Democrats in the state legislature have released a package of bills they say will create jobs quickly, close the skills gap and rebuild Wisconsin’s middle class.
Workforce Growth Skills Training Program
SUMMARY: Creates a competitive grant training program based on the needs of Wisconsin businesses aimed at closing the skills gap facing our state.
DETAILS: This creates a competitive grant program under the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) that would attempt to relieve capacity issues in high-growth, high-demand industry sectors (insufficient numbers of classes available, classroom space, equipment or instructors to meet demand) and pipeline issues (making training more affordable, encouraging individuals to seek training in high-demand industries).
Under the program, a business, a consortium of multiple businesses, workforce development board or economic development organization would partner with the local technical college to apply to WTCS through a competitive grant process for workforce growth funding to meet their local skilled worker training needs.
Funding could be used for training scholarships (criteria to be based on local labor market need), building/infrastructure construction, purchasing equipment, cost recovery for hiring faculty, curriculum development in partnership with industry and aligned with industry standards leading to a certificate or degree, and/or student career support services including job placement and business recruitment.
The criteria used by WTCS to determine grant recipients will emphasize projects that focus on sectors that the WTCS determines to have a high employment demand, including manufacturing, energy, information technology, skilled trades or health care; eliminating waiting lists in high-demand sectors/job types; and the speed by which training or activities performed under the program could result in job-ready skilled workers.
A substantially similar proposal had been introduced as 2011 AB 398. 2011 AB 398 was supported by the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Wisconsin Technical College District Board Association, and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. The current draft number is LRB-1327.
Refundable Angel and Early Stage Seed Investment Credits
SUMMARY: Makes investing in high-tech start-ups and entrepreneurs from Wisconsin appealing to investors across the nation and around the world by offering a tax refund to investors.
DETAILS: This makes both the angel and early stage seed investment tax credits refundable if the amount of credit owed to the investor exceeds their Wisconsin tax liability. In the 2009- 2010 legislative session Wisconsin expanded the angel and early stage seed credit legislation, and at that time, the program was widely viewed as one of the most pro-angel investment programs in the country. However, other states have mirrored our laws, and now Nebraska and Minnesota have taken the next step to make investment-driving tax credits refundable with other states moving in that direction.
Refundable credits make investments in Wisconsin startups more appealing for investors located outside of the state because they do not necessarily have a tax liability in our state. With a refundable tax credit program, Wisconsin would be better positioned to capture potential capital available in regional metro areas such as Chicago and the Twin Cities, in addition to larger investor pools on the East and West Coasts who are traditionally major players in the investment world.
The Wisconsin State Journal editorialized that this was one of five bills the legislature should pass at the end of last session (3/4/12).
A substantially similar proposal had been introduced as 2011 AB 20. The proposal was also included as SSAB 15/SSSB 15 on Gov. Walker’s Fall 2011 Call for Special Session, but Republicans in the Assembly and Senate refused to act on the bill. 2011 AB 20 was supported by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Wisconsin Angel Network. The current draft number is LRB-0868.
Small Business Credit Now
SUMMARY: Helps small businesses take advantage of existing tax credits for business investments by offering them up front as a grant. This bill will make state tax credits work for small businesses.
DETAILS: A frequent concern expressed by small business owners is how difficult it is to secure financing for growth and expansion. As our economic recovery progresses and small businesses discover growth opportunities, without financing they are unable to capitalize on those opportunities. Under both Democratic and Republican leadership, the Legislature has passed millions of dollars in targeted tax credits to create incentives for business investment and expansion. Unfortunately if a business can’t capitalize a project to begin with, tax credits are ineffective.
This bill allows the state to award up front grants in lieu of tax credits as part of an approved financing package. This will assist business owners in securing much-needed financing to make the investments needed to help grow their businesses.
A substantially similar proposal had been introduced as 2011 AB 90. The proposal was also included as SSAB 16/SSSB 16 in Gov. Walker’s Fall 2011 Call for Special Session, but Republicans in the Assembly and Senate refused to act on the bill. 2011 AB 90/SS AB 16 was supported by Bio Forward, NAIOP Wisconsin (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association), and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. The current draft number is LRB-0869.
Made in America
SUMMARY: Requires the State of Wisconsin to “Buy American” when it comes to its infrastructure.
DETAILS: The Made in America Act requires state and local units of government to give preference to U.S.-made products when purchasing materials. It builds on Wisconsin Democrats’ earlier effort, the American Jobs Act, which prohibits the state from spending tax dollars on services overseas. It’s also a response to the disturbing new trend of states purchasing prefabricated bridges and building materials from China.
The current draft number is LRB-0111.
