We normally discuss Wisconsin’s economy in terms of economic development programs administered by the state. An inclusive economy designed to improve the standard of living for the people of the state starts with the household, not attracting outside investors.
Five critical areas need our attention if we are to support and sustain families.
- Housing. And housing is first. Without affordable and safe homes, children struggle to learn, health care is compromised, and employment opportunities are compromised. Wisconsin does not have a housing program – the last-minute Walker initiative to provide tax credits in a limited number of communities is too little too late. Utah, Arizona, and Minnesota have housing programs and so can we. There should be a state-wide initiative to eliminate homelessness in every county in the state. That should be augmented by a commitment to build affordable workforce and starter homes. The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) does an excellent job with the federal low-income housing tax credit program but it is a federal program in short supply. We can use tax credits, expansion of TIF revenues, housing bonds to support affordable housing construction and renovation in every county.
- Transportation. Both urban and rural areas of the state lack adequate transportation resources. New jobs must be accessible. State transportation needs vary from road construction, and public transit, to sidewalks and bicycles lanes. We need to raise the gasoline tax, create Regional Transportation Authorities with taxing power, and establish a state inter-county ride system with proper safety standards.
- Quality Child Care. Wisconsin children in rural and urban areas are falling behind the nation. Quality child care is essential and it requires good wages for trained and skilled staff.
- Health Care. The Walker years must be reversed, and Wisconsin must embrace the Affordable Health Care Act, accept Medicaid funding and expansion, join the marketplace and make sure there is access to health care statewide. Our objective is single payer. Often overlooked aspects of health care are behavioral health and nutrition. Our neglect of our mental health system means too many communities rely on local police departments. Expansion of school food programs, especially during the summer is critical. Hungry children suffer -- they do not thrive and do not learn.
- Education and Job Training. We must renew our commitment to our public schools. Two of the essential elements for quality education already exist in Wisconsin: concerned parents and a quality teaching staff. Now we must invest in our outdated public schools and restore a liberal arts education to every district in the state. Our kids must learn how to think. That means offering quality recreational, athletic and cultural programming as well as academics. Higher education is critical to job development. Greater funding is needed for job, trade, and apprentice programs, and our universities and colleges.
Unemployment is low nationwide, but Wisconsin is 34th out of 50 in job creation, and has one of the worst records when it comes to the shrinking middle class.
In Madison we will successfully finish our three-year program in 2019 to establish a minimum wage for city employees of $15 per hour. Here is what I will do as Governor to improve wages statewide:
- Put the state on a three year plan to raise the minimum wage for state government employees $15 per hour.
- Raise the minimum wage for all workers in Wisconsin to $12 an hour. I would want to talk with economists as to what is a reasonable phase-in period that leads to $15 an hour by 2022.
- Adopt a state policy to ensure that no company gets state financial incentives unless they agree that for all jobs created, there is a minimum wage of $15 an hour, full health insurance benefits, and an acceptable pension plan. The incentives would be a fraction of what was provided to Foxconn.
State Development Programs
- In partnership with the private sector, through a competitive bid process I will ensure we bring broadband – high speed internet – to every part of the state. The public sector portion would probably cost $500 million, a fraction of what's being doled out to Foxconn. We wired the state for landline telephones and electricity 100 years ago: high speed broadband is just as critical today.
- Develop a sense of place in every community. Let's focus on what entrepreneurs want for their own families when they make location decisions: great public schools, transportation systems, safe and healthy communities with an emphasis on recreational and cultural opportunities, and a clean and sustainable environment. Notice in that list I did not include starting "a race to the bottom" by lowering taxes.
- End the race-to-the-bottom. We must stop handing out bankrupting tax packages to foreign companies. Jobs are created by locally owned small businesses, not large corporations that require $250,000 subsidies per job.
Wisconsin should recognize what experts say. First if you want to create jobs, support small locally owned businesses. They create jobs at the fraction of the price of a Foxconn. Second, the investment should not be in the big corporation but in the needs of the community: roads, schools, clean water.
Wisconsin has a rich history of investing in cooperatives. We have them in financial services – our credit unions and mutual insurance companies -- and in agriculture, energy, and worker-owned businesses like engineering firms and taxi cab companies. We could take $250 million, a fraction of the cost of Foxconn, and invest in cooperative businesses. Then we would not have to worry about the jobs moving out of state, conglomerates buying them out, and the wealth created belongs to our people. They in turn, will make local purchases, pay taxes, and make contributions to their favorite Wisconsin charities.
Public Markets, Family Farms, and Food Aggregation
Wisconsin family farms are a source of healthy food, a vibrant economy, and the high community standards. Special treatment for corporate farms is destroying our family farms, the environment and our state’s best source of fresh healthy food.
Wisconsin needs an agriculture policy that encourages the profitability and economic security of the family farm. That means protecting diary prices, insurance against natural disasters, and making sure that markets are accessible.
Wisconsin needs a food policy, one that will lead to regional year-round public markets in every area of the state and accompanied by improved aggregation and transportation centers for locally grown crops. A successful program can be implemented for $200 million, a fraction of the $4 billion for Foxconn, with profits for Wisconsinites.
Wisconsin is the home of the hardest working people in the United States. They deserve the fair share of their labor. They deserve safe working conditions and the knowledge that their job is secure. To ensure that they are fairly compensated, we will not only raise the minimum wage but also will restore collective bargaining rights to Wisconsin workers, and that will include honoring prevailing wage and labor peace agreements.