By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker may like to proclaim that Wisconsin is “open for business,” but it doesn’t seem employers are chomping at the bit to hire in the Badger State.
Wisconsin’s 2.3 percent job growth rate in the two years ending June 2012 lagged behind the national rate of 2.8 percent, the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reported recently.
Against that tough reality, Walker continues to emphasize economic development.
Although the governor will not release his budget proposal until Feb. 20, he offered some previews this week, including a plan to provide an extra $75 million for the Economic Development Tax Credit program.
That proposal is among nearly $100 million Walker announced Thursday he would like to commit programs aimed at economic development. That’s in addition to a multimillion-dollar proposal Walker and lawmakers have been kicking around to back venture capital firms with tax dollars.
“Continually improving our economic environment will foster small business growth and encourage the creation of new businesses,” Walker said in a 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.”
Tacking it on
The economic development money is the latest indication of Walker’s budget priorities.
On Wednesday, he called for an additional $28.9 million for the state’s mental health programs.
The governor also said he hopes to shore up the state’s transportation infrastructure, notably freight rail.
Both Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, continue to push for income-tax relief primarily aimed at middle-class families, estimated to cost up to $350 million over the next two years.
Walker’s budget priorities are starting to add up — to something near the $419.7 million the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau projects will be in the general fund at the end of the fiscal year.
Walker said he doesn’t anticipate huge cuts in this year’s budget, either.
“I mean, there might be little issues here and there, but we’re not talking broad-based cuts,” he said.
Bills aimed at easing mining regulations passed Assembly and Senate committees on Wednesday, moving the GOP leadership’s goal of passing a bill early in this session a step closer to reality.
Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, author of Senate Bill 1, the Republican-backed mining bill, held a press conference Monday afternoon, laying out proposed amendments that, in Tiffany’s words, will “tighten” environmental protections.
But Democratic opponents say the bill still does too little to ensure the natural environment doesn’t pay a heavy price for mining expansion.
“These (amendments) are baby steps,” Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said. “This is the beginning of a process of moving towards a sensible bill.”
Taking your dog to the veterinarian?
Be prepared to provide your pet’s birth date, middle name and Medicare identification numbers, unless the Legislature acts soon.
Under the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, or PDMP, veterinarians this year will be required to report such information electronically.
The goal of the program is to crack down on “doctor shopping,” where a junkie, unable to renew a prescription from his current provider, shops around for a doctor who will write the prescription, usually unaware of the patient’s drug history.
But when it was passed in 2009, the law included “pharmacists or practitioners,” including veterinarians (unnecessarily, vets’ groups say).
The program launched Jan. 1. The Wisconsin Pharmacy Examining Board has delayed the reporting requirement on veterinarians for 90 days.
Practicing veterinarian Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, has introduced a bill with bipartisan support to exempt veterinarians from the program.
The bill passed the Assembly Committee on Agriculture earlier this week. The full Assembly is expected to consider the legislation Tuesday.
Contact Kirsten Adshead at [email protected].