By Lorenzo Cruz
With the 2023–24 legislative biennium underway and a great deal of banking-related activity on the horizon, the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) government relations team is off to a busy start.
As Governor Tony Evers vies with a Republican-controlled legislature to spend a record $7B State budget surplus, our team is looking ahead to opportunities in the state budget to address concerns related to tax relief, economic development, and general fiscal policies impacting the industry.
Aside from the State budget, this year WBA also plans to navigate the legislative process to pass legislation on several other key issues including elder fraud, banking modernization, and the trust code as well as guard against harmful credit union expansion/acquisitions, credit card swipe fees (interchange), and privacy reform.
With so much in store this year, it is imperative that members of the WBA make their voices heard on issues impacting them.
Why Our Advocacy Matters
Like our Association, the Wisconsin credit unions host a day at the State Capitol each year. In January, over 200 credit union activists donned their red and black scarves and lined the hallways of the Capitol in Madison to lobby their state legislators in person on their top priorities like credit union modernization — which is a deceptive ruse from WBA’s perspective that calls for broadening of the credit unions’ powers to further unlevel the playing field while still exploiting and leveraging their tax-exempt status.
With this in mind, it is vital that the membership turn out in force on WBA’s Capitol Day on Wednesday, April 26 with a comparable or larger presence to counteract their lobbying efforts and remind legislators and staff that banks invest in and serve their communities too.
Legislators need to hear from local members who live in their districts that banks are also vital economic development pillars of their communities that help make dreams a reality but without the advantage of a tax exemption and often with more regulatory requirements to meet like the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).
How Can You Assist in WBA’s Advocacy Efforts?
In addition to registering to attend WBA’s Capitol Day on April 26, there are several ways banks and individual members may choose to elevate WBA’s advocacy efforts. Between new and existing political giving opportunities, bankers are encouraged to find the best way to engage and support our advocacy efforts and infrastructure.
This year, WBA introduced a new initiative — the Leadership Circle — recognizing major investors who contribute to the PAC and conduit. Many will also be familiar with the Silver Triangle Club award for individuals, the Gold Triangle Club award (the second-highest level of fundraising recognition for banks), and the ability to make corporate contributions to our issue advocacy fund.
Lastly, member banks should strive to achieve the pinnacle grassroots advocacy award, Bankers Involved in Grassroots and Government (BIGG). BIGG honorees are recognized at WBA’s annual Bank Executives Conference for receiving the highest level of grassroots activism by meeting five of seven established criteria.
WBA urges advocacy officers and c-suite executives to take an active role to help WBA meet its 2023 political fundraising goal of $300,000; increasing the number of attendees at Capitol Day and Kohler outing-issue advocacy event; and growing participants in the Leadership Circle, Silver Triangle, Gold Triangle, and BIGG. By collaborating with members and working together on the advocacy front, WBA can effectively focus its energy and resources on protecting the interest of the banking community while advancing the Association’s key priorities in 2023.