Strong Economy

  • Focus Wisconsin’s economic development strategy on growing family-supporting jobs.
  • Bring leaders of business, education, labor, and government together to develop a bold, integrated strategy to increase personal income
  • Foster private sector/government teamwork based on their respective strengths.
  • Ensure that all business sectors pay their fair share toward shared services and facilities.

Wisconsin has a proud history of prosperity through hard work and innovation. Wisconsinites are ready and willing to learn skills and put them to work. Our state also has a tradition of leadership in manufacturing, food production, and innovation in turning the results of medical, biological, and environmental research into valuable products. As our economy shifts from resource extraction and heavy industry to a high-tech future, Wisconsin can again take the lead in building an economy that benefits all workers and their families.

We can restore Wisconsin to economic strength with policies that reward innovation and “in-sourcing.” Family farms, small businesses, tourism, Great Lakes-centered enterprises, and UW-system patents generate prosperity that stays in Wisconsin. We need to stop rewarding out-sourcing, foreign developers grabbing our farmlands, and the legalized blackmail that happens when a company demands tax incentives and still moves jobs out of state or overseas. Wisconsin can use innovative development ideas, such as industry clusters, to build on our unique strengths. (Read more on the importance of economic clusters.)

Economic development policy should first of all be smart and informed. We need to employ scarce dollars based on data and measurements that track results. Our state economic development office should focus on targeted efforts that will have the greatest impact on job growth. We need to learn from what other states have done to grow personal income. Many have worked as strong partners with business and schools at all levels to improve per capita income. In today’s competitive world it is naïve and shortsighted to advocate that government get out of the way of business. To grow per capita income will take teamwork and planning. Without a thoughtful plan, there is little reason to expect better outcomes.

Source: Center on Wisconsin Strategy, June 27, 2011



Source: Wisconsin Budget Project, July 3, 2013

The income of the richest Wisconsinites is going up, while that of the poorest is going down, but Walker’s tax cuts disproportionately benefit those making between $215,000 and 315,000.

A fair tax policy means everyone pays a fair share. Currently, most of the largest companies in Wisconsin pay no state income tax even when they are making record profits. And the situation will worsen in a few years. Under Walker administration tax policies, manufacturers will pay no state income tax even though the need for state funding to ensure a skilled workforce will continue and may even need to grow. This shifts the costs of education, public services and infrastructure to wage earners, small business owners, homeowners, and family farmers. Companies use our highways, ports, and rail lines and they benefit from our schools and universities. They need to help pay for them. Fair taxation will strengthen Wisconsin by encouraging investment in local communities and putting more money back into the pockets of those who live and spend here. <link to Wisconsin Budget Project white paper> Simply collecting taxes owed could boost our economy by an estimated $100 million. <link to IWF study, Investing in Revenue>


Wisconsin currently ranks near the bottom
in new business ventures, the main source of new jobs

Rather than redefining “small business,” allowing foreign developers to buy up huge tracts of farmland, deregulating mining, and handing state funds to poorly managed start-up ventures, it’s time for policies that are good for Wisconsinites. Letting multinational corporations set our public policy weakens our economy when companies move profits offshore and dodge paying their fair share of public costs. Small businesses and start-ups are the biggest source of new jobs, but current economic policies have stranded Wisconsin near the bottom in entrepreneurial activity. The Wisconsin Economic Development Commission has failed to generate any jobs. Its current policy does not require startups receiving state aid to create any jobs or to account for the state funds they receive (Scott Bauer, Bloomberg Businessweek News, May 1, 2013). By restoring well-monitored start-up funding for promising new businesses, farmland protection, wetlands protection, and a strong system of public schools and colleges, we can rebuild a sustainable economy that respects our way of life, from camping “Up North” to family businesses in the city and countryside.

Money intended for schools, universities, aide to families, and the state’s rainy day fund must go for those purposes, not for unneeded highway projects and other campaign donor paybacks. Borrowing money for highway projects on an adjustable-rate loan leads to economic uncertainty for Wisconsin, just as the adjustable-rate mortgages led some homebuyers to financial collapse. Substituting one kind of debt for another is not a real solution to long-term economic stability. It will lead to the sort of “structural deficit” that the current administration pledged to fix.

We can do better! A mix of Wisconsin’s traditional economic strengths--manufacturing, dairy farming and other food production, and small business—and innovations in biotech, freshwater industries, and sustainable energy development is the key to rebuilding a strong economy. Fairer tax rates, more diligent tax collection, and strict accountability for tax-funded programs can ensure that these moneys are used as the voters intended: to restore Wisconsin’s excellence in public education, outdoor spaces, and prosperity for working families.

See Grassroots North Shore articles on this topic.

Further Reading

  • A big issue for the economy and for people seeking work in Milwaukee is the disconnect between where job seekers live and where the jobs are located. According to a recent article in the Journal Sentinel, "A new study by the ever-busy Public Policy Forum finds the Milwaukee metropolitan area is badly disconnected, with no way for many workers to get to jobs in outlying counties. The study 'confirms the long-held notion that public transportation services are limited or non-existent in many suburban job centers” in the four-county metro area....'" [Journal Sentinel Online, December 19, 2013]
  • In the latest report on new unemployment claims from the US Department of Labor for the week of December 7,2013, Wisconsin had highest number of new claims of all 50 states. In other words, Wisconsin's job losses for the week were the highest in the nation:  "The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 30 were in Wisconsin (+4,420), Ohio (+2,597), Kentucky (+1,538), Massachusetts (+1,129), and New Jersey (+1,124), while the largest decreases were in California (-19,920), Texas (-7,284), Florida (-5,400), Pennsylvania (-5,145), and Nevada (-3,295)." [Department of Labor, December 12, 2013]
  • According to a recent article by Linda Richter (“Wisconsin Lags Nation in Job Growth”), Wisconsin ranked 34th out of 50 states in private-sector job creation over the last 12 month reporting period. Citing data recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,) she notes that not only did Wisconsin grow these jobs at a slower rate than most other states, but Wisconsin was out-performed by our close neighbors, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa. Read the full article at: [New Berlin NOW, September 28, 2013]
  • In the latest data on job growth from March 2012 to March 2013, Wisconsin ranks 34th. [Journal Sentinel Online, September 26, 2013]
  • Professor Chinn compares the economic performance and prospects of Wisconsin and California:
    In a previous post, I compared economic outcomes in two states that implemented contrasting fiscal policies: California, which surged ahead while raising taxes and cutting spending, and Wisconsin, which lagged far behind as it slashed spending on education, and cut taxes. Latest estimates of current economic activity, and forecasted economic activity six months out, indicate continued lagging performance for Wisconsin. [Econbrowser, September 6, 2013]
  • The "rising tide" of the recovery since the 2008 financial crisis, it appears, has left a lot of boats stranded, according to an analysis in the New York Times. [New York Times, September 10, 2013]
  • See an earlier account from Professor Chinn on the economic forecast for Wisconsin, from Governor Walker's administration. [Econbrowser, July 19, 2013]

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