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.
Earlier today, the Senate Committee on Small Business that I serve on met to discuss payday loan regulations put forward by the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). The new regulations follow the payday loan bill, signed into law earlier this year.
When a new economic report is issued about
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has released its 2010 edition of “
From the ALEC report:
“To give you a more in-depth look at which states are asking more from taxpayers—and in the process making their states less competitive— we have put together our very own top 10 list of biggest state losers for 2010.
Co-author of the report and highly-regarded economist Dr. Arthur B. Laffer said in an ALEC press release, “Tax and economic policies are essential to the competiveness of our states. Most actions being taken in state capitals today—and practically all actions from
“The tax-and-spend attitude in
According to the release, the authors “found that states with a high and rising tax burden are more likely to drive away individuals and business, while those with lower and falling tax burdens are more likely to attract businesses and create jobs.”
The solution for the states: Reasonable spending limits. The report says, “If states would have simply allowed their spending to grow at the rate of population plus inflation (PPI) growth, they would (almost without exception) be sitting on budget surpluses instead of facing deficits.”
Some states have actually cut taxes.
ALEC concludes that
Here is the ALEC report and the ALEC press release.
Congratulations to the following businesses located in Senate District 28 that I represent that were named in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s list of
HNI Risk Services Inc.,
The Stevens Point Journal reports the pattern of
At one time,
Cropp believes several factors contribute to
Two noted experts shared their economic forecasts at a symposium presented at the state Capitol sponsored by the Wisconsin Legislative Council. Mike Knetter, the Dean of the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Rick Mattoon, Senior Economist and Economic Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of
The absence of certain factors prevented
So what about
Our weaknesses prevent a faster climb out of our economic abyss. Manufacturing, a longtime Wisconsin trump card, has taken a back seat to a national shift toward knowledge and service economies.
UW Business School Dean Michael Knetter contends that because
Michael Knetter’s outlook and advice for
Richard Mattoon’s outlook and advice for
The state Senate Health Committee that I serve on conducted a public hearing Wednesday, February 24, 2010 about legislation that would exempt wellness programs from unfair trade or marketing practices. Under current
The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau in its analysis of SB 502 writes, “A wellness program is designed to promote health or prevent disease by offering a reward to insured individuals.” Wellness programs include smoking cessation weight loss, stress management, and nutrition improvement.
Meg Christianson, a nurse coach for Humana that provides coverage to more than 400,000 Wisconsinites gave excellent testimony about SB 502. Meg Christianson told the Senate Health Committee
She reminded committee members current federal nondiscrimination rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) provide protections to ensure wellness programs do not unfairly discriminate on the basis of health factors. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that wellness program information is treated confidentially, separate from employer personnel files and only accessible to wellness program personnel.
More and more employees are spending time at work, Meg Christianson testified, making the workplace an ideal spot to engage people in wellness programs. Workers that participate in employer-based wellness programs have better on the job decision-making and time management skills and greater loyalty to their company.
Businesses that invest in workplace wellness programs can enjoy savings through lower healthcare costs, decreased absenteeism and decreased workers' compensation claims. A MetLife survey found that more than half, 57 percent, of larger employers, those with 500 or more employees, during 2008 were providing employees with a wellness program, up from 49 percent during 2006.
CNN.com reports, “Employee wellness programs just may be the cure for companies struggling to keep up with rapidly rising health care costs. According to the Kaiser Foundation's Employer Health Benefits 2008 Annual Survey, average premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance for family coverage increased 119 percent between 1999 and 2008. The report, which surveyed randomly selected public and private firms, also found that more employers are turning to employee wellness programs -- more than half of the small and large firms that offered employee health benefits also offered some form of a wellness program.”
I wholeheartedly support SB 502. Wisconsin should provide the flexibility businesses need to provide wellness programs that can lead to healthier lifestyles, longer lives, and reduced health care costs.
ABB, Inc. is one of the
ABB provides power and automation products, systems, solutions, and services.
Congratulations and best of luck to ABB, Inc.of
A long drought in the northern part of
The National Christmas Tree Association has published these 10 myths about Christmas trees.
Heading into cranberry season,
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports more berries are being exported overseas where the fruit is considered sexy.
