Veto special fee
Provision to levy fee on nonprofits should be vetoed from budget by Gov. McCallum
By Tony Staley
Gov. Scott McCallum should fully veto a provision in the state
budget that would allow municipalities to levy fees - in essence,
taxes - on churches and other charitable agencies.
The proposal is opposed by a broad-based coalition of church
agencies - including the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the
Wisconsin Council of Churches and the Wisconsin Jewish Conference
- charities, private schools, fraternal organizations and
They warn that the proposal, which would allow municipalities to
charge churches and charitable groups for services - even if they
did not receive these services - both undermines their tax-exempt
status and would decrease the amount of money they would have
available to provide services.
It defies logic that while government at all levels is cutting
back on services to the neediest people and calling on churches
and charities to do more, government would further deplete the
meager funds charities have to provide these services.
But that's exactly what this proposal would do, despite a
Wisconsin State Journal editorial (8/16), endorsing the
provision, which argued that "money raised from fees must be used
to offset property taxes, not fuel more spending." Even if that
is true, lower property taxes will not help nonprofits, since
they don't pay property taxes.
As Robert Duea, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services,
said, this budget provision "will significantly undermine the
ability of not-for-profits to meet community needs. This is
particularly troubling when government is looking more and more
to the private sector to do so."
Supporters of the provision seem to disagree whether it could be
applied selectively or if it would have to apply to everyone.
This confusion is another reason why it should be vetoed.
Make no mistake, churches and other non-profits already pay
special assessments or fees to municipalities for specific
services, such as sidewalk maintenance or tree-planting on their
grounds. There is no objection to payments for such services, but
this budget provision goes beyond that to include virtually any
fee a municipality chooses to charge for any service - even if
the nonprofit did not receive it.
In calling on Gov. McCallum to veto the proposal, John Huebscher,
executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and
Michael Blumenfeld, executive director of the Wisconsin Jewish
Conference, said "The proposal to enact a stealth tax on churches
and other nonprofit organizations is ill conceived and not
clearly defined." Supporters, they said, should write separate
legislation that would eliminate ambiguities and be thoroughly
This provision demands a full veto.