Gov.Tony Evers visited the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center on Nov. 13 to sign into law Senate Bill 391, now Wisconsin Act 21, while also defending his comments after the firing of agriculture secretary Brad Pfaff.
The bill extends the duration of Tax Incremental Financing, Districts (TID) 3 and 4 in the village of Lake Delton.
“By extending the life of these TID districts, it’s important to continue to support and continue the development of one of our most popular tourist destinations,” Evers said. “It is through this growth and the development of this area you’ve become a year-round destination.”
Under the bill, TID District 3’s life is extended to 2042 and TID District 4’s life is extended to 2044. TID districts use revenue from taxes on increased property values within the district caused by development as a way to pay for the improvements spurring development.
Evers praised local municipal and school district officials for their efforts in supporting the bill, while also noting the significant revenue contribution the Dells area makes in the state.
“Since the first boat tour in the mid-1850s, and believe me that was actually before I was born, the Dells has been a critical tourist destination and economic driver for the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said. “It now supports over 16,000 jobs, and generates over a billion dollars in tourism spending annually.”
Jennifer Gavinski, president of the Board of Education in Wisconsin Dells, and Tom Diehl, board member for the village of Lake Delton, introduced Evers at the signing. Both Gavinski and Diehl voiced their support for the bill and the economic benefits extending the TID districts will provide to the area.
“I’m aware that it may be a bit out of the ordinary for a school district to be in support of this, but Wisconsin Dells is anything but ordinary,” Gavinski said. “The school district knows very well that this extension will provide immense economic growth for future years. Growth that will increase the value of commercial and residential properties, growth that will bring new businesses, tourist attractions, and jobs to our area.”
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The new Wisconsin Dells High School, scheduled to open next year, sits in TID 4 for Wisconsin Dells. Both Lake Delton and Wisconsin Dells are partially using TID funding for contributions to the school, where allowed by state law.
Diehl called the signing of the bill “critical” for the village of Lake Delton.
“In 1997 we had our first TID district with Home Depot and Walmart… Our equalized value has grown from a little less than $300 million to $1.6 billion,” Diehl said. “Extending our TID district is one of the ways where we can generate revenue to spur economic development.”
Speaking after signing the bill, Evers defended comments he made last week after the GOP controlled Senate terminated agriculture secretary Brad Pfaff. Evers said using the word “bastards” during remarks was not meant to call Republicans bastards, but was instead a “term of art” used numerous times throughout history.
“It’s not something I just pulled out of thin air, it’s a saying,” Evers said. “I don’t think they’re bastards, but I do think they made a huge mistake doing what they did to Brad Pfaff.”
Evers also defended calling the Pfaff vote “amoral and stupid” in his remarks. Although he did not mention the “stupid” portion of the quote, Evers said the Pfaff vote was “political and amoral” in its purpose and “a bad thing for the state.”
“We’re losing a couple farms a day and we have a candidate that has complete competence,” Evers said. “(Pfaff’s firing) is out of political and amoral purposes… not based on what’s right and wrong, it’s based on what’s expedient, (and) that’s a bad thing.”
He called Pfaff’s firing a “political assassination,” saying that although “civility is at my core,” the firing of Pfaff by the Republican controlled Senate “pushed me to a different place.”