Business leaders speak out on Doyle
Southeastern Wisconsin business executives seem to have a prevailing sense of "we’ll wait and see" as they ponder the notion of Democrat Jim Doyle as governor.
Reactions among a handful of members of the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) range from outright pessimism to exuberant optimism about a Doyle administration.
"I just hope he keeps his campaign promise of no news taxes, but I just get the impression he’s going to just shift it around. I get the feeling we’re just going to shift the burden to the wealthy suburbs, instead of the city.
"We’re overtaxed as it is. It’s hard enough to do business in the state. I think he’s just going to shift the burden to somebody else. I just got a 47% property tax increase on my building here. I’m not optimistic."
– Steven Balistreri, president and owner, Sun Cleaning Systems, Milwaukee and Madison
"I think the big focus for the Milwaukee area is economic development, and that has so many manifestations, from creating jobs to getting monies to the municipalities from the state, and we need to look at the entire picture of development.
"Just because our economy is in a slump at the moment doesn’t mean we can’t be thinking of the future, because it isn’t going to be in a slump forever. The convention center, the hotels downtown …. We’ve got to worry as a community about the Marquette Interchange and what that is going to do to the immediate future of Milwaukee when they close the ramps down. So, I think those are huge issues.
"I think he’s in a very tough spot. I think if he’s a visionary leader, he’s going to see beyond the immediate problems and form some development task forces to look at these issues. I’m an architect, and I’m always optimistic, by nature. This recession can’t last too much longer. They never do, and the work of the world must go on."
– Charles Engberg, partner & president, Engberg Anderson Design Partnership, Milwaukee
"For me, so far in everything I’ve heard, I’m very optimistic. The issue of holding the line on taxes to make us competitive sounds very good. I don’t envy him in trying to keep that promise, because I’ve had to balance my own budget, and sometimes that means rethinking your model, and that’s something government’s not used to doing.
"God bless him. Talk about a cultural change, he’s got his hands full. That’s the first time I’ve heard those words from a Democrat, and being a strong Republican, I’ve got to support him. I think he resonates very well in the business community. With those cabinet appointments, he’s open. He’s put people around him to give him the full view."
– Peter Gottsacker, president, Wixon Fontarome, St. Francis
"Clearly, he’s walked into a difficult fiscal situation, and I hope he maintains his promises of not raising taxes, and therefore I think this only alternative is to cut spending. I’m encouraged by some of his cabinet appointments. I think there’s integrity and intelligence there, kind of outsiders, if you will, from business and the public sector. It’s the ability to make changes, to make recommendations and have those recommendations truly enacted that is the test. I remain guardedly optimistic. We’ll have to wait and see."
– Mike Mahoney, chairman & president, Park Bank, Milwaukee
"The school situation is exacerbated, you might say, by the bargaining units’ unwillingness to give up or modify more health benefits, and consequently, the non-represented employees are the ones who get their direct or indirect compensation reduced. How does he solve that problem?
"What we need to do is get the unions to agree, like everyone else, to cut their health care benefits. The fact of the matter is, the WEAC (Wisconsin Education Association Council) is supportive of him, and they have no plans to make any serious modifications, so consequently the non-bargaining units are paying the price.
"I am pessimistic. There are four heart hospitals under construction in Milwaukee as we speak. Not only do we not need new heart hospitals, we don’t need a new program. We don’t need them. I mean, think about it. Where are they going to get the nurses? I would like the state to establish an updated certificate of needs program."
– Arvid "Dick" Tilmar, chairman & CEO, T.E. Brennan Co., Milwaukee & Madison
"I don’t know if he has the courage to stay within his convictions. It seems to me, he’s talking about some significant tax cuts and not raising taxes. Then I heard right off the bat he gave his own cabinet guys a raise. I think, in order for him to be successful, he’s going to have to be real unpopular, and then he’ll be a one-term governor.
"With me, the jury’s still out. I’m being optimistic as I can, as a Republican. I guess I’m cautiously optimistic. If we as business people ran our businesses like the government does, we’d be broke in no time.
"It’s hard to fathom how that (budget deficit) happened. He has to either raise taxes or cut government spending in the budget. He has a deficit that leaves him only one thing to do if he’s going to have the courage to do what he promised."
– Gary Zimmerman, president, Creative Business Interiors, West Allis
By Steve Jagler, of SBT
Jan. 24, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee