Drive through a quaint renovated small village or town in Wisconsin and you are likely seeing a downtown renovated with Historic Tax Credits.

In my opinion, the Historic Tax Credit is the most successful rural and small town economic development program administered by Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. As the Legislature considers venturing into the great unknown on high-tech manufacturing with checks from our taxpayers for 15 years, that same Republican majority is planning to cap the Historic Tax Credit program.

This cap is defended as needed as an austerity measure. But clearly these budget cuts are not needed elsewhere. The Republican compromise budget announced by Sen. Scott Fitzgerald earlier this summer caps total spending on the Historic Tax Credit at $20 million and limits the funding a project can receive at $5 million. These limits will have a significant impact on the program’s success.

In 2014, 60 percent of the Historic Tax Credit projects renovated buildings that had been vacant for more than 20 years. The return on investment for taxpayer investments in the Historic Tax Credit has been proven to be 8 to 1. Capping the program will jeopardize projects that will revitalize our communities and provide a known payback to taxpayers. I have heard from local leaders from all over the state and the 27th Senate District asking to leave the program alone, so I know other Legislators have received contact as well.

I cannot figure out why Gov. Walker has continually tried to kill this program and why Republican legislators would consider allowing it to happen. Last year brought 38 projects into the Historic Tax Credit — projects all over Wisconsin, including La Crosse and Prairie du Chien. I know of projects in the works in the 27th District as well.

In the last three budgets the Historic Tax Credit destruction has been defeated, but it appears we are at the cusp of a victory for Gov. Walker limiting the Historic Tax Credit for communities all over Wisconsin in planning phases for redevelopment. I truly hope that the final budget will save the Historic Tax Credit again and deter those that wish to punish communities that are working to redevelop their downtowns.

Please contact members of the Legislature and ask them to support the Historic Tax Credit. The Legislative Hotline is (800) 362-9472 or you can email from the Legislative website:

Jon Erpenbach is a Democrat from Middleton who represents the 27th Senate District in Wisconsin.