Democrats revealed their jobs plan that pushes for closing the skills gap and helping Wisconsin’s small businesses expand in a Capitol news conference Thursday afternoon
Democratic leaders encouraged Republicans — who once again control both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s seat — to listen to their ideas, noting the partisanship last session has led to mediocre job growth for the state.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, noted the urgency of the situation, citing a report earlier this month that ranked Wisconsin the 42nd-worst state in private job sector growth.
Barca said the only job creation bill put out so far this session is one that would open the state up to iron mining — a measure he said would take years to create jobs, not weeks or months like the proposals his colleagues and him laid out today.
His counterpart in the Senate, Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, agreed.
“We are at the end of the first month of the session, and we haven’t seen concrete proposals on creating immediate jobs,” Larson said. “We’re here to do just that.”
Barca said he is reintroducing one bill that failed last session that would have increased technical college funding by $10 million, a “fraction” of what Gov. Scott Walker cut in his last budget.
Another bill would expand an existing tax credit program to include capital investors from outside the state. Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said the state’s small businesses accessing more capital would “turn [the] potential” the state has into family-supporting jobs.
Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, also spoke on another capital bill. This one would turn existing tax credits into grants businesses of up to 50 employees can use in projects private lenders have already approved.
“We have done a very good job of providing benefits to the largest corporations, out of state entities who benefited from tax credits that this Legislature has passed in the last session,” Clark said. “We need to do a much better job, however, of supporting our truly small businesses.”
Clark noted Walker’s support for the bill in his special session on jobs, although the Legislature did not pass it last session.
In another bill, the state would need to “buy American” when it comes to infrastructure projects. Another bill would “encourage” state and local government to buy more than 20 percent of their products or services from Wisconsin businesses.
Cullen Werwie, Walker’s spokesperson, said the administration is going through the proposals and will talk with Democrats further once the next biennial budget is introduced next month.
“One of Governor Walker’s top priorities in both the budget and the current legislative session is to develop Wisconsin’s workforce,” Werwie said in an email to The Badger Herald. “With that said we are currently reviewing these proposals and look forward to additional discussion after the introduction of the full budget.”
Republican leaders in the Legislature did not respond to requests for comment. However, Assembly Majority Leader Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a statement he would have preferred the Democrats talk to them about the proposals rather than “launching political attacks at a press conference.”