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La Crosse County administrator hopes for more road funding through sales tax in 2019

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Highway money has been high on the Christmas list for La Crosse County administrator Steve O’Malley.

He’s hoping that incoming Gov. Tony Evers and the legislature can play Santa for the county in the new year.

O’Malley knows that it’s up to the governor and lawmakers to let La Crosse County start its own premier resort area tax.

“Last year we weren’t able to get a hearing, but I think with the referendum result, and 85 percent of the public voting in and giving a 68 percent nod to the premier resort area tax, we should be able to get a hearing,” O’Malley said of the PRAT.

If the state endorses the PRAT, approved in a referendum last fall, county voters would then have to cast a ballot one more time on the special tax, which is essentially a half-percent sales tax on most good sold in La Crosse County.

In both referendums, including last November, this is how the PRAT was worded:

“If the La Crosse County Board finds it necessary to increase local spending on roads and bridges due to insufficient state and federal funds, do you support pursuing the enactment of a Premier Resort Area Tax (PRAT) of 0.5 percent as a sales tax on tourism-related goods and services as defined in state law? This option is estimated to raise $6.6 million per year, of which $1.6 million will be shared with the cities, villages and towns for their transportation needs.”

The county cannot impose that tax on area businesses unless the governor and legislature approve.

“Every single ward that weighed in on this referendum was in favor of this referendum,” O’Malley said. “So, it’s pretty clear that the general public, in one of the highest voting turnout elections ever, was in favor of the premier resort area tax.”

Here’s the 16-page document on what the PRAT is and covers, exactly. Below is a list of of businesses it would affect.

5311 – Department stores
5331 – Variety stores
5399 – Miscellaneous general merchandise stores
5441 – Candy, nut and confectionery stores
5451 – Dairy product stores
5461 – Retail bakeries
5499 – Miscellaneous food stores
5541 – Gasoline service stations
5611 – Men’s and boys’ clothing and accessory stores
5621 – Women’s clothing stores
5632 – Women’s accessory and specialty stores
5641 – Children’s and infants’ wear stores
5651 – Family clothing stores
5661 – Shoe stores
5699 – Miscellaneous apparel and accessory stores
5812 – Eating places
5813 – Drinking places
5912 – Drug stores and proprietary stores
5921 – Liquor stores
5941 – Sporting goods stores and bicycle shops
5942 – Bookstores
5943 – Stationery stores
5944 – Jewelry stores
5945 – Hobby, toy, and game shops
5946 – Camera and photographic supply stores
5947 – Gift, novelty and souvenir shops
5948 – Luggage and leather goods stores
5949 – Sewing, needlework, and piece goods stores
5992 – Florists
5993 – Tobacco stores and stands
5994 – News dealers and newsstands
5999 – Miscellaneous retail stores
7011 – Hotels and motels
7032 – Sporting and recreational camps
7033 – Recreational vehicle parks and campsites
7922 – Theatrical producers (except motion picture) and miscellaneous theatrical services
7929 – Bands, orchestras, actors, and other entertainers and entertainment groups
7948 – Racing, including track operation
7991 – Physical fitness facilities
7992 – Public golf courses
7993 – Coin-operated amusement devices
7996 – Amusement parks
7997 – Membership sports and recreation clubs
7999 – Amusement and recreational services, not elsewhere classified

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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1 Comment

  1. B. Paumel

    December 27, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Each one of the options on the ballot would have generated about the same amount of revenue for the county. The County Board did not need a referendum for the wheel tax or a property tax increase but that would have been seen as a negative for the whole board and we can’t have that. So let’s tell the voters that tourists will pay this tax to fix our roads when actually tourists will only pay about 11% of the $6.6 million or $726,000, leaving the La Crosse County taxpayers with the remaining $5,874,000. Gotta love the unethical politics at it’s finest! Here is more unfairness courtesy of the County Board. If I go to Linda’s bakery and buy some goodies I will pay the additional tax, then I swing by the Sweet Shop for some chocolates and again pay the tax. But if I had gone to Festival Foods and bought bakery items and chocolates, there is no additional sales tax, because grocery stores are exempt from the tourism tax. How fair is that? Remember too, that all of these businesses that are now collecting the county’s tourism tax will have to pay credit card processing fees which is an additional cost of doing business in La Crosse County. Just seems that the County Board did not want to make a tough decision and came up with this PRAT tax to the unsuspecting voters of La Crosse County

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