Commentary: If state Democrats want bipartisan effort on jobs, now is chance

Reposted from the Racine Journal Times: State Rep. Robin Vos R-Caledonia | Posted: Sunday, November 29, 2009 7:00 pm

Job loss numbers released by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development last week are staggering, to say the least. Wisconsin lost 130,000 jobs this past year - the largest year-to-year swing in 70 years of recorded data. That's a total of 166,000 jobs lost since June, 2008 and 14,000 shed between September and October of this year.

Racine has the second highest jobless rate of any of Wisconsin's 31 cities at 14.1 percent. It has lost 3,900 jobs compared to last year. Racine County has an unemployment rate of 9 percent - way up from 5.1 percent a year ago. That's the ninth highest current rate of any county.

The 232,300 people looking for work in Wisconsin need answers about what will be done to create jobs in Wisconsin. Some may be able to take small comfort in reports released on Tuesday by the construction industry declaring that next year there could be 50,000 jobs created or retained in Wisconsin. If it comes true, this will be great news.

I find it interesting, however, that after this announcement, Democrats in Madison were none too quick to release statements touting their ability to "deliver" (as one representative put it) for the people of Wisconsin by creating jobs. That's nonsense. You'd have to be a fool to believe that these new jobs had very much to do with the actions of the state legislature. This surge of new construction jobs has mostly to do with a huge influx of one-time federal stimulus money, not the budget supported by liberal democrats that raised taxes on Wisconsin families and businesses by $5 billion.

In fact, since the Democrats took complete control of state government in January, their agenda has been completely silent on job creation. They have not passed one meaningful piece of legislation to help stimulate the creation of jobs in this state. So to somehow now take credit for the fact that 50,000 jobs may be created next year is disingenuous, at best.

According to Moody's earlier this month, 11 states are stable or beginning to emerge from the recession. Wisconsin wasn't one of those states. In order to ensure we eventually do become one of those states and ease the recessionary burden on Wisconsin's employed and unemployed, Democrats would be wise to come to the table and work with Republicans on ideas we have put forth on job creation.

Because the Legislative session ended without meaningful debate on job creation, Republicans are asking that an extraordinary session be called in December to work together on a number of proposals.

In June, Republicans proposed the Wisconsin Jobs NOW agenda that was developed after working directly with 150 business leaders, local chambers of commerce and manufacturing and industry experts all over the state. The agenda aims to create the best, most efficient partnership between government and the private sector to really help create jobs. This agenda was unfortunately ignored by Democrats for the entire fall session.

The Assembly Republican plan submitted to Speaker Sheridan for a possible extra December session contained the following bills:

• Jobs Tax Credit - AB 477: This proposal would move the payout of tax credits up from 2012 to 2010, giving businesses a clear incentive now to hire new people.

• Recruit and Retain Jobs - AB 476: This bill would require the Department of Commerce to submit a report to the Joint Finance Committee detailing its business retention methods, a plan identifying businesses seeking to expand or relocate, and require them to develop a rapid response team for relocation or expansion prospects.

It's important for the Department of Commerce to be transparent in their current actions and flexible with their future plans to bring businesses to Wisconsin. When companies like Briggs & Stratton, General Motors and Thomas Products go to different states and take jobs with them, the Department of Commerce should be held accountable for policies designed to retain and create jobs.

• Small Business Flexibility Act - AB 184: Small businesses create 80 percent of jobs in the US. Allowing them more flexibility to free up resources and not be subject to certain tax burdens would be helpful in stimulating job creation. By allowing them to claim an immediate deduction for the purchase of equipment needed to run their business, they will have more resources to hire people now.

• Sunset the Combined Reporting Tax - AB 478: This new tax approved in the budget has greatly affected respected Wisconsin employers like Harley-Davidson and Procter and Gamble. Sunsetting this tax will go a long way toward easing economic stresses on our current employers. It will also send a message to companies who might want to relocate here that Wisconsin is open for business.

I have heard over and over from legislative Democrats that they want to be bipartisan and work with us to get things done. By coming to the table to work on these reasonable ideas put forth by actual Wisconsin businesses, they will show that they are serious about bipartisanship and about fixing our huge unemployment problem. If they choose not to, the credit they will continue to take for creating jobs in Wisconsin in light of the worst job numbers in history will be a slap in the face to every unemployed Wisconsinite.

State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, represents the 63rd Assembly District.