Tough economic news highlights need for bipartisan jobs focus
With the next legislative session just weeks away, it is time for us to devote serious focus to the most important issue facing Wisconsin—creating good-paying jobs and doing so as quickly as possible.
If we don’t act now in a bipartisan manner on stimulating job growth and closing the skills gap, Wisconsin will continue to fall further behind our neighbors and the country as a whole. We’re already seeing evidence of what a lack of focus on jobs is doing to our state.
In its annual list of “Best States for Business,” Forbes magazine ranked Wisconsin 42nd for 2012, down from 40th the previous year. Forbes also projects that Wisconsin will have the second-worst job growth in the nation through 2016.
In a survey released last month by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, one in five of its member companies indicated plans to cut jobs over the next six months. That is the highest percentage reported by this survey since the height of the recession in 2009.
Federal jobs numbers also show Wisconsin had the second-worst job growth in the country during the past year. And the nonpartisan fact-checker Politifact gave Gov. Walker its worst rating for his claim that nearly 100,000 private-sector jobs had been created in Wisconsin since he took office.
The governor’s centerpiece campaign promise was to create 250,000 jobs. He went as far as saying he would tattoo that number on his cabinet secretaries’ foreheads. But he has not had the aggressiveness and focus necessary to keep that promise.
Numerous factors are behind Wisconsin’s lackluster jobs performance during the past few years. Between Republicans spending more time on divisive social issues and the state’s job creation agency being plagued by a revolving door of leadership, poor management and the lack of a business plan, it’s not surprising that so many people are still looking for work.
In the first week of the last legislative session, Democrats introduced a package of bills designed to help put people back to work quickly. We also put forward legislation during the past session designed to close the skills gap and connect workers with available jobs. We intend to re-introduce many of these same proposals this session.
Clearly we cannot afford another two years like the last two years. But we are committed to finding solutions to our most pressing problems and creating a stable, prosperous economy and secure future for middle-class families.
Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, is the Assembly’s Democratic leader. Write to him at Room 201 West, state Capitol, P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708; phone 608-266-5504 or 888-534-0064.