Randy Papadellis, chief executive officer at Ocean Spray says the hot new product this year is Cranergy, an energy drink targeted to on-the-go soccer moms.
Growth in one of
The headline in the Racine Journal Times reads:
“Business people complain: State is a tough place for business”
That sounds all too familiar. Earlier this year, I was part of an effort by legislative Republicans to hear from businesspeople across the state about
What we heard was extremely troubling.
A similar listening session was held at a Racine County Business Summit. The Racine Journal Times reports, “Steven Jenkins of accounting firm Jenkins & Vojtisek, said he perceives from clients a less friendly business climate. ‘I have never had so many questions about, ‘How do I move my business, or my home, out of the state. ... I'm not going to retire or expand here,' he said.”
Our job creators, the business community, are speaking out loudly and clearly. It is time to start paying attention and then doing something about it.
It sure was great to see popular
However, it is realistic and prudent to question whether
The LA Times notes that in the case of “Public Enemies,” after the tax breaks were dished out that helped offset costs for, among other expenses, Depp’s hair stylist, makeup artist, and two chauffeurs, the net gain was debatable as to its worth.
The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in
The latest rankings are out, with the #1 state being the best state to do business and #50 the worst. The Tax Foundation reports:
“The top 10 states in the 2010 Index, from 1st to 10th, are
“The blame for
The new tax bracket hurts the wealthy that invest and create jobs.
The Tax Foundation writes:
“The ideal tax system, whether at the local, state or federal level, is simple, transparent, stable, neutral to business activity, and pro-growth. In such an ideal system, individuals and businesses would spend a minimum amount of resources to comply with the tax system, understand the true cost of the tax system, base their economic decisions solely on the merits of the transactions,
There are a number of studies concluding that in other countries, high corporate tax rates tend to depress wages. A new study by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in
States with high corporate income taxes see the wages of their workers depressed over time. States with lower corporate taxes enjoy an increase in worker productivity and wages.
The Tax Foundation writes the following in its report, “The Corporate Income Tax and Workers’ Wages: New Evidence from the 50 States” that reviewed state data from 1970 through 2007:
“A one percent drop in the average tax rate leads to a 0.014 percent rise in real wages five years later. In dollar terms, that means wages rise $2.50 for every one dollar reduction in state-local corporate income taxes. The reverse is also true: A one percent hike in the average tax rate leads to a 0.014 percent drop in real wages, or roughly a $2.50 loss in wages for each one-dollar rise
The Wisconsin Jobs Now Task Force that I serve on along with other Republican legislators has been holding roundtable discussions around the state, listening to the expertise and concerns of businesspeople about
As promised, the input from the roundtables has been incorporated into a final report of recommendations to the Legislature to create jobs and stimulate our economy.
Among the report’s recommendations:
Reduce the Personal Income Tax
The Task Force recommends an overall reduction in individual and employer taxes to keep businesses here and attract new businesses and job-creation opportunities to
Repeal 11% Employer Tax Hike Passed in February
The Task Force recommends repealing the new combined-reporting tax and the new tax on custom software.
Freeze property taxes
The Task Force recommends maintaining a strong property tax freeze to reduce the ever-increasing burden placed on businesses looking to expand or trying to attract new employees.
Simplify and Streamline Tax Code
The Task Force recommends streamlining, consolidating, and cutting fees on employers.
Stop the increase in the Capital Gains Tax
The Task Force recommends opposing an increase in the capital gains tax that is in Governor Doyle’s proposed state budget and the budget recently adopted by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
Reduce the Tax Burden on Expansion/Retooling
Stop the “Brain Drain”
The Task Force recommends creating a business-recruiting team to bring high-tech and cutting-edge industries and startups to
Freeze on new regulations
The Task Force recommends a freeze on all new regulations until the economy improves.
Expediting the permitting process
The Task Force recommends guaranteeing agency permitting responses within a reasonable amount of time.
Help small businesses afford health insurance
The Task Force recommends allowing small businesses to pool together to achieve significant health insurance cost savings.
Guarantee reasonable caps on non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases
The Task Force recommends establishing low long-term caps on non-economic damages.
