Legislators feel bite of GOP controlDemocratic legislators from the north are wondering when the Legislature is going to get down to the business of creating jobs in the state.
By: By Shelley Nelson, firstname.lastname@example.org, Superior Telegram
Democratic legislators from the north are wondering when the Legislature is going to get down to the business of creating jobs in the state.
While Republican Gov. Scott Walker called a special session to focus the Wisconsin Legislature on the task of creating 250,000 jobs in the next four years, state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said nothing the legislature has accomplished thus far will create a single job.
“Frankly, as I’ve been trying to impress on my Republican colleagues, if they’re going to commit future dollars, use a credit card, we should at least get some results,” Jauch said.
So far, legislation passed has deepened the state’s deficit by $147 million dollars on policies that make the business community feel good, but Jauch said it’s a “pretty expensive blankie.”
And Jauch is not alone in his frustration with the Republican-controlled Assembly, Senate and Governor’s Office.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, political reality is setting in for the state’s minority party, where the “D” that follows their names could just as easily stand for “disregard.”
Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, watched in frustration during a committee meeting last week as a slew of her party’s amendments went down without much of a fight, Wisconsin State Journal reporters Clay Barbour and Mary Spicuzza wrote in a story distributed by McClatchy News Service. Five amendments were proposed. Five amendments were defeated. And as the Legislature’s floor session that day stretched into night, things didn’t get better for Democrats or their proposals.
The Republican-controlled Capitol has positioned the GOP to pass legislation with little resistance according, to Barbour and Spicuzza.
Jauch said while Republicans see tax cuts and trickle-down economics as a panacea to solving the state’s unemployment problems. Jauch said spending $2 million on tourism promotion could generate $5 million this year. It hasn’t generated much interest with his Republican colleagues.
“Retailers in Superior and the tourism industry in northern Wisconsin doesn’t need tax cuts,” Jauch said. “What they need are customers.”
But tax cuts were an issue for members of the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce during the election last fall, when members had an opportunity to question state senator and congressional candidate, Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point.
Chamber president and chief executive officer, Dave Minor, told Lassa the organization had recently changed its health care from insurance to health savings accounts, a move that lowered premium rates, but remained taxable in Wisconsin. He questioned when Wisconsin would join the majority of states that had made the alternative exempt.
Monday, Walker signed legislation that makes HSA’s tax exempt, a move lauded by the National Federation of Independent Business and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
“Rising health care costs are a major concern for businesses, big and small, as they strive to stay competitive, whether doing business regionally, nationally or globally,” said R.J. Pirlot, legislative affairs director for WMC. “Many Wisconsin businesses and their employees use health savings accounts as a tool to financially engage employees in health care spending and to help stem the rate at which their health care costs are growing.”
While the exemption was supported by the WMC, Jauch said it’s a contributor to the rising deficit — acabout counting for $40 million to benefit 1.3 percent of the population — which won’t create one new job.
“If you look at the list of bills we’ve taken up — the first bill on the senate floor last week — was to restrict victim’s ability to recover for damages,” Jauch said. “Now that doesn’t create one new job. It protects companies that produce faulty products in China. It completely makes immune businesses that sell those products from having any responsibility. And it leaves victims suffering from double jeopardy — one is they’re victimized, and two, they’re government doesn’t care.”
Lassa agrees there is a problem to the Republican strategy for creating jobs. A proponent of targeted tax cuts, she said when Walker was running for election, he promised to make economic development his focus.
“To fulfill his promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term, he called the Legislature into special session as soon as he was inaugurated ... to take up bills to put the people of Wisconsin back to work,” Lassa wrote in a column sent to the Superior Telegram. “In one of the bills, Gov. Walker would abolish the state’s primary job-creation agency, the Department of Commerce, as of July 1 of this year. The intention is to start a new quasi-governmental agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a public-private partnership that will be charged with business recruitment and retention.”
Lassa remains skeptical the public-private partnership will have the effect the governor is seeking.
“They’re using the first few weeks of the session to accomplish things that are on their wish list,” Jauch said. “Well Christmas is over. We simply ought to be disciplined in the way we approach things … as they continue to cut taxes for the few, they are going to have to squeeze education to the many. They are going to have no choice.”
Jauch foresees greater economic disparity growing from the current political climate in Madison.
“I have been disappointed,” Jauch said. “I like Scott Walker, personally … but I was expecting a series of economic initiatives that were going to invest in capital, that were going to invest in things that would have an immediate spark, not emotional hand warmers to the business community.”