MON AM News: Room tax revenues lagging in areas relying on business travel; Labor leader celebrating apprenticeship figures

— Room tax revenues in Wisconsin are bouncing back more quickly in tourist areas than those that rely more on business travel, according to a recent Wisconsin Policy Forum report. 

While statewide figures aren’t yet available for 2021, the report focuses on figures for the top 75 municipalities in the state to see how their room tax revenues are faring. It shows collections were up 73.4 percent from 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had the largest impact on travel. 

Still, revenues remained 11.3 percent lower than what was collected in 2019, the report shows. But when Madison and Milwaukee are taken out of the picture, the other 73 communities saw revenues rise 1.8 percent from 2019 to 2021. 

“While the recovery in these 73 municipalities is good news, it’s important to recognize that room tax collections increase with inflation,” report authors wrote. “That means even in these smaller communities, revenues are still below 2019 after adjusting for the recent rapid rise in consumer prices.” 

The state’s two largest cities are more heavily reliant on business travel for those tax collections, and their 2021 revenues were 33 percent less than what they pulled in for 2019. 

Wisconsin law allows local governments the option to tax overnight lodging by up to 8 percent. As of 2019, 293 cities, villages and towns imposed a room tax with a median rate of 5.5 percent. The communities that impose the tax are required to put 70 percent of the revenue toward tourism promotion. 

When those funds dried up in 2020, some communities turned to federal COVID-19 funds to fill the gap. With a $13 million hole in its budget, Madison took steps that included reducing funding for attractions like the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center and suspending a transfer of room tax revenues to the general fund. 

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Center District in Milwaukee, created by the state to manage the Wisconsin Center and other venues, saw a similar drop with room taxes declining $12.8 million, or more than 56 percent. 

The district — which also relies on taxes on rental cars and food and beverages sold at bars and restaurants, as well as concessions at district-managed venues — was forced to take a number of steps to address its shortfall. That included furloughs and layoffs and reduced capital spending. 

Report authors note the federal funds that some areas relied on to offset the shortfall must be obligated by 2024, which “makes it even more critical that collections rebounded substantially across much of the state last year.” 

See the full report:  

— The head of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO says historically high apprenticeship participation levels are “a true reason to celebrate.” 

State officials last week announced the number of participants in Wisconsin’s Registered Apprenticeship program recently exceeded 15,000, marking the highest total since 2001. About 2,600 employers in the state participate in this program, which includes more than 200 career options. 

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale says completing an apprenticeship program provides workers with “a ladder into the middle class.” 

“The state of Wisconsin and Wisconsin workers will reap the benefits of unprecedented apprenticeship levels achieved under Governor Tony Evers for decades to come,” she said in a statement. 

See more on the latest apprenticeship figures: 

— State officials say health information for Wisconsin Medicaid members was “potentially exposed” when a presentation containing sensitive data was sent to county government employees and posted to the Department of Health Services website.

DHS says it was notified Aug. 8 that a presentation containing this information was emailed to the DHS Children’s Long-Term Support Council in April 2021. It was forwarded to county workers in Rock and other counties and posted online as part of meeting minutes. 

According to the agency, the information included first and last name, date of birth, gender, county location, Wisconsin Medicaid member ID number, and social security numbers. A total of 12,358 state Medicaid members were notified Friday that their information may have been compromised. 

The agency says it has removed the protected health data from its site and “took steps to confirm” that the recipients of the emails deleted the information. Affected Medicaid members have also been offered free credit monitoring for one year. 

See the release: 

— A biochemistry researcher at UW-Madison is getting about $1.4 million for a study that could improve scientists’ understanding of telomeres — repetitive sequences of DNA found at the end of chromosomes. 

The funding for Prof. Ci Ji Lim’s research comes from the National Institutes of Health’s High Risk, High Reward New Innovator Awards. Lim is one of 71 researchers this year to receive these awards, which fund “unconventional approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research” according to a release from the university. 

Previous research has focused on the effects of telomere length on things like aging and the development of cancer, but Lim aims to explore how other variables related to telomeres broadly impact health and diseases. 

His study will focus on the distribution of proteins along these DNA sequences and how that changes over time. He describes this area of study as “a black box” and says the tools he and others are developing could shed light on “an entire field of chromosome biology research.” 

In his proposal, Lim said these efforts could open up new avenues for research into telomeres and related human diseases. 

“I think this work could provide the missing connection between past studies that use overly simplified telomere systems and the complex protein-DNA interactions that are happening at telomeres in cells,” he said in the release. 

See more on the project: 

See the release: 

— Madison-based Redox has expanded into Canada, the health records integration company announced recently. 

The company has also launched an application called API Actions, offering health care companies a new way to develop their workflows. 

“API Actions takes the crazy complexity of healthcare data and turns it into easy-to-understand concepts for healthcare builders, abstracting specific data models into concepts like ‘schedule an appointment’ or ‘write a clinical note’,” Redox CEO Luke Bonney said in a statement. “Our goal is to make healthcare data useful, and this is a huge step in making healthcare data much easier to understand and interact with for the world’s builders.”

See more at Madison Startups: 

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— Polco, a community engagement startup located in Madison, has announced it has raised $14 million in funding.

The funding was led by the Mercury Fund, located in Texas, and included participation from Royal Street Ventures, which has offices in Missouri and Utah. 

“With our data and insights, Polco is committed to helping local governments win grants, continue to improve constituent quality of life, and restore trust in local government organization to previous levels and beyond,” CEO Nick Mastronardi said in a statement. “We are pleased to be working with Mercury and our other partners.”

The company also announced it is releasing updates to its platform, which aim to improve its analytics and insights capabilities. Polco is used by more than 1,400 local governments and municipalities to conduct surveys and research. 

See more at Madison Startups: 

Check out an episode of “WisBusiness: the Show” featuring Mastronardi: 


# At World Dairy Expo, farmers call for Congress to act on immigration

# Wisconsin workers show renewed energy after decade of anti-union laws

# RNC impact will extend beyond convention



– Wisconsin dairy leaders call on US Senate to fix labor shortages by changing immigration policy

– Colorado, Wisconsin producers win World Forage Superbowl


– States use federal COVID aid on roads, buildings, seawalls


– DATCP offering additional export expansion grants

– Wisconsin gets $40 million in ARPA funding to expand broadband access


– Sussman named distinguished chair at UW-Madison CALS


– Lawrence University to present Kaleidoscope musical showcase at Fox Cities PAC


– A Supreme Court case could impact protections for Great Lakes, Mississippi River


– ‘Living through the seasons’: Small but growing movement taps ancient traditions to feed future generations

– Bridgewater Modern Grill reveals opening details for riverfront location


– Judge dismisses Wisconsin lawsuit against loan forgiveness


– Q&A: Anne E. Schwartz reflects on Jeffrey Dahmer case 31 years later


– Wisconsin tribe seeks to protect a historic site where company plans to mine for gold


– Milwaukee Journal Sentinel printing plant sold to affiliate of Chicago Tribune owner


– Hunzinger will build movie theaters inside Bayshore


– ‘Milwaukee needs to step up its game’ regarding startups, AOL founder says


– Business partners help minority, women owners get foothold on state transportation construction industry

– Orion Energy Systems enters EV charging station market with acquisition


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