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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

The 2009-10 legislative session review: Jobs

Legislation


Jobs.  That is the #1 concern of Wisconsinites today. It should have been the #1 concern of the just-completed general legislative session. Sadly, job creation and improving our dismal business climate was not a high priority. The legislature did little, if anything to strengthen economy.


The Wisconsin Department of Revenue reports the state lost over 163,000 jobs since the beginning of the recession during 2007.  The Legislature has done nothing, or too little too late, to spur job growth or jump start our sluggish economy.  The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development reports between January 2009 and January 2010, Wisconsin lost 113, 600 jobs. During the same period, the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis area lost 39,800 jobs. Wisconsin’s current seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.8 percent.


Our state business climate remains one of the worst in the nation. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. reports Wisconsin’s business climate ranks #42, putting us in the bottom 10, and yet, we continue to be hostile to business.

During March 2009, shortly after the general legislative session began, businesspeople told Wisconsin legislators loudly and clearly their major concerns. I attended a meeting of the WISCONSIN JOBS NOW Task Force at Brown Deer. The Task Force is Republican lawmakers seeking solutions to the sluggish economy from the experts, those creating and retaining jobs.

The task force was developed by legislative Republicans during 2009 after the Wisconsin budget adjustment bill was approved and signed into law in a span of 48 hours without adequate scrutiny from the public or news media. The bill made significant changes to the state’s business tax structure with the enactment of combined reporting, a streamlined sales tax, a sales tax on business software, and several other tax increases.

Thirty-three business leaders from around the state testified at the Task Force meeting, and legislators listened. The meeting that I attended gave businesspeople an opportunity to share their valuable expertise about what is wrong with the state’s business climate and what must be done to rejuvenate our slumping economy.


I heard comments like, “We’re at war!” and “I’m in business. That doesn’t make me GM or AIG.” One business person was so frustrated, she told the Task Force, “I’m not some faceless bastard. I’m a capitalist.”

I was struck by the number of scathing remarks about state government’s hostile attitude toward and treatment of business. The most complimentary comment came from one businessman saying there is a “misunderstanding” in Madison about small business. Other speakers were more direct.

Laurie Bucaro of Fun Things Toy Service in Muskego said, “I have never felt welcomed by state government.”

“We’re being demonized as businesspeople for making profits. That’s wrong. We’re making jobs,” said Al Schmitz of Schmitz Ready Mix in Milwaukee. “We invest our hearts and souls into business. Being a success is not a crime. We started with nothing. We’re scared because we’re seeing everything evaporate before our very eyes.”

“I encourage you to put a face on real businesspeople,” implored Sue Szymczak of Safeway Sling in Greendale. “We’re not out to cheat or oppress people.”

Rich Hacker, the General Manager of Engineered Pump Services in Mukwonago said, “Let me keep more of my money and I’ll invest it and hire people.” David Kliber, the President/CEO of SF Analytical Laboratories Inc. in New Berlin echoed Hacker’s comments. “We must be more pro-business,” said Kliber. “We create jobs. We don’t need the public sector taking it away.”

Following statewide listening sessions, the task force incorporated their suggestions from businesspeople into a comprehensive report 
Including numerous recommendations to jump start the state economy and business climate. Here are some of the recommendations:

Reduce the Personal Income Tax

Repeal 11% Employer Tax Hike Passed in February 2009

Freeze property taxes

Simplify and Streamline Tax Code

Stop the increase in the Capital Gains Tax

Reduce the Tax Burden on Expansion/Retooling

Freeze on new regulations

Expediting the permitting process

Bring State Regulations in line with Federal Regulations

Stop the “Brain Drain”

Help small businesses afford health insurance

Reform the Medicaid

Guarantee reasonable caps on non-economic damages for

medical malpractice cases

Stop raids on Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund

Don’t increase the Wage Claim Lien

Don’t increase the state minimum wage above the federal minimum

wage

Don’t increase auto insurance costs


The majority party ignored the cries for help from representatives of the business community that told the Task Force their sales are down, revenues are down, hours worked are down;  however taxes, fees, insurance, inflation, health care, and advertising are all up.

 

During the recession, Wisconsin businesses have done their part and more. They have responded by reducing expenses and making cutbacks, yet the businesspeople wonder what has government done. They correctly see the state increasing taxing and spending at a time businesses and working families are holding back.


State businesses, faced with trying to compete in a hostile business climate, have few options. They can move their business to another, more favorable location. Or they can stay and work hard not to pass on additional taxes and fees to their consumers.


One of the questions businesspeople were asked to consider during the roundtable discussion was, “What does state government currently do right to help job growth?” None of the attendees was able to furnish an answer.

The message is clear. We must create a friendlier environment for business in Wisconsin. That will not occur with the state continuing its perilous pattern of over-taxation and spending.

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