From “Scott Walker’s tax cut plan passes Senate, likely to become law” —Madison — Senate Republicans Tuesday narrowly passed Gov. Scott Walker’s $541 million tax cut proposal in a vote that guaranteed the cuts will become law.

The tax decreases — the third round of cuts by Republicans in less than a year — passed 17-15 with GOP Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center joining all Democrats in voting against the proposal. The proposal now goes to the Assembly, which passed a different version of the tax cuts last month with two Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting it.

With growing tax collections now expected to give the state a $1billion budget surplus in June 2015, Walker’s bill will cut property and income taxes for families and businesses, and zero out all income taxes for manufacturers in the state.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said his party was delivering on a promise to hold down taxes for the people of the state.

“The bottom line is what a great day for the state of Wisconsin — to finally be out of what was a dark time for Wisconsin,” Fitzgerald said, referring to the recent recession.

GOP lawmakers and Walker will use the unexpected windfall for the state as an occasion to trim overall state spending slightly for the next three years rather than increase it.

The votes on the tax cuts, which have split almost entirely along partisan lines in the Legislature, highlight the growing split between the two parties’ visions for the state.

Walker’s initial tax cut proposal would have drawn down the expected surplus and left the state budget in somewhat worse financial position in the future as measured by one commonly used method. To win over a holdout GOP senator concerned about the state’s finances, Walker agreed last month to cut state spending by $38 million to help offset the tax cuts.

Also Tuesday, the Senate voted unanimously to pass a second bill to increase spending on worker training by $35.4 million through June 2015.

Walker’s plan for the surplus prioritizes the tax cuts and a roughly $320 million overhaul of income tax withholding over calls from Democrats to decrease more than $1 billion in borrowing, strengthen the state budget and offset past cuts to schools. Democrats said that was a better approach to running state government and boosting the state’s economy.

“The property tax burden absolutely weighs down the citizens of our state,” Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said. “But you know what else weighs down the citizens of this state? Not having a job.”

Under Walker’s bill, the average income tax filer would receive a tax cut of $46 in April 2015 and the typical homeowner would save $131 over the existing law on this December’s bills, according to the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office.

Also, the governor has separately had his administration alter income tax withholding rates so workers have less taken out of each paycheck — about $520 a year for a married couple making a total of $80,000 a year — starting in April.

“The more money that we give back to the taxpayers, the more money they can spend or save as they wish and the more our economy will grow,” said Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairwoman of the Legislature’s budget committee.

The bill would also lower income taxes for factory and farm owners by $36.8 million over the current two-year budget and $91.3 million over the following two years.

GOP supporters of this manufacturing tax cut in the bill see it as fuel for one of the state’s main economic engines.

Democratic opponents see it as a giveaway with a dubious payback to some of the richest people in the state, averaging about $800 for roughly 30,000 tax filers in 2015.

The deal between Walker and GOP senators would also use what is essentially an accounting maneuver to keep a chunk of the surplus — more than $100 million — in the state’s main account rather than shifting it to a rainy day fund.

Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and bicycle company executive running against Walker, has said the state should use about half of the surplus to set aside more money in the rainy day fund and reduce the state’s $2billion in new borrowing through June 2015. She would use the remainder for property tax relief and worker training programs.

Burke’s plan for property tax relief and separate plans put forward by Assembly and Senate Democrats would all funnel more money toward a state credit for parcels with a home or business on them. That would ensure low- and middle-income homeowners see bigger tax cuts than they would under Walker’s plan.

Republicans have said this so-called first dollar tax credit provides no relief to those who own undeveloped land and could draw a legal challenge to the credit if it is increased again.

Senate Democrats Tuesday offered their own plan for the budget surplus that would:

■ Provide a one-time property tax cut of $500 million through the first dollar credit. That means homeowners wouldn’t get the tax decrease in future years.

■ Double the transfer of money to the state’s rainy day fund by adding $228.7 million.

■ Provide $100 million more to the Wisconsin Technical College System and additional funding for rural K-12 schools and special needs students to offset past cuts to those areas.

■ Not provide the tax cut to manufacturers and not cut down on the amount of extra income taxes that the state is withholding.

The proposal would cut the state’s budget deficit in the next two-year budget to zero, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

“It’s hard to look past the next election toward the long-term interests of the state,” Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said. “Let’s transcend the politics.”