Stop raids on Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund
The Task Force recommends prohibiting future government raids on the fund to attract and retain high quality health care providers.
Move Toward Patient-Centered Care
The Task Force recommends that
Don’t repeal the 1995 reforms in Joint-Several Liability statutes
The proposed changes could make an employer who is as little as 1% at fault, 100% liable for damages.
Don’t increase auto insurance costs
Proposed changes will increase auto insurance rates by more than 33% and bring Wisconsin rates from the 3rd lowest in the country to one of the highest, increasing costs on employers, and killing jobs.
Don’t increase the state minimum wage above the federal minimum wage
Don’t adopt proposed changes to Prevailing Wage Law
You can read the final report of the Wisconsin Jobs Now Task Force here.
I often blog about reports that rank the state of
Unfortunately, more often than not, the reports show
There is some good news to share. Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. (CWI) is a nonpartisan group of state agriculture, business, education and labor leaders. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA) has prepared for CWI an annual report charting
High school graduation rates increased during 2007 and remain above the
The number of doctoral degrees earned in science, engineering, computer sciences, and mathematics increased almost 16 percent during 2006.
Exports continue to be strong. As a percentage of output, exports rose more than 12 percentage points during the five years ending in 2007. Venture capital also showed signs of improvement.
During 2007, 8.2 percent of Wisconsinites were uninsured, compared to 15.3 percent nationally.
That is the good news. Like any report of this nature, there is bad news to report.
Per capita personal income still trails the nation, by a full six percent.
The number of private businesses in the state is down for the second straight year.
Energy costs continue to increase.
Violent crime is up. So why does Governor Doyle want to release more felons?
WISTAX has more details.
Another economic report card, another horrible ranking for the state of Wisconsin.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has released its 2009 edition of “Rich states, poor states” that ranks all 50 states on their economic policies and performance, and also forecasts the states best equipped to rebound from the rough economy.
Wisconsin has the tenth worst economic performance ranking, dropping 11 spots from last year, and ranks #27 for its economic outlook (A property tax burden ranking of #42).
A press release from ALEC about the report says, “(It) shows how the federal bailout of the states may simply encourage out-of-control spending by states, which is up 124 percent over the last 10 years, without requiring them to make the tough decisions needed to bring about financial stability.”
Co-author of the report and highly acclaimed economist Dr. Arthur B. Laffer said, “States cannot tax their way into prosperity.”
One of the report’s conclusions:
“As budget problems become more severe, states must utilize every cost-saving measure possible to avoid economically damaging tax hikes. Increasing taxes during the current downturn is a non-starter for states that wish to remain competitive. Instead, we hope states will use their current financial problems to put their fiscal houses in order and say no to profligate spending and irresponsible budget practices, which have caused many of the current difficulties.
As lawmakers return to session in 2009, many will be faced with a budget crisis. A handout from Washington, D.C., might seem to help in the short-term, but as many seem to overlook, dollars from Washington rarely come without costly strings attached. Furthermore, a federal bailout would do nothing to address the fundamental problem of a decade’s worth of state overspending. If anything good comes out of the budget problems in the states, maybe it will highlight the key to good budgeting: having the ability to say ‘no.’ Hopefully the next time we face an economic downturn, states will have policies in place to avoid another crisis of their own making.”
Thank you for appearing and testifying at the WISCONSIN JOBS NOW Task Force meeting Monday, March 23, 2009 at BioResearch Inc. in Brown Deer.
As I expected, you brought a wealth of expertise and I was extremely impressed with your contributions. The insight and personal experiences you shared will be valuable. Your input is expected to be incorporated into a report of recommendations to the Legislature to create jobs and truly stimulate our economy.
Again, thank you for your heartfelt testimony at the WISCONSIN JOBS NOW Task Force meeting, and for all you do every day to make significant contributions to our economy and quality of life.
The third meeting of the WISCONSIN JOBS NOW TASK FORCE was held Monday in Eau Claire. About 50 businesspeople attended to discuss their concerns about Wisconsin’s business climate, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.
Here is my blog about last week’s task force meeting in Brown Deer and the Green Bay Press Gazette’s coverage of the first meeting in Howard.
