Eyes on Evers


Tony Evers

Gov. Scott Walker and his economic agenda enjoyed strong support from Wisconsin business leaders. But that wasn’t enough for him to win re-election to a third term.

Tony Evers

Many in the state’s business community are skeptical his replacement, state schools superintendent Tony Evers, can do a better job for the Wisconsin economy.

As always, one of the biggest concerns for business owners is taxes. Evers expressed openness to increasing the gas tax and taxes on the wealthy, but then shortly before Election Day said he was not planning to raise any taxes.

That prompted Kurt Bauer, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s chamber of commerce with 3,800 member businesses, to blast Evers.

“Evers has spent the last six months repeatedly talking about his plans to raise taxes on manufacturing jobs, raise taxes on farmers, raise taxes on small businesses, raise property taxes and raise the gas tax by as much as $1 per gallon,” Bauer said. “Apparently, he is hoping voters have amnesia and won’t remember his frequent promises to raise taxes.”

But after the election, Bauer issued a more conciliatory statement on Evers.

“WMC congratulates Governor-elect Tony Evers on his victory,” Bauer’s statement said. “As it was before the election, Wisconsin’s workforce shortage is still the No. 1 issue facing our state’s business community. We worked with Governor-elect Evers on this issue in his capacity as state superintendent, and we look forward to working with him on it and other issues as governor.”

The workforce shortage is indeed a major issue for the state. Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate of 3 percent has been good for workers, but businesses across the state are struggling to find people they need to fill positions.

Job and economic growth in the state have been solid, but not spectacular compared to other states. The state’s GDP growth led the Midwest during the first quarter, but was one of the lowest in the nation during the second quarter. The state ranked 42nd for job growth over the last 12 months.

Walker’s boldest move to grow Wisconsin’s economy was to offer a $3 billion incentive package to attract Foxconn, which is building a 20 million-square-foot LCD screen manufacturing complex in Mount Pleasant that could eventually employ 13,000.

Foxconn will be a crucial test for Evers, who was critical of the deal cut by Walker. Evers has said he wants to improve oversight of the company. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he and Republicans in the Legislature won’t let Evers “screw up” the Foxconn deal.

With Republicans in control of the Legislature, Evers will have to find a way to compromise to get anything done. One possibility is a deal on transportation funding. Walker and the Legislature were unable agree on a plan to address the shortfall in the state’s transportation fund. A long-term solution is needed, and an infrastructure upgrade would be appreciated by the state’s businesses.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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