MADISON (WKOW) -- A historic tax credit program that could spur over $180 million in economic development is on hold, because it was on pace to cost eighteen times what the state originally budgeted for it.
Governor Scott Walker signed an expansion of the state's historic tax credit program into law last December, effectively doubling the amount of tax credits available for renovation projects of state historical sites. The Orpheum Theater restoration project is one of 29 already approved, as is a project that would transform Longfellow School into an apartment building.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is in charge of approving the projects eligible for the credits. On Monday, WEDC Chief Executive Officer Reed Hall sent a letter to Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Jon Nygren (R-Marinette) telling them he was placing a moratorium on awarding any more historic tax credits for the year.
Hall said the unexpected popularity of the program has already put the state on the hook for $35 million dollars this year. That is nearly nine times what the Wisconsin Department of Revenue originally projected for all of 2014.
Hall suggests the historic tax credit program be reassessed during the 2015 state budget process.
But Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), who is also a WEDC board member, believes the state should be encouraging economic development, not halting it.
"There's a decision made by the CEO and suggesting we wait until the next budget, which will be well over a year from now until its implemented. That's going to absolutely kill a number of development projects around the state," said Rep. Barca.
But Gov. Walker's office said he supports the decision to issue a moratorium.
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