The WISCONSIN JOBS NOW Task Force holds a meeting in Brown Deer Monday, March 23, 2009 to hear critical testimony about how to revive Wisconsin’s economy. A successful meeting was held on March 10, 2009 in Howard, near Green Bay.
It is imperative Wisconsin businesspeople attend, share their expertise and voice their concerns about the ramifications the proposed state budget and the recently approved state stimulus/budget repair bill will have on Wisconsin’s struggling business climate and economy.
I invite business leaders from Senate District 28 that I represent to Monday’s Task Force meeting. Your input is invaluable in reviving our state economy and getting people back to work.
Republicans in the state Legislature have formed the WISCONSIN JOBS NOW Task Force that is touring the state holding listening sessions soliciting input from the business community. Senate District 28 businesspeople, your input will be incorporated into a report of recommendations to the Legislature to create jobs and truly stimulate our economy. The task force was developed by legislative Republicans 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. Other business proposals in the Legislature include a minimum wage increase and changes in the wage lien law that were approved by Democrats controlling the state Senate and are currently in the State Assembly.
I strongly encourage you to share your much-needed expertise at the next task force meeting:
Monday, March 23, 2009
9275 N. 49th St.
Brown Deer, WI
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Please RSVP your attendance to me. If you wish to testify and are unable to attend, please send me your testimony and I will make sure it is included with live testimony.
The WISCONSIN JOBS NOW Task Force continues its series of meetings this Monday in Brown Deer. A successful meeting was held on March 10, 2009 in Howard, near Green Bay.
I have written several blogs during the past two years recognizing Wal-Mart efforts at developing affordable heath care.
Wal-Mart has opened clinics staffed by certified nurse practitioners that treat common family illnesses such as sore throat, ear infection, seasonal allergies and bronchitis. Cholesterol screenings, TB testing and flu vaccinations are also available. Other retailers like Target, CVS, and Walgreens have followed suit. Wal-Mart has also revolutionized access to prescription drugs, offering $4 medications.
During May 2008, Jim Jubak, senior markets editor for MSN Money went so far as to recommended in a column that Wal-Mart run the health care system.
Now comes word from the Washington Post that Wal-Mart’s successful trend continues. The newspaper reports, “Washington policymakers contemplating a fundamental overhaul of the nation's troubled health-care system may want to study the saga of Wal-Mart. Once vilified for its stingy health benefits, the world's largest company has become an unlikely leader in the effort to provide affordable care without bankrupting employers, their workers or taxpayers in the process.”
Only 5.5 percent of Wal-Mart employees are un-insured, compared to the national rate of 18 percent. Wal-Mart has implemented digital records, and has teamed up with the renowned Mayo Clinic.
The Wal-Mart experience, though not perfect, has had more than enough progress to have observers calling the huge retailer an “innovator” and “leader” in health care. The public sector would be wise to pay attention.
Read more in the Washington Post.
Read my previous blogs on this issue:
Wal-Mart to the rescue
Walgreens follows Wal-Mart’s lead
Wal-Mart to the rescue, again
Business writer says Wal-Mart equipped to run health care system
Near the end of 2008, I blogged about a significant agreement that would streamline the review of cranberry marsh expansions in Wisconsin. The cranberry industry is one of the largest in Wisconsin. I wrote that, “The 2008 Wisconsin cranberry crop will be above earlier projections and demand for the berries is strong worldwide.”
The predictions were true. The Wisconsin State Journal reports cranberry production during 2008 was the highest on record. That is excellent news for our state!
John Fund of the Wall Street wrote during August 2007 that increasing regulations and licensing hinders entrepreneurs from opening new businesses and kills jobs. Wisconsin has a horrible ranking when it comes to restricting jobs and it could get worse.
A provision contained in the 2007-09 state budget gives the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing (DRL) the authority to establish fees for the professions the DRL regulates. DRL Secretary Celia Jackson has informed the co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee of the department’s new fees established for 2009-11. For the first time since 2001, fees are set to increase for over 100 DRL-regulated professions.
According to the Wheeler Report, “The base fee for all but a few new licenses will increase $22 to $75 from the current $53. Two-year renewals will range from $82 to a high of $170.”
