Current Issues
Income tax cut in the works
June 2021 —Wisconsin tax revenues outpaced projections by $4.4 billion in the last quarter of 2021. This unprecedented good news helped to frame the state budget when the Joint Committee on Finance approved the two year spending proposal with a $3.4 billion tax cut.
Under the proposal, income taxes would be cut by $2.75 billion, property taxes would be decreased by about $650 million, and businesses would save $200 million on personal property taxes over the next two years.
The income tax cut would apply to individuals who earn between $23,930 and $263,480 per year and married couples who file taxes jointly and earn between $31,910 and $351,310 per year. It would lower taxes for those brackets from 6.27 percent to 5.3 percent. According to the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office, that change is expected to cost the state about $2.4 billion over two years. An individual or family that earns between $50,000 and $60,000 per year would save $172 on income taxes annually, the budget office said.
Provision would eliminate local personal property tax
June 2021 —Republicans on the Joint Committee on Finance included a provision in the state budget to eliminate the local personal property tax. State Representative Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) had introduced legislation this year to provide tax relief to main street businesses with the repeal of this onerous local tax. The Committee included his bill in the state budget.
Under current law, taverns and restaurants must pay local municipalities a tax on personal property like ovens, coolers and other tangible personal property. The Committee voted to repeal the personal property tax and reimburse local governments for the loss of income with $202 million for the 2021-23 budget cycle. This is a tremendous victory for small main street business in Wisconsin and will greatly help the beleaguered hospitality industry trying to recalibrate after the pandemic.
The repeal of the personal property tax will result in a $202 tax cut for Wisconsin’s Main Street Business. Please contact your legislator and Governor Evers to support the repeal of the personal property tax. Learn how and who to contact at
Register for TLW Legislative Day
There are several pieces of state legislation that need your attention and your voice. Join us in Madison September 28 to meet with your representatives and support the issues that mean the most to your business.
Marklein and Vos introduce workforce recovery legislation
May 2021 — As the United States comes out of the pandemic, the economy has picked up steam and the hospitality industry is leading the charge to hire new workers and get back to pre-pandemic employment numbers. With over 40% of Wisconsinites vaccinated, we are beginning to see long-anticipated increases in business. The major problem facing most businesses is a lack of workers. Nationally, the unemployment rate is 6.1% while it is 3.8% in Wisconsin.
There are more job openings today than there were prior to March 2020, yet employers are struggling to fill available positions. A major contributing factor is that, in many cases, federal unemployment benefits pay more than an available job, especially in the hospitality industry.
To address the job shortage in Wisconsin, Sen. Marklein and Speaker Vos introduced Workforce Recovery Legislation which they say will encourage unemployed individuals to return-to-work. The legislation will end Wisconsin’s participation in the federal unemployment compensation enhancement program, as well as
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation program
The legislation also prohibits DWD from waiving the work search requirements for any reason related to COVID.
The legislators say 21 other states have opted out of the federal unemployment insurance benefit enhancers which expire on September 6, 2021 unless the federal government extends it.
The bill is likely to pass the Legislature but must be signed by Governor Evers to take effect. The Governor has not indicated his position on the proposed legislation.
Contact your legislator to support the Workforce Recovery Act.

Recent Wins

Our legislative efforts help put a stop to bills that could threaten the vitality of your business. By joining, you can make sure that your voice is heard at every level of government and foster the ideal conditions for a thriving industry. 
Drinks To-Go
Led the effort to permit the sale of cocktails to-go from taverns, restaurants and supper clubs.
Consignments Changes
Successfully lobbied the Department of Revenue to permit the return of beer to wholesalers during the pandemic.
Liquor License Fee Reductions
Worked with various municipalities to reduce or waive Class B license renewal fees in 2020.
Saferide Fee and TV Ad
Successfully lobbied for the creation of a SafeRide surcharge and use of SafeRide funds for TV ads promoting TLW SafeRide Program.
Operator License Procedure
Supported legislation to streamline the process to obtain and use an operator’s license.
Fought Efforts by Small Manufacturers infringing on Retail Tier
Defeated repeated efforts by small manufacturers to eliminate three-tier restrictions.
Five or Fewer Food Handler Exemption
Led the legislative effort to provide exemptions for small operators from increased food handling regulations.


Past Wins

Bartender License Portability
The Tavern League of Wisconsin responded to the concerns members had in obtaining operator licenses for employees who were licensed in another municipality by lobbying for a change in state law. Under the new law( 125.17(2) ) a municipality must issue a provisional(60 days)operators license to a person with a valid bartenders license from another municipality and who has paid the proper fee. This important change not only benefits the employee but also the employer.

Streamline Video Enforcement
The streamlining of enforcement of video gambling laws stands as one of the Tavern League of Wisconsin’s biggest accomplishments. In an effort to provide statewide uniform enforcement of video gambling laws, the Legislature and Governor Doyle agreed with the TLW in supporting a bill to consolidate enforcement within the Department of Revenue, which already regulates the beverage licensed industry in Wisconsin. The result is a clear statewide standard easy for all licensees to follow instead of a patchwork of local ordinances regulating video amusement devices. The change moved enforcement from the local, county and Department of Justice and placed in within the DOR. Only agents from the DOR have the statutory authority to enforce the existing state laws relating to Chapter 945.

