Gov. Scott Walker proposed providing millions of dollars in credits and investments to attract and keep businesses in Wisconsin as part of his upcoming budget Thursday.
According to a statement, Walker plans to provide an additional $75 million for the Economic Development Tax Credit program, which he said would encourage businesses to make capital investments, expand jobs and locate their corporate headquarters in Wisconsin.
“Continually improving our economic environment will foster small business growth and encourage the creation of new businesses,” Walker said in the statement. “The majority of jobs created in Wisconsin will come from small businesses or employers who are just getting started. The initiatives contained in my budget proposal will support entrepreneurship and innovation.”
According to the statement, Walker’s budget plans also include lifting the cap on the Angel Investment Tax Credit program to encourage private investment in start-up companies.
Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council that oversees the Wisconsin Angel Network, said in a statement the cap prevented “uninterrupted investment” in Wisconsin companies.
“This is welcome news for Wisconsin’s angel investor community and for the many emerging companies that grow through angel investment dollars,” Still said.
Walker also plans to provide $10.9 million to support marketing programs for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and a $6 million investment to the WEDC’s Seed Accelerator and Capital Catalyst Programs, according to the statement.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement he was pleased to see Walker supported some Democratic proposals but was concerned about giving more funds to the WEDC.
“While it is imperative that we work to create more Wisconsin jobs, we must establish strong accountability and transparency within the failing Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation before handing them control of more taxpayer dollars after their history of losing track of millions,” Larson said.
Tom Thieding, WEDC spokesperson, said accelerator programs provide the capital businesses need to start and to expand. He said they partner with local communities to provide matching funds directly administered to companies.
He added WEDC marketing campaigns have successfully attracted business to the state.
“It’s been very successful,” Thieding said. “We’ve established our In Wisconsin brand to promote a positive business climate. The additional dollars will help improve [our marketing campaign] and keep it going.”
According to the statement, Walker’s plans would allow the Department of Tourism to keep $1 million in funds previously contained in a budget lapse. His budget also includes implementing marketing plans to grow international travel and attract more national meetings, conventions and sporting events.
Department of Tourism spokesperson Lisa Marshall said in the previous budget, Walker increased funding for the department by 20 percent, while previous administrations had cut it.
International visitors to the country have decreased due to restrictions passed by the federal government in 2001, although Marshall said travelers now face fewer restrictions. She said the department and industry leaders are currently researching ways to attract international visitors to Wisconsin, a plan dependent on additional funds.
However, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said in a statement Walker needs to focus more on improving workforce development and helping families hit hard in the past two years.
“As the budget takes shape in the coming weeks and months, I renew my call for us to work together on initiatives that will create jobs, close the skills gap and make this truly a middle-class budget,” Barca said.