Expand Skills Enhancement Program (CAP Services)
SUMMARY: Expands opportunities for participation in the Skills Enhancement Program, which enhances job skills and employability for low-income workers. By providing training and support services, this program has significantly boosted the average income of its participants.
DETAILS: This bill will expand (from $250k to $500k annually) the CAP Services Skills Enhancement Program that assists low-wage workers obtain training to enhance job skills and employability. Program provides transportation, child care and other support needed for low-wage workers to attend training. This makes low-income workers more employable and improves the skills of Wisconsin’s workforce in a cost effective manner.
Since state funding for this program was established by the CORE Jobs Act in 2010, 191 individuals have graduated from the program; 152 of them went on to get new jobs with an average annual income increase of $8,454. An expansion of the program was proposed in 2011 Senate Bill 121. The proposals have been supported by the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association. The current draft is LRB 1439.
Buy Wisconsin, Buy Local
SUMMARY: Encourages state and local governments to buy materials and services from Wisconsin-based businesses.
DETAILS: This requires the state to attempt to purchase at least 20% of materials and contractual services from Wisconsin-based businesses. The bill also sets a goal that at least 20% of products and services purchased by local governments also be from Wisconsin-based businesses, as well as a goal that local governments not purchase less from state-based businesses than the prior year.
A substantially similar proposal had been introduced as 2011 AB 21. 2011 AB 21 had been supported by the WiSys Technology Foundation and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The current draft number is LRB 1416.
Community Development Financial Institutions Investment Tax Credits
SUMMARY: Promotes investments in community development finance institutions (CDFIs), mission driven financial institutions that help small businesses in distressed rural and urban communities. Along with investment and credit access, CDFIs provide entrepreneurs with financial literacy and business development support.
DETAILS: Wisconsin’s 21 federally certified Community Development Financial Institutions work closely with rural and urban communities to spur development, add quality affordable housing and grow small businesses through micro-financing. Support for CDFIs comes from a diverse group of investors including individuals, foundations, corporations, banks, and credit unions.
This bill creates an incentive for corporations and citizens to invest in these Wisconsin CDFIs through a tax credit worth of up to 10 percent of the person’s qualified investment, assuming that investment is between $10,000 and $150,000. Investments of $150,000 to $500,000 would qualify for a 12 percent tax credit. It is our hope that a tax credit will raise awareness about Wisconsin’s CDFI industry and encourage local investment.
A substantially similar proposal had been introduced as 2011 AB 211. 2011 AB 211 passed the Assembly 92-5 but Senate Republicans refused to take it up. It had been supported by the Wisconsin Bankers Association, the Wisconsin Builders Association, the Wisconsin Realtors Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, NAIOP Wisconsin (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association), the WI Community Action Program Association, and Forward Community Investments. The current draft number is LRB-1336.
The Marketing Manufacturers and Keeping Employees Legislation (Part 1)
SUMMARY: Creates a marketing plan for Wisconsin manufacturers and assists in establishing in-state supply chains.
DETAILS: This bill creates and funds a five-year marketing plan to boost business for small to midsized manufacturers in Wisconsin and to help Wisconsin’s large manufacturers establish mutually-beneficial supply chains within the state. Included in the proposal is funding for staff members to develop and execute the marketing plan, equipment for a marketing office, and costs associated with establishing and maintaining a website, constructing and transporting a display booth for trade shows, and creating and producing advertising materials.
A substantially similar proposal had been introduced as 2011 AB 9. 2011 AB 9 was supported by the Tool & Die Machinists Association of Wisconsin. The current draft number is LRB-0861.
The Marketing Manufacturers and Keeping Employees Legislation (Part 2)
SUMMARY: Allocates funding for regional trade and marketing forums in this state for the purpose of developing business relationships between major manufacturers and Wisconsin-based suppliers.
DETAILS: This bill requires the state to allocate $100,000 in the 2012-13 fiscal year to conduct regional trade and marketing forums in this state for the purpose of developing business relationships between major manufacturers and Wisconsin-based suppliers, many of which cannot currently afford staff to promote their products on a national or global level.
A substantially similar proposal had been introduced as 2011 AB 10. 2011 AB 10 was supported by the Tool & Die Machinists Association of Wisconsin. The current draft number is LRB-0862.
Democrat leaders says they have discussed their ideas with Gov. Walker and hope at least some of them will be included in the governor’s budget proposal, which will be released on February 20. Walker’s spokesman Cullen Werwie said the Democrats’ ideas were under review.
In order to drum up support for their ideas, Democratic legislators have been traveling the state on “Middle Class Values Tour,” talking about their bills and other ways to get Wisconsinites back to work.