When I heard the Governor had convened a “Special Session on Jobs” I was anxious to take look at the proposals.
Business owners tell me they need access to capital, lower health insurance costs and a skilled workforce. Just last week the Eau Claire Leader Telegram headline read Employers: Jobs are there, Skills are not.
Being from the country, I like to kick the tires and lift up the hood before I buy anything. Was anything that small business owners needed on the list?
This weekend, I got down to the tire kicking level. Amazingly, I found something besides ‘jobs’ on the agenda.
There are a few bills that help make it easier for businesses to get loans. One bill would make credit for farmers easier to obtain by expanding state loan guarantees; another bill increases the cap on loan guarantees for small businesses. There are several bills that create tax credits for investments.
Nothing on the list deals with rising health costs. Very little addresses the lack of skilled workers.
And who would have guessed a bill to protect drug companies and medical device companies from lawsuits if their product had FDA approval would bring jobs to Wisconsin?
Who would have thought a bill that appears to make it harder to recover the cost of a lemon car would bring jobs? Or how about a bill that seems to make it easier for insurance companies to drag out court cases?
Or my current favorite - a bill that appears to make it impossible to find out what, if anything, companies paid in state taxes. It reminds me of a recent bill introduced to stop the public from finding out who a campaign donor works for. We need to increase public knowledge and provide more sunshine, not less.
Certainly I can’t see how this creates jobs.
Five of the “jobs” bills have to do with trucks: making them longer, heavier and bigger. Never mind the fact the budget just cut tens of millions of dollars out of road maintenance for local government. We will be spending more state tax dollars on roads.
There is very little in the “Special Session” that addresses the key concerns of small business owners, especially health costs and job training.
One bill would add four hundred thousand dollars to job training programs at our Technical Colleges. Certainly this is a necessary investment - especially given the seventy-one million dollar cut from the Tech College budget this summer.
In the budget action this summer Technical Colleges sustained, proportionally, the largest single budget cut. Adding back a mere half a percent of this total loss is not going to get us far.
How key is developing a skilled workforce to Wisconsin’s growth? Two recent studies provide insight.
Several groups teamed up to bring us a study on meeting the demands of the 21st century economy . Authors wrote “Prior to the national recession, Wisconsin was experiencing shortages of middle skill workers in crucial industries ... Developing the skills of Wisconsin’s workforce ... will help the economy recover more quickly.”
A report card by the Midwestern Office of the Council of State Governments pointed to what needed to be done: “On measures related to the key drivers of economic growth including workforce preparedness ... Wisconsin placed in the middle or in the bottom half of the states.”
Instead of addressing the problems that our people really face the Governor has, and continues to, push a political agenda. The wrapping on the outside of his special session agenda says jobs, but there is little on the inside that has anything to do with jobs.
The Governor’s program doesn’t pass the “truth in packaging” standard.