The Joint Finance Committee has until Wednesday, February 18, 2009 to object to the fee increases or schedule a hearing to review the proposal.
The fee increases are business and job killers and should be rejected, especially during this time of layoffs and weakening economy.
I am thrilled to hear the wonderful news that United Heartland will build a new national headquarters in New Berlin and create 300 new jobs.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has details.
Congratulations to United Heartland and New Berlin!
The family ritual of climbing into the car, driving to a tree farm and cutting down a fresh Christmas tree is very good news for Wisconsin’s economy. That’s because the Christmas tree industry is big business in our state. Fresh Christmas trees generate over $50 million to the state economy every year according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.
Wisconsin ranks as the fifth largest Christmas tree producer in the country. About 1.8 million trees are sold every year. Wisconsin is also the third largest state nationally for acreage of Christmas trees grown.
Finding a Christmas tree farm to purchase a fresh tree is easy. There are 1,387 Christmas tree farms in the state selling any number of varieties of trees.
University of Wisconsin-Extension Racine County horticulture educator Patti Nagai says each acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people. For every tree chopped down, two or three more are planted. The trees are recyclable and when chipped or shredded make great mulch. So Christmas trees are good for the environment.
For more information, check out the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Growers Association.
Whenever a new economic report surfaces about Wisconsin, the news usually isn’t very good, whether it be about taxes, our business climate, per-capita income, or Tax Freedom Day. I have blogged extensively about these reports and the latest also shows some critical shortcomings.
The “2008 State New Economy Index” has been released by the nonpartisan groups, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
According to stateline.org, “The groups used 29 indicators to rank each state on how well its economy is structured to compete regionally, as well as globally. States at the top of the list tend to have a high concentration of workers in ‘knowledge jobs’ that require at least a two-year college degree, are at the forefront of the information technology and Internet revolutions and have institutions and residents that embrace the digital economy.”
When it comes to the New Economy, Wisconsin ranks number 33 among the states. The report defines the New Economy as, “a global, entrepreneurial, and knowledge-based economy in which the keys to success lie in the extent to which knowledge, technology, and innovation are embedded in products and services.”
More specifically, the New Ecomony is:
Knowledge-dependent. Knowledge workers have become the largest occupational category.
Global. More goods and services are being traded and exported.
Entrepreneurial. Most, if not all of the job growth in America is derived from companies that are less than five years old.
Rooted in information technologies. IT’s are every where, the most important technology engineering our economy, a key component in almost every sector.
Driven by innovation. Competition is heavily based on the ability to create and adopt new products and business models. As the report states, “Innovative capacity (derived through universities, Research & Development investments, scientists and engineers, and entrepreneurial drive) is increasingly what drives competitive success in the New Economy.”
The Midwest has failed to catch on to the New Economy with the exception of some our neighbors: Illinois (rank number 16), Michigan (rank number 17), and Minnesota (rank number 14).
Why is the “2008 State New Economy Index” important? The report says, “How closely do high scores correlate with economic growth? States that score higher appear to create jobs at a slightly faster rate than lower-ranking states. Higher New Economy scores were positively correlated with higher growth in state per-capita incomes between 2002 and 2006….states that embrace the New Economy can expect to sustain greater per-capita income growth for the foreseeable future.”
Solutions? We must keep our best and brightest here in Wisconsin and we must dramatically improve our business climate.
Here is the complete “2008 State New Economy Index.”
Wisconsin’s business tax climate continues to be one of the worst in the country. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has released its 2009 State Business Tax Climate Index, ranking Wisconsin number 38 (Wisconsin was number 39 last year). The annual study is significant because it demonstrates how states compare to one another in competitiveness.
Here are the five specific areas the Tax Foundation reviewed in each state to come up with its Index and how Wisconsin scored on each: corporate taxes (29), individual income taxes (44), sales taxes (18), unemployment insurance taxes (25), and property taxes (31).
American companies confront a double-whammy. They pay one of the highest corporate tax rates of any of the industrialized nations. The top federal rate on corporate income is 35 percent. On top of that, some states institute harsh tax systems that make competition difficult. Companies will go where they have the best advantage. As the Tax Foundation correctly reports, “States with the best tax systems will be the most competitive in attracting new businesses and most effective at generating economic and employment growth.”
