ECONOMY AND JOBS
Advance Wisconsin’s Agriculture and BioScience Industries. In partnership with the University of Wisconsin system and local governments, we must work to advance technological incubators to create the next generation of jobs related to agriculture, biotechnology, food science, stem cells and sustainability. We should pursue legislation like the “Next Generation Jobs Bill,” which will capture the growth in income tax revenues generated by employees in these industries and transfer that growth into a segregated account to be used specifically to fund business development in this sector.
Create the Wisconsin Venture Capital Fund. Over 80% of the jobs in our country are created by small businesses. We must provide the seed money and partner with entrepreneurs looking to start a business and create jobs in Wisconsin. To enable these small businesses and institutional lenders to get a business from the drawing board to reality, the state must encourage and invest in economic development and jobs.
Invest in Technology and Green Jobs. Wisconsin has great potential to create green jobs of the future. Many of these jobs involve some task that will improve the environment, like reducing carbon emissions and creating and/or using energy more efficiently. Most of these jobs, like those in wind and biomass energy, require more than a high school education, but less than a four-year degree. A wise taxpayer investment in business and workforce development would promote green job innovation and skills, so that Wisconsin can gradually reduce the billions of energy-related dollars it sends out of state each year.
Support Skill Training for Employment. Restore $71.6 million in deep cuts that were made to the Wisconsin Technical College System in the last state budget. The state’s technical education system provides essential skill training for Wisconsin’s workforce and makes a vital contribution toward economic recovery.
Invest in Infrastructure. Wisconsin would benefit from substantial infrastructure investment and job creation that would result from a commitment to highway, transit, rail, school and aviation modernization. We must also partner with our local government partners to invest in our public service employees that work jobs in areas like education, police or fire services.
Insist on Corporate Accountability to Taxpayers. All grants, loans, subsidies, tax breaks, tax incentives and other financial assistance offered to businesses which represent an actual or potential loss to the state or local treasury must include accountability standards. Government has a role in aiding economic development, and when done right, it will benefit communities by helping to create or retain jobs. It is only fair that the state requires stringent accountability standards for businesses to justify specific public investments.
Enhance Partnerships with Local Governments. Current economic development programs utilized by local government, like Tax Incremental Financing, the Transportation Economic Assistance Program, and Community Development Block Grants, should be expanded to provide greater flexibility and enhanced state participation to allow local communities to reinvigorate commercial and residential properties. This will in turn create jobs while improving these communities and increasing their tax bases.
Repeal New Corporate Tax Breaks and Reduce Scope of Property Tax Exemptions. Massive new tax breaks that total $2.3 billion over ten years were enacted in the last legislative session. This was done at the same time we made the deepest cuts to public education in Wisconsin’s history and forced extreme cuts to services in local communities. Additionally, increases in property tax exemptions over the years have contributed to unfairly shifting more of the burden of paying for municipal services onto homeowners. In 1970, residential owners paid 50.6% of all property taxes in Wisconsin. Today, homeowners pay over 71%. If left in place, these deep corporate tax cuts and expanded property tax exemptions amount to a substantial loss to the state and local treasury that will require still deeper budget cuts, or a greater shift in the cost of public services and education to individual taxpayers.
Eliminate a Business Tax Deduction for Moving Jobs Out of State. Under current law, the expenses that a company incurs for moving jobs to another state or country can be deducted as a business expense when determining state tax liability. The state should not reward businesses in any way for eliminating Wisconsin jobs.
I support State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers “Fair Funding for our Future” plan that was introduced last year. This plan guarantees a minimum amount of state funding for every student, takes districts’ poverty levels into account, establishes predictable growth in state aids (using the CPI or a minimum of 2% annual growth), maintains previous levels of annual growth in revenue limits of $200+ per pupil, and softens the impact of declining enrollment on a district’s aid. We need to reinvest in our public schools, by raising more revenue, allocating more dollars, and fixing our broken state aid formula to create a more fair distribution of funds. We need a funding system that is sustainable and that means passing Superintendent Evers’ plan.
The legislature did pass a law intended to increase accountability of teachers and administrators for student performance but failed to support this effort with adequate funding. Wisconsin needs to remain committed to providing high quality public education for all children. We’ve lost ground in funding and thus in staffing levels over the past decade at a greater pace than declines in enrollment, during a time of increased poverty and student needs statewide. It is time for some honest budgeting in Madison. I support initiating the open discussion of funding via new revenue sources dedicated to public education including initiatives like a “Penny for Kids.” This plan would raise the state sales tax, now the lowest among neighboring states, by a penny, and the estimated $870 million generated annually would be designated as additional state aid for public schools. It will help restore what was cut in the current state budget and provide additional funding in succeeding years. To accomplish our public education goals we need to restore revenue limits, reinvest state funds, and rehire lost staff in public schools in Wisconsin.
