Wisconsin bill would put moratorium on boat sales tax

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A Wisconsin lawmaker plans to introduce a bill in that state designed to stimulate boat sales.

The legislation, proposed by State Rep. John Townsend, R-Fond du Lac, provides for a year-long moratorium on state sales tax on up to $30,000 of purchases, according to the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper.

The moratorium would apply to motorboats, outboard motors and/or trailers.

"According to industry figures, the average combined price of a motor, boat and trailer in 2008 was just under $30,000," Townsend told the newspaper. "My bill would stimulate an important sector of Wisconsin's economy, while also allowing ordinary citizens to continue to enjoy this state's lakes and rivers as they've always done."

He said sales have been better than expected, but not as good as last year.

"Fishing boats have been really good (sellers) all year," he added. "Used boats have been outstanding also."

Statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources showed new motorboat registrations have declined by more than 20 percent each of the last two years. There were 13,959 new boat registrations in 2006-07; 10,715 in 2007-08; and 8,514 for 2008-09, with just a couple days before the end of the fiscal year.

Other statistics from the National Marine Manufacturers Association shows U.S. sales of outboard engines have dropped from more than 300,000 units in 2005 and 2006, to 227,000 in 2008 and projected sales of 214,000 this year and 185,000 in 2010.

U.S. sales of outboard boats went from around 220,000 units in 2005 to a projected 151,000 this year. Sterndrive boats fared even worse: from around 72,000 in 2005, to a projected 34,000 this year.

"Tax credits are not really good if a company is not making money," Townsend said. "Job retention (provisions) are only good if you can retain jobs. If a company's sales are declining, they don't have jobs."

Townsend said he will be looking for a number of co-sponsors for the bill. The assembly does not have a floor session scheduled until September. He said he would try to get it assigned to a committee.

The bill would have to be passed by the assembly and state senate, and signed by Gov. James Doyle.

The timing makes a bill, if passed, more relevant to next year's boating season.

The bulk of outboard motors manufactured in the United States are manufactured in Wisconsin.

"It's a very critical, strong Wisconsin-based industry," Townsend said.

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