While booming job creation overseas can’t be overlooked, the U.S. Department of Labor reports most significant job relocations are from one state to another. A state like Wisconsin must be more concerned about jobs moving to Indiana (Business tax climate number 14), Michigan (number 20) or Illinois (number 23) than India or China.
The ten states with the best business tax climates are, in order, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska, Florida, Montana, Texas, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Delaware. Wyoming, Nevada and South Dakota do not have corporate or individual income taxes. Alaska does not have individual income or state-level sales taxes. Florida and Texas do not have individual income taxes. New Hampshire, Delaware, Oregon and Montana do not have sales taxes. States that are able to draw adequate revenue without one of the major taxes will be more competitive than states that impose every possible tax.
Some factors contribute to Wisconsin’s poor ranking. The income level at which a state’s top rate kicks in determines what amount of income is subject to the top rate. Wisconsin scores badly here because it is one of the states that has arranged its multiple tax brackets so that the top rate takes effect in the middle range of income ($152,140).
Wisconsin has an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) that is modeled after the federal AMT. The Tax Foundation says the AMT is, “an inefficient way to prevent tax deductions and credits from totally eliminating tax liability,” that puts states like Wisconsin through, “needless tax complexity.”
Then there is our gas tax, the fourth highest in the country at 32.9 cents. Because gasoline constitutes a large expense, states with lower gas taxes are more competitive.
How can states like Wisconsin improve their business climates? What about tax incentives and subsidies? The Tax Foundation’s position and I concur, is that, “if a state needs to offer such packages, it is most likely covering for a woeful business tax climate. A far more effective approach is to systematically improve the business tax climate for the long term so as to improve the state's competitiveness.”
Surely, other factors play a role in a state’s business climate including how close it is to raw materials and transportation centers, the quality of schools, the skill of its workforce, and the state’s quality of life. Some of these areas lie beyond the scope of state lawmakers to directly control. However, legislators can make policy decisions that directly impact a sate’s tax system, and thus, the state’s business climate.
I agree with the Tax Foundation that writes:
“Taxes matter to business. Business taxes affect business decisions, job creation and retention, plant location, competitiveness, the transparency of the tax system, and the long-term health of a state's economy. Most importantly, taxes diminish profits. If taxes take a larger portion of profits, that cost is passed along to either consumers (through higher prices), workers (through lower wages or fewer jobs), or shareholders (through lower dividends or share value). Thus a state with lower tax costs will be more attractive to business investment, and more likely to experience economic growth.”
The best tax system is one that is simple and fair to all businesses that shuns excessive business taxes and keeps costs for adhering to the system down. Until Wisconsin adopts policies to enable a business climate that encourages growth, it will continue to have problems competing.
You can find the 2009 State Business Tax Climate Index here.
I am happy to update a recent blog that means great news for one of the state’s largest industries.
Cranberry producers have come to an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to streamline the permitting process for cranberry bogs. The agreement is significant, clearing the way for the creation of as many as 1,115 jobs and a $75 million impact on Wisconsin’s economy.
Here are more details from the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association and the Wausau Daily Herald.
Cranberries are big business in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Rapids now boasts having the largest cranberry producing plant in the world.
Our cranberry business could be even bigger if the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and cranberry growers can come to an agreement on expediting the permitting process to transform as many as 5,000 acres into cranberry bogs. An economic study prepared this year by University of Wisconsin economists has concluded that if Wisconsin’s cranberry industry were to add 5,000 new acres, the state would gain 1,115 new jobs and see an annual income increase of $75 million.
The CEO’s of Ocean Spray Cranberries and Cliffstar Corporation, two large and significant buyers of Wisconsin cranberries, have been discussing speeding up the process with Governor Doyle and the DNR so that cranberry expansion can take place in Wisconsin. Failure to come up with an agreement could send the cranberry companies to seek land in Canada, taking all the jobs and income that go along with the expanded fruit production.
A greater global demand for cranberries has necessitated the call for more bogs. The United States is exporting 30% of its crop to places like the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, China, and South Korea.