Civil Liability Exemption (Dram Shop)
Without question, the biggest accomplishment of the Tavern League of Wisconsin is securing third party civil liability exemption; better known as Dram Shop Liability Insurance. Forty-four states require servers of alcohol to carry Dram Shop Liability Insurance which can range from $8,000–$20,000 a year for a small Mom and Pop establishment—if an insurance company will even underwrite a policy for a small tavern.

ID Scanner Law
2013 Wisconsin Act 215 - An Act to create 125.09 (7) of the statutes; relating to: prohibiting municipalities from providing alcohol beverages retailers with identification scanners.
New Tied House Law
The Tavern League of Wisconsin worked with Beer Wholesalers and Brewers to change outdated tied house laws. The results include:
  • Raising the limit from $150 to $2,500 for the value of signs, clocks and menu boards that a brewer or wholesaler may give to Class “B” licensee at one time
  • Allowing brewers/wholesalers to give Class “B” licensees signs made of paper, cardboard, plastic, vinyl or other like material for placement inside the premises, with unlimited dollar value
  • Increases from $75 to $500 the daily dollar limit that a brewer or wholesaler may spend to provide entertainment to a Class “B” licensee no more than 8 times a year (Note: This allows a brewer to spend up to $500 for entertainment and a wholesaler to spend up to $500 for entertainment for each brand they distribute.)
  • Allow a brewer or wholesaler to contribute money or things of value to a bona-fide national, statewide or local trade association that derives its principal income from membership dues of Class “B” licensees

Uniform Tobacco Compliance Checks
The TLW worked to pass legislation to provide for uniform compliance checks relating to tobacco stings. The bill requires persons involved in underage tobacco stings to follow a standard uniform compliance standard and will prohibit vigilante sting operations.

Fairness in Music Licensing Act
At the urging of the Tavern League of Wisconsin, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sponsored this legislation, which resulted in the following:

  • Establishments under 3,750 square feet are exempt from paying royalty fees for the use of radios or TVs in their establishments.
  • Establishments greater than 3,750 square feet are exempt from paying royalty fees if they use no more than six speakers of which not more than four are located in any one room or adjoining space, and if there are no more than four TVs of which not more than one is located in any room, and none is greater than 55 inches. TVs without the sound on are not required to pay any fees regardless of size and number in a room.
  • Provides for a rate court to operate out of regional federal circuit court to handle rate disputes, instead of requiring disputes to be handled only in the New York federal district court.
  • Music licensing with ASCAP and BMI creates up to 20% savings in licensing fees for members.

Adding Value to Your License - TLW Successfully Lobbies Budget Change
The Tavern League of Wisconsin successfully secured a variety of changes which directly benefits license holders. The key provision of the TLW Budget Change was an increase in the issuance of new liquor licenses to provide more value to existing license holders. The budget bill eliminated half of the un-issued licenses in the state and requires a minimum $10,000 application fee for new license holders.

12 Bottle Bill
The Tavern League of Wisconsin successfully lowered the penalties for our members who would occasionally run out of a bottle of liquor during business hours. If you were caught borrowing or buying a bottle of liquor from someone other than a wholesaler you faced huge fines, up to $10,000 and possible loss of your liquor license and possible prison time. You can now purchase up to 12 one liter bottles per month with a penalty not to exceed $100 with no threat to your license.

Double Hit Bill
Bill Cracks Down on Excess Fines
Through the grassroots lobbying efforts of the Oshkosh City Tavern League, the TLW was successful in passing a bill to prohibit a municipality from issuing two citations for a single underage on premise violation as had been the case in Oshkosh. The law states that either the owner or bartender may be fined, but not both.

Defeat Excise Tax Increases
Legislation Helps Avoid Price Hike
The Tavern League of Wisconsin successfully defeated efforts to raise excise taxes on beer and a $1/pack cigarette tax in the 2003-05 budget bill as a means to help balance the $3.2 billion state budget deficit.

Defeated Changes in 15-day Beer Credit Law
Standard Business Practices Protected
The Tavern League of Wisconsin fought back efforts to change the 15-day beer credit law for a more onerous law which would have negatively impacted retailers. An attempt was made to require cash on delivery for all Class “B” license holders.

SOT Eliminated
The Tavern League of Wisconsin, along with its National Association, American Beverage Licensees (ABL) fought to permanently repeal the Special Occupational Tax (SOT). This was an annual fee of $250 you were required to pay because you were a retailer of beer and/or liquor. This tax had been with us since the Civil War.

Lower Penalties for Video gaming penalties
The TLW successfully lobbied the Legislature to reduce penalties for operating certain video gaming machines. Through the grassroots lobbying effort of the TLW, the Legislature passed legislation that provides reasonable penalties for the possession of 5 or fewer video gaming devices on the premise of a Class “B” retailer.

The following is a side-by-side comparison of the old law vs. the new law for persons convicted of operating an illegal gambling device. The law can be found in the Wisconsin Statutes at 945.03 (2m) & 945.04 (2m).

Old Law
Class E Felony
Maximum $10,000 fine
Maximum 2 years in prison
Loss of Liquor License
New Law
Civil Forfeiture
Maximum $500 fine per machine – up to 5 machines
No jail time
Cannot lose Liquor License

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