The arrival of the New Year brings time to reflect upon all that we accomplished in 2011.
I am happy to say that 2011 was extremely productive, and I was able to author over thirty different bills that create jobs, protect our most vulnerable citizens or guard the pocketbooks of taxpayers. Because so much has happened over the last year, I will be doing a new “Year in Review” segment over the next weeks. You will find the first installment below with a recap on how I’ve been working to encourage job growth in southeastern Wisconsin. I hope that you find these recaps informative and helpful. Over the next year I am excited to build on our successes and continue to make southeastern Wisconsin an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
Throughout my first year as your State Senator, my number one priority has been the same as the one I campaigned on – bringing jobs to Racine County and Wisconsin. We started out 2011 with a Special Session on jobs, improving the business climate in Wisconsin. We passed tort reform, to provide certainty in our legal system, and regulatory reform to give certainty in our government. We also created the new Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to replace the cumbersome Department of Commerce, and modernized our telecommunications laws.
The January Special Session also brought the first of many jobs bills I introduced last year. The Relocation Tax Credit provides a tax credit for companies that relocate their businesses to Wisconsin. We’ve already seen the success of this program in our area with Catalyst Exhibits bringing 105 jobs to Pleasant Prairie. In addition, I co-sponsored a bill doubling the amount of the Jobs Tax Credit, which provides a tax credit for employers equaling ten percent of a new employee’s salary. This program has also been successful, and has helped encourage job growth across the state.
As I’ve met with job creators throughout the county two consistent obstacles to job creation have surfaced – a lack of qualified workers and a lack of capital. I’ve offered a number of bills over the last year to alleviate these problems. In addition to providing tax relief and incentives to businesses, I’ve offered the Next Generation Jobs bill to increase access to capital. This bill provides investment and loans to bioscience companies with no loss in existing tax revenue and no borrowing. If successful in the bioscience sector, I hope to apply this model to other industries.
Last month, I introduced two bills specifically designed to address the shortage of skilled workers. The first would allow Wisconsin high schools to offer a technical education high school diploma for students. This option would provide interested students with a specific technical education (e.g. electrical) so they can quickly enter the skilled workforce. Another bill, called Wisconsin Wins, provides employer-specific training to unemployed individuals, along with an additional stipend. This program will connect employers with ready-to-work individuals, and connect unemployed workers with businesses looking to hire.
I’m happy to say that our hard work is starting to pay off, and we can see the progress in Racine County. Racine’s unemployment rate has gone down almost two percent since November 2010! Daniels Sharpsmart, All Fasteners, and American Metal Technologies have all invested and grown jobs in Racine and Ruud Lighting is going to add over 450 jobs.
We have accomplished a lot over the last year, but I’m not done focusing on the economy. Too many people are still looking for work, and our economy isn’t growing fast enough. 2011 was a good start, but there’s more work to be done. In 2012, you’ll see me continue to offer common sense, bi-partisan solutions to fix our economy and get Wisconsin back to work.