matching the rate for other non-cigarette tobacco products. 

The new tax takes effect Oct. 1, according to the report. Under the new law, a 30-milliliter bottle of e-cigarette fluid will include a $1.50 tax. If the same bottle were priced at $19.99, Evers’ original proposal would have added a tax of $14.19, according to the report. 

WPF’s report shows Wisconsin relies on tobacco tax revenues more than most states. Revenues from the tax made up about 2.6 percent of the state’s general revenues in 2016, excluding any federal funding. 

Wisconsin raised cigarette taxes twice in recent years, in 2008 and 2009, by a combined $1.75 per pack. That boosted the state’s tax to the 12th-highest in the country, at $2.52 per pack. 

But as cigarette smoking rates decline in the state and nationally, Wisconsin is bringing in less revenue from this tax. The WPF report cites a May estimate from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that “the revenue slide is accelerating.” 

The state brought in about $539 million from cigarette taxes in the 2018 fiscal year. That’s down from its peak of $644 million in 2010. According to the report, the new tax is expected to collect $5.5 million in new revenue over the next two years. By comparison, Evers’ original proposal would have added $34.7 million in revenue over the next two years.

Even as traditional cigarette smoking rates are declining, the use of e-cigarettes — sometimes called “vapes” — is way up, especially among young people. Responses from the Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey indicate e-cigarette use among high school students has increased by a factor of 10 in the past six years. 

See more: 

— The sales outlook for businesses in Milwaukee has improved from earlier in the year, according to a recent survey conducted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. 

Seventy-seven percent of surveyed businesses expect higher sales levels for the third quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year. That’s up from 62 percent and 66 percent for the first and second quarters of this year, respectively. 

A further 15 percent expect no change in sales for Q3, while 8 percent expect sales to fall. 

Bret Mayborne, economic research director for MMAC, notes the national economic expansion hit a record 121 months in July. 

“Business optimism in the Milwaukee area suggests that this record is highly likely to lengthen in future months,” he said. “Three metrics of local business growth — sales, profits and employment — are all expected to register real gains in 2019’s third quarter and beyond.” 

The unemployment rate for the metro Milwaukee area is historically low, reaching 2.9 percent in May. That’s the lowest unemployment rate on record, going back to 1990, according to MMAC. 

Still, most surveyed businesses expect to add employees in the third quarter of 2019. Fifty-seven percent expect job increases in Q3, while 37 percent forecast no change and 6 percent expect to lose jobs. In the previous survey, focused on Q2 of this year, 47 percent of respondents expected to add jobs. 

The MMAC survey includes responses from 87 Milwaukee companies that collectively employ more than 40,900 people. 

See the release: 

— A recent analysis from third-party information provider ranks Wisconsin in the bottom 10 states for the quality of its highways, with 17 percent — or 1,819 miles — rated as poor. 

The analysis used data from the Federal Highway Administration, showing Wisconsin receives $7,000 per mile from the FHWA. Although Wisconsin is ranked 8th in the nation for having poor highway quality, other states with similarly poor roads receive more than $20,000 per mile, the report shows. 

The report also says urban areas in Wisconsin are nearly four times as likely than rural areas to have roads in poor condition. 

See the full report: 

— Traffic at Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport for the first six months of 2019 is up 6.5 percent compared to the same period last year, a recent release shows. 

Between January and June of this year, the airport had 163,693 passengers. That’s compared to 153,773 for the first six months of 2018. 

And for June of this year, passenger traffic was 15.2 percent higher than last June. 

“Those numbers are very strong; especially considering that, in 2018, we had an overall increase of 12.2 percent in passenger traffic, which was the largest increase in the past 30 years,” said Airport Director Marty Piette. 

Piette chalks up the increase to carriers offering new flights and bringing larger planes to Green Bay. 

See the release: 

— Madison-based FUJIFILM Cellular Dynamics and Axcelead Drug Discovery Partners are collaborating to provide customers with an integrated platform for drug discovery solutions that rely on human stem cells. 

According to a release, the companies will work toward developing new drug efficacy evaluation methods and toxicity testing to meet specific needs of clients. The duo will combine FUJIFILM’s stem cell-derived products and Axcelead’s compound evaluation and analytical services.

Axcelead is a nonclinical drug discovery solution provider, located in Fujisawa, Japan.

See more at Madison Startups: 


# Boutique boom: Fitness craze brings healthy competition

# Rock River lab to offer testing analysis for hemp

# Dane County Board approves design contract for Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall



– State FFA theme is ‘Rise Up. Stand Out.’

– Wisconsin grain forecast shows results for winter wheat, oats


– Out to camp: NAWIC introduces girls to careers in construction


– Online survey will measure public’s perception of downtown growth in Milwaukee 

– WEDC awards $500,000 to Northwest Side Community Development Corp. for small business loan fund


– Carmen Schools of Science and Technology names new CEO

– Regents president announces ‘aggressive’ campaign to advocate for campuses


– Yahara Pride Farms releases annual report


– Dane County effort lists next steps to battle black infant mortality

– Lawmakers look to address ‘staggering’ diabetes costs in Wisconsin

– New dollars for respite care to strengthen connections among providers, caregivers


– Brookfield InsureTech affiliates raising $4 million


– Investigators: Sushi restaurant fires caused by ingredient’s spontaneous combustion


– Harley-Davidson ready to roll out electric LiveWire. Here’s where to keep it charged for free

– Harley-Davidson’s new electric Hog: 0-60 in 3 seconds—in-seconds/article_a7c27b80-15f4-550f-a8c5-e87f4d23c4b0.html


– Komatsu Mining releases new designs for Milwaukee HQ


– Immigration takes center stage at LULAC presidential town hall: Slideshow


– Milwaukee to buy Tower Automotive land to expand Century City Business Park


– DATCP board takes action on new livestock siting rules


– Bill would clarify WisDOT can award grants for job retention


– Paul Fanlund: To the GOP, extra school money equals a constitutional crisis

– Plain Talk: Once again, UW gets punished for lack of transparency


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Wisconsin Innovation Awards: 2019 finalists announced

Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS: June home sales down 5.8%; 2nd QTR down 5.0%

Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce: Third quarter business outlook survey

UW System: Empowers small business innovation