Gov. Jim Doyle and the new Democratic legislative leaders are wasting no time in creating an economic stimulus package geared toward helping state businesses and residents.
According to Co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, this package would move up the start dates of projects already in the works to create more jobs, provide assistance to residents facing home foreclosures and use state leverage to improve lending.
Miller said the details of the plan are still not finalized and the cost has not yet been determined, adding that Democrats are still trying to figure out a means of paying for the package because the state currently faces a $5 billion deficit.
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said the package would focus on helping the infrastructure by providing funds, which in turn would create jobs and help the economy overall.
“The economy is such that our first goal is to ensure people have jobs,” said Risser. “Any stimulus package has two goals: short-term and long-term … not one or the other.”
Risser said the current Legislature will have to get enough money to finish up the current biennium, and the estimated costs of the stimulus could be somewhere around $500 million.
Jim Bender, spokesperson for Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said Republicans have yet to be informed of the details of the economic stimulus package by Democrats.
“Our office has been given no documentation of what is included in the plan,” Bender said. “They talked about it in the media, but there is no policy in front of us.”
Bender said if this package resembles stimulus bills passed last year, there could be some Republican support. However, if the package requires tax increases, the party would oppose it.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said any increase in spending or taxation would be disastrous.
“I think the important thing to do is decrease taxes for business regulation to assist business,” said Grothman. “Anything that results in more debt or more government spending will dampen the business climate.”
Lee Sensenbrenner, spokesperson for Doyle, said it is too early to talk about the specifics of the stimulus plan, but added improving the economy is his top priority.
“Obviously the country is going through a tough time, but Gov. Doyle has always looked at ways to promote jobs, and he’s worked on ways to move Wisconsin’s economy forward,” Sensenbrenner said.
Earlier this year, Doyle introduced several proposals to improve the state’s economy that were supported by the former Assembly Republican majority but failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate. These proposals included capital gains tax breaks for those who invested in Wisconsin businesses and tax credits for research and development companies.
It is not certain yet whether these proposals will be incorporated into the stimulus package.