WILL Appeals Ruling Upholding Brown County Sales Tax

WILL asks Court of Appeals to invalidate new tax used to fund big-ticket spending items

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) appealed a circuit court decision that Brown County’s sales tax complies with state law. WILL appealed to District III of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals on behalf of the Brown County Taxpayers Association (BCTA) and Brown County taxpayer Frank Bennett.

Background: Wisconsin law unambiguously provides that “county sales and use taxes may be imposed only for the purpose of directly reducing the property tax levy.” But in 2017, Brown County adopted a sales tax that commits millions to a slate of new capital projects—in other words, the exact opposite of what the law authorizes. WILL, together with BCTA and Mr. Bennett, have challenged this hefty and illegal tax in response to a preemptive lawsuit filed by Brown County in May of 2018.

On March 24, 2020, the Brown County Circuit Court upheld the tax and ruled that if the legislature intended to restrict the types of actions Brown County has taken it must be more specific. WILL is now seeking review of that ruling in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

The Quotes: WILL Deputy Counsel Anthony LoCoco said, “State law is clear that county sales taxes are permitted for one purpose, and one purpose only: direct property tax reduction. We look forward to making this argument to the Court of Appeals.”

BCTA President Richard Heidel stated, “It’s clear why citizens get frustrated and cynical about their government. The law states that tax proceeds may be used “only for the purpose of directly reducing the property tax levy.” But Brown County is still permitted to devote well over $100 million dollars to new spending items. This needs another look.”

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