From “Candidate tours tech: Democrat running for governor discusses worker education, jobs” — By Joe Knight Leader-Telegram staff – Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Thursday she supports a proposal by her opponent, Gov. Scott Walker, to spend $35 million to help the state’s technical colleges provide additional training for high-demand jobs.

She also supports the governor’s initiative to find work for people with developmental disabilities.

However, Burke said the proposal would require future funding for technical colleges to keep those efforts ongoing.

Burke spoke briefly with reporters during a tour of high-tech industrial programs at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Gateway Campus. She criticized Walker for cutting $71 million from technical colleges in the first budget he oversaw as governor “just at the time when our technical colleges needed a boost.”

At the time Walker said budget cuts were needed because of a $3 billion state budget shortfall.

Burke said the types of high-tech manufacturing skills being taught at CVTC would help the middle class and would help grow the state’s economy. She spent time speaking with CVTC students, asking them about their career aspirations.

Jamie Rasmussen, a 35-year-old CVTC welding student, said more funding for CVTC programs will help more of them receive the training they need to find jobs.

Asked whether the process she observed Thursday could help build bicycles, Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and a former commerce secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said she wasn’t sure but noted Trek works closely with technical colleges in southern Wisconsin.

From “Governor Walker signs two bills at CVTC ceremony” — Governor Scott Walker signed two bills into law Tuesday aimed at increasing the number of students who graduate ready to enter the workforce.

The bills signed at a ceremony at the Chippewa Valley Technical College Manufacturing Education Center in Eau Claire create a scholarship program for students who demonstrate excellence in technical education, and create incentives for K-12 school districts to graduate students with industry-approved technical certificates.

“Many employers are still facing a shortage of skilled labor, while too many of our neighbors are still unemployed or underemployed,” Governor Walker said. “Our emphasis on workforce development looks to find a solution to both situations.”

“These bills are a positive for the K-12 system, they are a positive for the technical college system, and they are a positive for the business community. I call that a win-win-win,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker.

Act 59 provides incentive grants to school districts that promote career and technical education programs. On an annual basis, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will work with the Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Technical College System to identify industry sectors that are facing workforce shortages including shortages of adequately trained, entry-level workers.

For every pupil who completes an approved, industry-recognized certification program, the DPI will award grants of $1,000 per pupil to school districts. Grants will be available beginning in the 2014–15 school year.

“This will be a great incentive for K-12 systems to create programs or expand programs, or to work with the technical college system on dual-credit programs,” Barker said.

Act 60 awards scholarships in conjunction with the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) to students of excellence who are enrolled fulltime at a technical college. Between one and six scholarships will be available at each school, depending on the number of students. HEAB will fund $1,125 of the scholarship with a matching contribution from the technical college.

“We want to provide an equal incentive to some of our students with outstanding technical skills. We want our best and brightest not only in our universities, but in our technical colleges,” Walker said.


From “Walker signs bills encouraging more technical education” — Governor Scott Walker visited the Chippewa Valley Technical College to sign bipartisan bills SB 334 and SB331 into law today.

The first one provides scholarships to promising students who are looking go in technical education fields. The second sets up a grant program to help high schools provide more students with advanced technical educational opportunities.

He says there is a tremendous need in our state to train workers for the jobs that are available. Many of those open jobs are in technical fields like IT, health care and manufacturing.

“We want our best and our brightest not only in our four year colleges and universities; we want them in our technical colleges as well” Walker said.

Walker added, “The earlier we start people thinking about those career paths, the earlier we will see what they are good at and plug them that, the more likely they are going to be to fill those positions in the future.”

But we all know education and training is expensive, and that’s where Walker says these grants and scholarship will help bridge the gap.

“That’s not only good for education it’s good for the economy,” said Walker.

SB331 sets up an incentive grant program to have career and technical education programs in high schools. It says schools will get $1000 for each student enrolled in an advanced technical program.

Chippewa Valley President Bruce Barker says he hopes the legislation will also help build more partnerships between high schools and tech colleges across the state.

“The entire technical college system was created to meet the employment and training needs our business and industry that was specific design so programs like this again highlight that partnership,” said Barker.


