|Lehman is No Friend to Job Creation
By Van Wanggaard
As a candidate for state senate, it is important that I point out the differences between myself and my opponent, Senator John Lehman. Lehman’s recent Journal Times column gives me a perfect opportunity to write about our contrasting visions on the most important issue facing RacineCounty and the state of Wisconsin: JOBS.
Senator Lehman’s article showcases his lack of credibility on the issue of job creation and retention. Lehman’s claim that “my Senate Democrat colleagues and I are continuing to focus on jobs and the economy” is confusing, because it’s hard to continue something that they haven’t yet started. Piecing together a convoluted bill that makes a few changes to a regulatory bureaucracy is NOT reform.
RacineCounty is currently burdened with a 9.3% unemployment rate, while the city of Racine has the second highest rate in the state, at 14.5%. The tax and regulatory environment that has been pushed at the state level has just exacerbated the effects of the national economic downturn, and the result has been layoffs and plant closings at levels we have never witnessed before.
Senator Lehman and his colleagues have taken such a cavalier approach to retaining jobs that we are now a lot worse off than most of our neighboring states. As 126,000 jobs disappeared over the past year, legislative Democrats did virtually nothing, and when they did propose a solution, it was in the form of a $3.6 billion tax increase.
A string of recent projections by renowned publications & research groups highlight our business climate deficiencies. Forbes Magazine recently ranked Wisconsin the 3rd worst state in which to do business; the Tax Foundation ranked Wisconsin the 9th highest taxed state in the nation; and the PewCenter for the States ranked Wisconsin the 10th most likely state to face fiscal collapse. These disturbing projections are the direct result of reckless budgeting and irresponsible fiscal policy pushed by the Democrat-controlled legislature and Governor Doyle.
Job-killing policies, mostly implemented through the passage of the state budget and the “budget repair bill,” have forced companies like Harley-Davidson and Briggs & Stratton to ship jobs out of the state. Lehman’s proposal to create “green jobs,” while doing nothing to retain existing manufacturing jobs, is shortsighted. If our government leaders are going to allow manufacturing jobs to leave the state (which they have), they need to make sure that there are new jobs to replace them (which they have not). Quite simply, there are a lot more people in the 21st Senate District who have been laid off from their “dirty job” than have found new employment in a “green job.”
Lehman also touts the expansion of A&E, Inc. as some sort of legislative victory. Let me be clear, I am thrilled that A&E is creating more jobs in Racine. But instead of offering carve-out tax breaks and incentives to individual companies, why don’t we change the statutes so that ALL companies can enjoy lower taxes and greater expansion opportunities? The fact that companies have to be given exemptions from current state law tells me that state law needs to be changed.
Last Spring, as Lehman and his colleagues were busy crafting the most fiscally irresponsible budget in state history, Senate Republicans took to the road and met with business owners all over the state of Wisconsin. Their intent was to collect vital feedback from the business community on what legislative initiatives needed to be undertaken to stimulate job growth and keep companies from closing their doors.
Over the next 12 months, I will be imitating that effort and meeting with as many 21st Senate District job providers as I can. I will develop specific reform proposals based on input from the constituents that are most affected by state government’s misguided approach to our business community. My proposals will seek to create real employment opportunities (instead of just looking good on paper), and I will make the introduction and passage of those proposals my first priority if elected to office.
But in the meantime, there are some basic steps that can and must be taken immediately. The legislature needs to (a) reduce the personal income tax, since more than 90% of businesses file as individuals, (b) freeze property taxes, which will make communities more attractive to relocating companies, (c) make health insurance more affordable for small businesses by allowing them to pool together to achieve discounted rates, (d) repeal the increase in the capital gains tax, (e) simplify and streamline the tax code, (f) repeal the increases in auto insurance minimum coverage rates that were passed as part of the state budget, and (g) expedite the permitting process for shovel-ready projects to create jobs NOW rather than later.
I look forward to working with the local business community to develop legislative proposals that will stimulate economic growth in the area. I believe that RacineCounty’s best times are ahead of her, and once we can get our hard-working men and women back into the workforce, our local communities will flourish again. For now, however, there is no greater priority than improving the pitiful business climate that our current state senator has completely failed to address.
Van Wanggaard currently serves on the RacineCounty Board of Supervisors, and is a candidate for the 21st State Senate District seat.