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Issue of the Week: Harley’s Troubles: It’s Not State Taxes

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

Jun. 9, 2010
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Conservatives—including Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker—like to blame Harley-Davidson’s current business troubles on the state’s tax policies, including a recently enacted rule designed to close a loophole that allows many large corporations to avoid paying income tax in Wisconsin. Conservatives like Walker claim that the new combined reporting policy has cost Harley $22 million in taxes.

But according to a new study by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF), that just isn’t true.

In fact, Harley-Davidson’s Wisconsin taxes have dropped from almost $23 million in 2005 to just under $1 million—a much bigger drop than the company’s pre-tax profits.

And that $22 million in taxes? Harley chalked it up to a one-time-only bookkeeping charge, not the combined reporting law.

IWF also noted that in 2006 the state started phasing in a new corporate tax policy that actually helps Wisconsin-based manufacturers like Harley.

“If the change had not been made and Harley had continued to pay taxes at its 2005 rate, then in 2008 its income tax bill would have been $16 million instead of $1 million,” the report states.

So much for Walker’s spin.

Heroes of the Week

Dickenson Family

Founded in 1978, the Bay View Community Center (1320 E. Oklahoma Ave.) offers a full slate of programs to help and enrich the lives of citizens in its South Side neighborhood. The center relies on more than 250 volunteers to staff its programs, which include tutoring, a children’s play group, senior assistance and an emergency food pantry.

Every Friday since 1998, Stan Dickenson has been coming in to pack and stock food for the emergency relief pantry. With the help of Stan’s four sons, the Dickenson family has made it a multi-generational volunteer effort. Greg, the eldest son, began helping when he was 12 years old, and has recently graduated from college. Sons Fred and Edward followed in his footsteps, and the youngest, Albert, recently began working alongside Stan at the center as well.

Readers who wish to help at the pantry or in one of the organization’s other endeavors are encouraged to contact the Bay View Community Center at 414-482-1000, or visit www.bayviewcenter.org.

Jerk of the Week

State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin)

Witnessing the backlash to the proposed 80 units of workforce housing in New Berlin has been distressing on many levels. But perhaps the saddest part of the spectacle has been state Sen. Mary Lazich’s allegations about the developer’s attempt to generate support for the project from two Madison Democrats. Yes, MSP Real Estate approached the Dane County legislators—but the developers did so to win support for projects in the senators’ own districts (which they got), not for the development in New Berlin. In truth, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority won’t even accept letters of support from out-of-district legislators. Lazich, however, not only made these accusations about MSP, but also managed to inject even more drama into an already heated argument over low-income housing in New Berlin. Lazich should use her position to help her constituents and local decision-makers make wise choices and not intentionally stir the pot with misinformation.


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