Job creation is key to Wisconsin governor’s race

On the heels of the Great Recession, it is becoming increasingly clear that the most important issue shaping the 2010 Wisconsin governor’s race is the creation of jobs.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate for governor of Wisconsin, unveiled his jobs plan for the state last week, focusing on targeted tax cuts to businesses that create jobs.

Shortly after Barrett announced his jobs plans, the Republicans running for governor criticized it.

A central component of Barrett’s plan is that tax cuts and other incentives for businesses must be directly linked to creating jobs, he said.

“Everyone understands that businesses create jobs, but we can build an even stronger economy in Wisconsin with a full partner in the governor’s office paving the way,” Barrett said. “We need ideas and action to get Wisconsin’s economy moving. We need policies that will trigger the creation of jobs immediately – not vague promises to create jobs in the distant future. And we need a comprehensive plan that will build long-term economic success – not simplistic solutions and slogans.”

As part of his jobs plan, Barrett also said as governor he would: launch construction projects for infrastructure, reduce “red tape” that slows new construction projects, increase research and development expenditures, create a state venture capital fund, make investments in new technologies to lower energy costs, invest in dairy production and processing, invest in workforce training, develop a rapid-response team to serve companies looking to expand and create a business-to-business connector database. Barrett also said he would order a performance review of the state’s economic development programs to determine what works, and what does not.

The campaigns for the Republican candidates for governor blasted Barrett’s jobs plan.

“Why would anyone believe Tom Barrett now has a plan to create jobs when he obviously hasn’t implemented one for the past six years as Milwaukee’s mayor?” said Mark Neumann, a former congressman. “Milwaukee and Wisconsin have bled tens of thousands of jobs under the watch of career politicians and insider politics. The last thing Wisconsin needs is the Tom Barrett model for economic development spreading across the entire state. I’m an outsider with private sector experience. I’ve created hundreds of Wisconsin jobs as a small business owner. When I served briefly in Congress in the 1990s, I put conservative principles into action by cutting waste, balancing the budget, and lowering taxes, which spurred job growth. That’s my conservative plan if elected governor.”

Keith Gilkes, the campaign manager for Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, the other Republican candidate for governor, said Barrett’s plan relies on government, not people, to create jobs.

“Tom Barrett has raised taxes in Madison, in Washington, and in Milwaukee, and the recent Doyle-Barrett water rate hikes are now threatening to drive away the 1,5000 jobs at MillerCoors,” Gilkes said. “Barrett is lock step with (current governor) Jim Doyle in supporting the same type of big government thinking that got us into this mess to begin with – a love for a boondoggle $810 million taxpayer funded train from Milwaukee to Madison, and going gaga for a global warming bill that threatens to cost Wisconsin 43,000 jobs.”

Walker, who says his plan would create 250,000 new jobs in Wisconsin, will be the featured guest at the Milwaukee Press Club’s next Newsmaker Luncheon on Friday, June 11.

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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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