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COMMENTARY: I'll have what Kohl's is having

By   /   July 24, 2012  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle/Wisconsin Reporter

Matt Kittle


To: Gov. Scott Walker

From: An individual taxpayer

CC: Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

RE: Taxpayer looking to get in on the action

Dear Governor,

I regret to inform you that without receipt of Wisconsin tax credits and sundry economic incentives, I, an individual taxpayer, may be forced to pursue taxpayer opportunities elsewhere.

Perhaps you know that I was a long-time Wisconsin resident before opportunities led me to other Midwest states.

I returned a year ago to take the position of bureau chief at Wisconsin Reporter. Since doing so, thanks to my employer, my personal economy has improved and I have contributed amply to Wisconsin’s income tax revenues.

While I see improving opportunities here, I believe my taxpayer situation could be greatly improved through the assistance of, as I understand it, some very lucrative tax incentives offered by the quasi-public Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., of which you serve as chairman of the board of directors.

Kohl’s Department Store, for instance, could receive up to $62.5 million in state tax credits to stay in Wisconsin.

The department store chain, as you know, hopes to create up to 3,000 jobs and retain 4,500 positions at its Menomonee Falls headquarters.

Why, that’s the one of the biggest economic development deals in Wisconsin history, second only to the $65 million the state handed out to Mercury Marine in 2010 – under your predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle. It was Doyle, I do believe, who created the big-money tax credit program, aimed at keeping companies in the Badger State or luring them here.

Kohl’s likes incentives.

Like Mercury Marine, Kohl’s said it might have to skedaddle, take a sweet offer from another state, if Wisconsin didn’t come through on a competitive incentives package.

As Kohl’s corporate put it in a news release, the retailer “took the needed time to study all of our options, including the assessment of developing a campus outside of the state.”

Now, governor, I realize I’m not a major Wisconsin-based corporation like Kohl’s.

I don’t have 142,000 employees. There are five people in my family and, frankly, I work for them.

I did not post $18.8 billion in sales last year, although I once traded a Sony Walkman for a Larry Bird jersey and a Beatles Rubber Soul album – still the best deal I ever struck. My operating income isn’t anywhere near $2.15 billion, but my wife and I were able to buy a badly needed minivan at a Madison dealership earlier this year.

I realize, as the folks from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and most everybody else in the business courting business like to say, that economic development is a game, and you’ve got to be in it to win it.

Well, governor, I’m here to tell you that this Wisconsin taxpayer wants in the game.

We certainly have kicked in a fair amount of taxes to Wisconsin, which, despite your help in knocking down rates, remains a pretty onerous state for taxpayers.

You know, there are some states with pretty sweet offers for individual taxpayers.

I’m sure you would hate to lose a fine income taxpayer like me to say, Alaska or South Dakota, where there are no taxes on income.

I’m not asking for $62 million. No, sir.

I’d be happy with a pittance of that, say $50K. In smaller bills, please. That’ll keep the neighbors from talking.

Not in the economic development budget?

All right, I’ll settle for an $800 tax credit, and I promise to never bid on a state contract.


How about a tank of gas and half off a Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast?


An individual taxpayer