State of the State: Doyle focuses on economy, healthMADISON — Amid fears of a national recession, and reports that state revenues will be far less than expected, Gov. Jim Doyle said he will focus today’s State of the State speech on efforts to address the downturn.
By: By SCOTT BAUER/Associated Press Writer, The Daily Telegram
MADISON — Amid fears of a national recession, and reports that state revenues will be far less than expected, Gov. Jim Doyle said he will focus today’s State of the State speech on efforts to address the downturn.
He will talk about ‘‘tough decisions and hard sacrifices’’ the state will face in the year ahead, spokesman Matt Canter said.
‘‘The national economic downturn is going to have consequences for us in Wisconsin,’’ Canter said Tuesday. It’s too early to know what the exact impact will be, but the governor will talk about what he believes can be done to ensure long-term economic growth, Canter said.
That includes proposals to increase renewable energy, help dairy farms and others in agriculture, and provide aid for manufacturing and tax breaks for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The speech, traditionally a chance for the governor to outline his priorities and political agenda for the coming year, also will include a call for lawmakers to approve a compact to protect water in the Great Lakes, help businesses afford catastrophic health coverage for employees, and pass a statewide smoking ban, Canter said.
Doyle didn’t reveal details on Tuesday, but said his proposals would ‘‘protect our priorities, foster innovation, seize energy opportunities, make health care affordable, and build an educated work force ready to compete around the world.’’
The speech comes amid growing fears of a recession. The state Department of Revenue reports that personal, corporate income and sales taxes grew less than 1 percent in the second half of 2007, down from original projections of 3 percent. That could mean the state will have $120 million less to spend, and Doyle will have more difficulty getting expensive tax breaks passed.
His work is made more difficult with a divided Legislature.
Doyle, a Democrat, will likely have a harder time convincing Democrats who control the Senate to go along with his pro-business initiatives than the Republicans who have a majority in the Assembly, said Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political scientist and former Democratic lawmaker.
Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Schofield, has been noncommittal on some of Doyle’s economic development ideas, saying only that he needed to see more details and the Senate would back them if they made sense.
When Doyle talks about his plans for job creation and economic development, ‘‘he’s probably going to sound like a Republican,’’ Lee said.
Several of his proposals have already been introduced by Republicans.
Doyle has talked about economic development plans to:
• Extend a tax credit to companies that spend at least 25 percent more on research and development than they did on average over the previous three years. Sales-tax exemptions for equipment used in research and development, as well as a related property-tax exemption, are part of the plan.
• Bolster grant and loan programs, increase tax breaks and speed investment in startup businesses. That includes doubling to $5 million the taxpayer money available for technology grants and loans given to new companies and small businesses. State taxes on capital gains up to $10 million would be waived if the money is reinvested in qualifying Wisconsin businesses.
• Spend $33 million to help the state’s farmers compete in the global market. He would offer assistance in reducing pollution and better land management and stewardship and provide tax credits for dairy processors, meat processing plants and cheese cooperatives.
• Make $1.2 million available to an organization that offers technical training on strategies to help manufacturers remain competitive.
• Make $85 million in existing and new tax credits available to leverage $1.6 billion in private capital investment to help companies become more competitive.