Technical colleges also had their state funding reduced significantly in the current state budget. We need to restore support for these schools that train young people for jobs now available. Additionally, I believe that high school training programs in partnership with both the construction trades and tech schools need to be encouraged. Economic development in the state is tied to maintaining high quality K-12 public schools and post secondary educational opportunities. Unless job growth is going to consist mostly of minimum wage jobs, it requires a skilled white collar and blue collar workforce. Businesses are attracted to states with a high quality of life, which includes quality public schools.
I support the restoration of collective bargaining rights for all public employees. As Mayor of Monona, I worked with our employees under the previous collective bargaining system to find compromise and fairness, and we must return to an environment where employees once again have a say in their workplace conditions.
THE WAR ON WOMEN
A woman’s right to make very personal and private medical decisions impacting her body, including any decisions regarding reproductive rights, must be protected. We must reverse the cuts to women’s health care access, including the elimination of funding for thousands of women receiving breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control and STD/HIV testing and treatment through Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
I will also fight to restore the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. As a husband and the father of three daughters, I am deeply concerned about the impact of this repeal not only on my family but on all the women of Wisconsin.
The right of any person, regardless of sex, to marry the person he or she loves and have the opportunity to build a family together is one we must continue as a society to pursue and provide. Wisconsin has made some vital steps in the advancement of rights for all individuals with regard to equality in relationships and parenthood, but we can and should do more to provide equal rights for every person.
I support BadgerCare and SeniorCare, which have allowed every child and 98% of Wisconsin citizens access to affordable health insurance by providing such access to those who otherwise don’t have it. I will fight any efforts to cut or eliminate SeniorCare and Medicare. I also support the full and timely implementation of the Affordable Care Act and I will stand up to efforts to allow insurance companies to deny health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. Finally, I support requiring insurance coverage to cover colonoscopies and other cancer screenings for people over 50 years old, or who have a family history of cancer.
I am a strong advocate for women’s health programs that provide preventative care like breast and cancer screening. I oppose rolling back laws that prohibit insurance companies from charging women more for health insurance than men, and I will fight to ensure that women have access to health insurance that includes access to contraception. I oppose ideological attacks on women’s reproductive rights and health care. I support Planned Parenthood’s mission to provide preventative health care for women. Planned Parenthood health centers provide a broad range of services, more than 90% of which are lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatment of STD’s, breast health services, Pap tests, sexual health education, information and health counseling. One in five women has turned to Planned Parenthood at some time in her life for professional, non-judgmental and confidential care. No one does more than Planned Parenthood to reduce unintended pregnancies and keep women healthy. I know that women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments and I believe that politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy. The bottom line is that a woman, not politicians, should make the informed decisions when it comes to her own pregnancy.
With the blessing of the various natural resources we have in Wisconsin comes the responsibility to make sure these resources are preserved and protected for future generations. This means we need not sacrifice actions that can create jobs provided that job creation also ensures responsible environmental protections. A healthy, safe environment is good for business, good for tourism and good for the state.
Some policymakers have driven a wedge between the environment and the economy by falling into the easy trap of arguing we need to choose between a healthy environment and a strong economy. This is simply not the case. A clean environment is an essential piece of a vibrant economy. In making all decisions we must always remember the words of Gaylord Nelson, “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”
Responsible job growth requires an understanding of our economy and the obligation that we all share to be stewards of the land. I understand the balance needed to meet both our job growth goals and environmental obligations. To satisfy both we must invite all parties to be part of an open dialogue to find balanced solutions like improving the environmental performance of our existing electrical generation facilities while also continuing to push to be the leader in renewable, clean energy like wind and biomass.
A strong transportation system is critically important to the people and businesses of the 47th Assembly District. Madison Metro is one of the most efficient transit systems in the country to link workers to jobs and has increased ridership for the last seven consecutive years. However, we can and should do more to expand and strengthen this service by allowing local governments to partner and have a stronger voice in funding transit investments via locally governed Regional Transit Authorities.
I saw first-hand during my terms as Mayor of Monona how local road improvements provide good-paying, family-supporting union construction jobs and can also create a solid business environment that encourages private investment. The award-winning Monona Drive reconstruction transformed a gateway to Monona and the eastside of Madison and serves as a model for other municipalities looking to revitalize theirMain Street.
As Mayor of Monona, I was a public supporter of the proposed Milwaukee to Madison passenger rail project and I know that it is imperative that we continue to support and expand not only our passenger rail systems but also the freight rail network and our biking facilities. While we certainly need a strong highway system to move commerce and people, we also need to ensure we invest in other modes of transportation to provide efficient transportation for goods, citizens and visitors.
Through my service on the current state Transportation Finance and Policy Commission and on the board of the Transportation Development Association, I have learned about the serious transportation challenges confronting the state. Wisconsin needs to honestly discuss funding including strengthening our partnership commitment with local governments to ensure we maintain our state and local roadways in a proactive manner that will save money over time.