|On Monday, Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan rolled out the Assembly Democrats' fall agenda. They're calling it "Standing up for Wisconsin Families". In a press conference, Majority Leader Tom Nelson said that the fall agenda aims to get "our state's economy back on track and people back to work." However, after seeing the agenda, it seems their actions will fall way short of their rhetoric.
The following pieces of legislation were outlined as priorities by Democrats on Monday:
- Green Jobs - Speaker Sheridan says by passing a bill that takes away local control to break stalemates on wind projects, they will create jobs in the wind industry.
- Increasing Drunk Driving Penalties - This bill will make the 4th DUI offense a felony, extend license revocation, and increase penalties for injuries. It will also mandate ignition interlocks for first time .15 offenders.
- Addressing Home Foreclosures - While no bill was referenced, Speaker Sheridan said the Assembly Democrats plan to ensure that homeowners who face foreclosure will receive the information they need to help them keep their homes. They also plan to mandate financial literacy courses for homebuyers and allow those facing foreclosure the opportunities to make changes to their loans to avoid the foreclosure.
- Campaign Finance Reform - This bill will provide public financing for Supreme Court campaigns.
- Returning to an Independent Department of Natural Resources - This bill, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, would take away the power of the Governor to appoint the Secretary of DNR and instead leave that decision to the citizen-run Natural Resources board.
While I applaud the Democrats for taking on the issue of reforming drunk driving laws, I fail to see how any of these items on their agenda are going to create jobs. It's possible that putting up windmills throughout the state will create a few, but I hardly think windmills are the panacea needed to mitigate the highest unemployment rate in over 25 years.
Further, this agenda only contains 4 bills, but this week the assembly will meet twice to take up a myriad of meaningless bills, with many more to follow. Wednesday a bill passed that creates another state holiday known as Juneteenth Day. If passed, Wisconsinites will observe June 19, 1865 as the day that slaves in Texas first received word that they had been freed.
Additionally, bills scheduled for future consideration include a resolution to stipulate that Swine Flu must be called H1N1, a bill to declare Wisconsin cheese as the state snack, and one to declare Lactococcus lactis as the state microbe.
In response to this job-lacking agenda, Assembly Republicans introduced their economic agenda this week, developed after our Jobs Now Task Force spent months traveling around the state meeting with business owners who shared their thoughts on how to improve Wisconsin 's business climate. A Task Force Report was compiled and the following ideas are now part of our job-creation agenda:
Jobs Tax Credit - This legislation will give employers a tax credit for each employee hired. Last year alone, Wisconsin lost 134,000 jobs. This tax credit will create the incentive employers need to increase their workforce in this tough economy.
Recruit and Retain Jobs - This plan would require the Department of Commerce to submit a report to the Joint Finance Committee detailing its business retention methods, a plan that identifies businesses seeking to expand or relocate, and a plan to develop a Rapid Response Team for relocation or expansion prospects. This would force the Department of Commerce to become more flexible and expeditious in their company-recruitment efforts. I introduced this amendment in the budget, but unfortunately Gov. Doyle vetoed it.
Banning Secret Tax Increases - Because of their powers to interpret current tax laws, the Department of Revenue has unilaterally imposed new taxes on internet access, computer software, temporary service agencies and business transfers to the tune of $100 million over the years. Assembly Republicans will restore legislative accountability by banning this practice.
Small Business Expense Flexibility - Currently Wisconsin only allows employers to claim tax depreciation on business equipment over 5 to 7 years. Our proposal would enable small businesses to deduct up to $50,000 immediately. This will give businesses much-needed access to capital more quickly and will translate to the immediate creation of new jobs.
Wisconsin Jobs investment Act - This bill would provide a capital gains exclusion of up to $10 million for long-term reinvestment in a Wisconsin business. Currently, Wisconsin ranks the 9th worst state in which to do business, partly because our businesses have such poor access to capital. This exclusion would help address that concern.
Health Insurance Flexibility - Health Insurance Flexibility would provide employers the ability to purchase health care across state lines, enabling employers and small business owners to shop around to get the best price. Currently, employers must choose from a small pool of health insurance because they are limited to purchasing health insurance within the state. By increasing competition, this will inevitably drive down the cost of one of the most expensive parts of doing business.
Sunset Phone Line Tax, Cap Gains Tax Increase, and Combined Reporting - These taxes, representing a $565 million tax increase on job-creators and families - were imposed by Democrats in the last budget. They need to be repealed, plain and simple. Tax increases are never the way to stimulate economic growth, especially during a time of record unemployment.
I'm hopeful that we can come up with many more ideas this session that will help revive our ailing economy. I'd certainly enjoy hearing from you if you have further ideas on how to jumpstart Wisconsin 's economy.