Former congressman Mark Neumann, a Republican candidate for governor of Wisconsin, told the audience at the Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon this week that his goal is to make Wisconsin the best place in the world to do business.
Neumann says he would accomplish this goal by reducing government spending, cutting taxes and improving regulation of business in the state.
“I would like to roll back the Doyle tax increases,” he said. Neumann said he also wants to cut income and sales taxes “across the board.”
He also says he would form an economic development team of Wisconsin business leaders that would travel to other states that are attracting jobs and find out how they are doing so. Neumann said his administration would create a strategic plan to attract business and jobs to Wisconsin that improves on the methods of other growing states.
Then the state would use an extensive marketing plan to promote its business attraction initiatives, he said.
“We need to improve our business climate,” Neumann said. “My vision is for Wisconsin to be the best place in the country and the best place in the world to do business. We will measure that objective by seeing if we are attracting more jobs than any other state in the country.”
Neumman said his administration would do an extensive cost-benefit analysis of any incentive package that the state provides to attract a business.
Neumann is the owner of Waukesha-based Neumann Companies Inc., which has developed homes and subdivisions in southeastern Wisconsin.
Neumann says his experience as a business owner is a major differente between the other candidates for governor, Republican Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and Democrat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whose careers have been in politics.
“I am looking forward to sitting down across the table from business owners and discussing with them, it their own language, what it will take to bring business and jobs here,” Neumann said.
As a business owner, Neumann said he is well aware of the impact that the state’s taxes and regulations have on economic development.
“The rules and red tape, to say nothing of taxation, are out of control in our state,” he said. “We deal with it all the time.”
Neumann also said he wants to appoint people with private sector experience to serve as the heads of state departments.
“The people making these (government) rules need to understand there is a very real impact on the private sector,” he said.
Neumann compared the state’s budget deficit to the federal government’s budget deficit when he was elected to Congress in 1994.
If the state keeps its overall annual spending increases below inflation at about 2 percent, and revenues increase from inflation and the post recession economic recovery, the state will have budget surplus that could be used for tax cuts to create more economic growth, Neumann said. The same approach was used with the federal government in the 1990s, he said.
Demonstrating his desire to keep spending low, Neumann said he would kill the Milwaukee to Madison high speed rail project, despite the $810 million pledged for it by the Obama administration. The federal government can’t afford the project and the state should not spend money to operate a high speed rail line, Neumann said.
“I would absolutely stop the (high speed rail) project,” he said.
Neumann also said he opposes any government proposals to mandate the use of alternative energy sources, including the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act, which aims to have 25 percent of the state’s energy sources come from alternative sources by 2025.
Entrepreneurs creating their own innovations in the private sector will allow the state to meet that alternative energy goal without government mandates, Neumann said.
“Let the free market system work,” he said. “We will not only achieve (the Clean Energy Jobs Act) goals, we’ll go far beyond that.”
Neumann has his own experience with alternative energy. His own company has developed homes that he says produce their own energy.
Other private sector innovations, and not government initiatives, will dramatically transform the nation’s energy usage during the next generation, Neumann said. He compared future alternative energy development to the dramatic changes in computers, which were once the size of rooms and could do little, but now can fit in a person’s pocket and have far greater capabilities.
“The market will drive us to the (energy) solution if we get government out of the way,” Neumann said. “I do not envision the United States of America depending on foreign oil a generation from today.”
If the state Legislature remains in control of the Democrats, Neumann says he could still accomplish his goals, again citing his experience in Congress during the Clinton Administration.
However, Neumann predicted that the Democrats will lose control of the Legislature because they opposed Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care reform package approved recently by Congress.
“I’m optimistic we are going to have a Republican Assembly and Senate,” he said.
Andrew Weiland is the managing editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.