Legislature Considers Various Venture Capital Proposals

This week the legislature held a hearing on one venture capital bill and started discussions about another. Venture capital is a hot topic this session because Wisconsin lags behind other states in the availability of start-up capital, but there is a hesitancy to put taxpayer money at risk.

The Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Mining held a hearing on AB 181, a bipartisan piece of legislation which would provide for the investment of $25 million in state funds across a minimum of four venture capital funds. The fund also would get at least $50 million from private sources. The $25 million is already included in the draft budget, and this bill would provide the framework for spending that money.

WisconsinEye videoed a press conference announcing the introduction of the bill.

There are significant accountability measures put in place to protect taxpayer investment and requirements for the investment managers to contribute their own moneys. However, the bill limits investment to businesses that fall into the agriculture, information technology, engineered products, advanced manufacturing, and medical devices and imaging industries sectors, which could limit the fund’s effectiveness.

The Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Mining has scheduled an executive session on the bill for May 8.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), announced that they plan to introduce an alternative venture capital bill based largely on the work of the venture capital task force convened by Gov. Scott Walker.

WisconsinEye covered a press conference by Rep. Barca and Sen. Lassa where they announced they will be introducing an alternative bill.

In a press conference, they said the bipartisan proposal was too small to be meaningful, and a broader, long-term approach would be preferable.