Wisconsin is an ideal place to grow and harvest cranberries and expand production. The state understands the business and already has plants in operation. Canada has plenty of land to convert into bogs, but lacks Wisconsin’s knowledge of the industry and processing plants.
Cultivating cranberries is time-consuming. The time it takes from beginning work on the land to the actual harvest is usually about three years. Add on the two-year permitting process in Wisconsin and one can understand the concerns of cranberry companies who can’t wait that long to satisfy global demand.
What is the hang-up? Some portions of the land that would be included in the Wisconsin expansion contain wetlands. Environmental groups are worried the wetlands will be destroyed. The CEO’s of Ocean Spray and Cliffstar insist they will replace any wetlands converted into cranberry bogs.
There is not a state in the entire country that produces more cranberries than Wisconsin. The Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association reports the cranberry is the state’s number one fruit in both value and acreage, providing an annual $350 million boost to the state economy and 7,200 jobs in Wisconsin. The Association also says in order to meet the rising worldwide demand for cranberries, an additional 110 million pounds, or 5,000 acres of berries must be produced in the next 5-10 years.
Wisconsin has a golden opportunity to expand one of our most successful industries, create jobs, and benefit the state economy. The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune reports there is progress in talks between the state and cranberry executives. I urge the involved parties to come to a mutual agreement soon that will be in the best interests of all, especially Wisconsin’s lucrative cranberry industry.
This summer, I blogged that the Wisconsin blueberry is a superfood. The Wisconsin cranberry is also a superfood with many health benefits.
Wisconsin continues its unfortunate pattern of being one of the worst states in the nation to do business.
Forbes.com has released its third annual Top States for Business report, and the news remains horrendous for Wisconsin. Wisconsin ranks #43 on the list of the best states for business. Wisconsin’s 2007 rank was #44 and its 2006 rank was #39.
Forbes.com rated the states on six different criteria: business costs, labor, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects, and quality of life.
Here is how Wisconsin ranked in each of the six categories:
1) Business Costs- Wisconsin ranks #37, down from #34 last year. This index is based on cost of labor, energy and taxes.
2) Labor-Wisconsin ranks #37, up from #38 last year. This index measures educational attainment, net migration and projected population growth.
3) Regulatory Environment- Wisconsin ranks #37, up from #44 last year. This index measures regulatory and tort climate, incentives, transportation and bond ratings.
4) Economic Climate-Wisconsin ranks #26, up from #38 last year. This index reflects job, income and gross state product growth as well as unemployment and presence of big companies.
5) Growth Prospects-Wisconsin ranks #46, down from #33 last year. This index reflects projected job, income and gross state product growth as well as business openings/closings and venture capital investments.
6) Quality of Life-Wisconsin ranks #16, down from #8 last year. This is an index of schools, health, crime, cost of living and poverty rates.
The rankings compiled by Forbes are revealing. Wisconsin continues its proud tradition of being a great place to live, given our high quality of life, although it is sad to see the state drop out the top ten in that category. In all other categories, Wisconsin’s business climate is woeful.
Wisconsin taxes and spends too much, the state over-regulates, our income growth rate is one of the lowest in the country, and the brain drain is costing us many of our best and brightest workers.
The Forbes.com report is another wake-up call to Wisconsin to take dramatic measures to significantly improve our business climate. How did surrounding states fare? Minnesota ranks #11, Iowa ranks #22, Indiana ranks #25, Ohio ranks #39, Illinois ranks #35, and Michigan ranks #47.
Here are all the state rankings and the full story from Forbes.com.
I am honored to be one of 32 state legislators that have a 100 percent voting record on business issues according to Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). The WMC says these legislators “clearly understand the connection between a strong economy and the quality of life we enjoy in Wisconsin. We salute these 100% pro-business legislators — they deserve our thanks and support.”
James A. Buchen, WMC vice president of government relations said, “These legislators are stalwart defenders of jobs for our families. Legislators who stand up for jobs time and again – especially with a slowing economy – are the true friends of working families. These legislators are stalwart defenders of jobs for our families.”
Here is a WMC press release and the complete WMC scorecard.