By Appleton Wonk
Tea Party and John Birch favorite Michelle Litjens has stirred up quite a bit of controversy since taking office this year. Michelle Litjens is a freshman representative in the 56th Assembly District of Wisconsin. Her district covers part of Appleton and the surrounding area. Michelle and her husband Tony own and manage 24 apartment buildings in Oshkosh for a total of 133 rental units. They have been involved in the housing industry for the past 15 years. Now that she’s introduced Assembly Bill 182, she’s not just a legislator, she’s another lobbyist making the public pay for her industry’s problems.
Assembly Bill 182 will shift the burden of unpaid utility bills from landlords to the community at large. It can be found here. Under current law if a tenant doesn’t pay their utility bill by November 15, the amount due is added to the landlord’s property tax bill. Under AB 182, this will no longer be allowed by law. City Manager Mark Rohloff told the Oshkosh Northwestern in an article found here that Assembly Bill 182 is “patently unfair to rate-payers who pay their bills every month” and they would face higher rates because others had not paid their utility bills. Utilities would have to put more time and resources into bill collecting. This extra cost would be passed onto their paying customers.
Two quotes from Litjens in the Northwestern article caught my attention. “The state’s Ethics Board has said when you don’t have a direct benefit, there is no ethical violation.” and “If my tenants all paid their water bills, it wouldn’t affect me at all”. How can she guarantee that all her tenants will pay their water bills in a timely fashion? If she can guarantee they will all pay their utility bills in a timely fashion, why is this bill necessary?
There is a certain amount of risk that comes with every business enterprise, being a landlord carries many risks. With every tenant there is a risk of them not paying their bills or doing considerable property damage to the unit, but with risk comes reward. In this case, there is a potentially large financial gain to be made from owning and operating rental units.
Free market advocates say small business owners deserve all the monetary rewards they receive because of the many risks they take on a day to day basis. This bill will remove one of the risks of being a landlord and socialize the losses and privatize the profits.
Just can’t get enough of Rep. Litjens? Perhaps you’ll enjoy this interview of Litjens and Rep. Steineke in which they discuss not only AB182 but ALSO Wisconsin Act 10, conceal carry, and inspections Litjens wants for Wisconsin abortion clinics.