Saturday, May 5, 2018

WisGOPs talk up tourism increase, then do everything to discourage future visitors

The Walker campaign Administration used yesterday to try to promote Wisconsin tourism, with the release of their annual report on the economic impact of tourism in the state, which was dutifully relayed by the media in the state.
“The travel and hospitality industry continues to be crucial to our state and is consistently a top performing sector of our economy,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement announcing the figures. “Investing in tourism promotion and marketing at the national, state, and local level is not only an effective way to attract visitors and grow the economy, it also enhances the image of Wisconsin as a great place to live and do business.”

Gov. Walker and Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett were scheduled to tour the state Friday to tout the numbers with stops at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, the Title Town District in Green Bay, the Milwaukee County Zoo and in Chetek, where the governor will fish the Chetek Chain of Lakes on Saturday to help kick off the state’s fishing season.
It’s a nice increase of 3.17% compared to 2016’s figure. But in a year when current-dollar consumption went up by 4.5%, it also isn’t that surprising (in that context, you could even argue that 3.17% is disappointing).

Digging into the county-level data, the home counties of the state’s 2 largest cities had by far the most visitor spending in the state, and accounted for more than 25% of overall tourist spending for Wisconsin.

Top Wisconsin counties for direct tourist spending, 2017
Milwaukee Co. $1,990.7 million (+3.07%)
Dane County $1,246.8 million (+2.73%)
Sauk County $1,086.5 million (+3.67%)
Waukesha Co. $776.4 million (+4.40%)
Brown County $671.0 million (+5.17%)
Walworth Co. $544.2 million (+2.88%)
Door County $358.7 million (+3.14%)
Outagamie Co. $348.0 million (+2.74%)
La Crosse Co. $263.8 million (+6.34%)
Eau Claire Co. $257.0 million (+12.53%)

Related to this list, officials in the largest city in Door County asked the State Legislature this week to allow them to put in an extra sales tax to make their city look better for the increased amount of tourists they are receiving.
After a new tax was approved by 70 percent of city voters during the spring election, the Sturgeon Bay City Council also approved moving forward to implement the Premier Resort Area Tax. The PRAT will be used to fund street and other transportation infrastructure within the city.

The city needs the approval of the state legislature before the tax can be enacted in Sturgeon Bay. The PRAT will raise the sales tax in the city by .5 percent and will be applicable to certain good related to the tourism sector.

It is estimated that the new tax will raise about $800,000 annually to fix and maintain the city's crumbling streets.
The Door County Village of Sister Bay got such an approval, and their 0,5% sales tax starts in July. But Sturgeon Bay can’t put in a similar PRAT until the State Legislature approves of the change, and it wasn’t able to get through in the last session. Neither did a proposal that would have allowed the Cities of Superior and Eau Claire to retain funds from tourism-industry taxes related to their downtown districts.

Interestingly, the Sauk County community of Lake Delton has had such a PRAT tax for the last 20 years, as does its neighbor in Wisconsin Dells. But Milwaukee and Madison have not been allowed to do the same for their cities, even though their counties draw even more tourism dollars and have more everyday infrastructure needs (and why not?).

Not everywhere in Wisconsin has benefitted from recent increase in tourism. In fact, 9 of the 72 counties had less tourism spending than they did in 2016, and 6 of the 72 counties in the state had less spending in them than they did in 2015.

Declines in tourism spending, 2017 vs 2015
Jackson Co. -$0.3 million (-0.78%)
Clark County -$0.4 million (-1.42%)
Marinette Co. -$1.2 million (-0.78%)
Monroe Co. -$1.7 million (-2.07%)
Manitowoc Co. -$2.0 million (-1.73%)
Adams County -$14.8 million (-7.00%)

Fewer people are seeing this sign these days.

Not only has Adams County been the only county in Wisconsin that had by far the biggest drop in direct visitor spending since 2016 ($12 million), it’s also the only county to have declines in each of the last two years. You can’t help but wonder if that’s because Adams County is ground zero for environmental problems like this.
On Monday, workers from the EPA began a large-scale project to drill wells in Juneau County near a large dairy farm to test for elevated levels of nitrates and other contamination, according state and federal officials.

The visit underscores growing concerns in rural areas over the impact manure spreading and other farming practices may have on groundwater, lakes and streams. Manure as fertilizer is a source of nitrogen. In water, it becomes nitrate. …

The farm in question, Central Sands Dairy in the Town of Armenia, is a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, with a permit to manage more than 6,000 cattle, state records show.

The Department of Natural Resources said it was told by the federal agency that crews would be drilling wells and sampling water until Friday.

DNR spokesman Jim Dick said the EPA informed state officials that it planned to conduct groundwater sampling around the Central Sands Dairy, which is located west of Lake Petenwell (which is also the Juneau-Adams County border), a flowage created by a dam on the Wisconsin River.
Oh, but that $4 million earmark for a new airport runway in Wisconsin Rapids to shuttle golfers up to central Wisconsin will change everything in Adams County. Just you wait! Who needs good roads and clean drinking water when you can be rich, fly over the roads and drink nothing but bottled water?

The decline in Adams County is what made this tweet by Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos such a load of crap (pun intended). Especially given Foxconn’s recent rubber stamps from the Wisconsin DNR and the Trump Administration to pollute the hell out of Racine County.

Republicans in both the Legislature and in the Governor’s Office are guilty of horrid double-talk when it comes to tourism in Wisconsin. They talk up how beautiful and fun Wisconsin is for people to visit, but then they work to wreck that scenery and fun atmosphere with their regressive policies and divisive mentality. They deregulate for Big Ag and Foxconn to spoil the environment, and discourage people that value quality of life from locating here with policies that are socially backwards and anti-education.

If WisGOPs are going to try to talk up our state’s amenities that make it a good tourist attraction (which I am all for), then you need to back up that talk with investments in clean air and water. You also need to invest in better roads to make it easier and stress-free to get here, and stop the racist, “us-against-them” policies and dog-whistles. Otherwise, you're just giving empty PR BS that exposes you as empty cheerleaders who don’t appreciate what makes Wisconsin a special place to visit and live in.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that democratic strongholds are beating the pants off of republican controlled enclaves. I guess like their politics, republican places have little to offer in attracting vacationing people.