From “Gov. Scott Walker visits Lakeshore Tech. College on Wednesday” — Governor Scott Walker toured Lakeshore Technical College on Wednesday, November 6th to learn about their apprenticeship program and mobile training lab.  Lakeshore Technical College is hosting a two-week public open house of its facilities and lab to celebrate Manufacturing Month.

“Lakeshore Technical College is providing critical, high-quality training to students, employees, and high school teachers,” Governor Walker said.  “We need partners in the technical college system and business community to make our commitment to worker training a success.  Manufacturing Month was about more than just touring technical colleges and manufacturing companies. We wanted to take the opportunity to emphasize how a job in manufacturing is a great family-supporting career and one that is full of highly skilled and innovative workers.”

Lakeshore Technical College offers training to high school students, summer training for high school teachers, and assessments of workers’ skills and competencies.

Their mobile lab allows the college to provide on-site training in industrial maintenance and programmable logic controls.

The lab also helps high school students earn up to five credits in the electro-mechanical technology program; these credits help students enter the workforce quickly after graduation.

The fall legislative agenda includes additional investments in apprenticeship training, incentives for high school students who graduate with job ready credentials, and scholarships for students at technical colleges.

Additionally, the budget provided funding for career planning beginning in 6th grade.

Many times our students do not understand the potential a career in manufacturing can have for them.  These investments are part of our commitment to growing the manufacturing industry and ensuring our students are ready for a career as soon as they enter the workforce.

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From “Walker: ‘Manufacturing Matters'” — Wisconsin is open for business. Manufacturers are welcome.

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College hosted over 150 people, including Gov. Scott Walker, during a Manufacturing Month event Monday morning, Oct. 21.

“I think manufacturing matters,” Walker told his receptive audience, which included area dignitaries and high school students. “I think it has been a proud part of our state’s history, but more importantly I think it is going to be an even more dynamic part of our state’s future.

“We just got to make sure we have people ready to fill those positions.”

The event was made possible in part due to the efforts of the Southwest Wisconsin Chamber Alliance, a new collaboration of six Chamber of Commerce groups (Dodgeville, Fennimore, Lancaster, Mineral Point, Platteville and Prairie du Chien).

“As an advocate for all of our businesses and communities, we endorse southwest Wisconsin as an economically feasible region to start or relocate a business,” said Southwest Wisconsin Chamber Alliance co-chair Robert Moses. “Our goal for today is to bring a higher level of awareness for the manufacturing opportunities in southwest Wisconsin.”

In his opening remarks, Southwest Tech President Dr. Duane Ford noted several successes the College has enjoyed relating to manufacturing since 2011.

Southwest Tech has increased the number of workers it trains per year by more than 63 percent since 2009. In addition, the College has developed two new programs.

One program assists maintenance technicians to understand how the machines they utilize network with computer systems. The second helps electricians work in specialized environments of dairy and food manufacturing plants.

Ford noted Southwest Tech has benefited from more than $3.93 million in support from 27 different private, state and federal grants.

“What ensures our success is when employers, economies and state governments work in partnership,” he said. “So thank you, manufacturers, and thank you Governor Walker and Secretary [Reggie] Newson, as well as members of the legislature.”

Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) of the 51st Assembly District and Lee Nersion (R-Westby) of the 96th Assembly District were among those in attendance. Jeff Curry attended on behalf of Rep. Travis Tranel, who is currently traveling abroad in Taiwan.

Walker has toured other Wisconsin Technical College System schools this month, where Ford believes the governor has heard similar success stories.

“Southwest Tech’s story is not at all unique,” he said. “All 16 of Wisconsin’s technical colleges are at the heart of workforce, economic and community development within their local districts.

“All 16 listen and respond. All 16 succeed via productive partnerships with numerous private and public stakeholders. And all 16 are this month celebrating successes similar to what you see in southwest Wisconsin.”

Walker proclaimed October as Manufacturing Month to recognize the contributions of the state’s manufacturing employers and workers and to highlight manufacturing as a valuable career pathway.

“Our focus in October is on manufacturing, but really our focus needs to be all year around,” he said Monday morning.

“There are two key industries that drive this state’s economy: one is manufacturing and the other is agriculture.
“There are some great opportunities to grow and expand in that regard.”

Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector contributes nearly $50 billion a year to Wisconsin’s economy and ranks second in the country in the relative size of its manufacturing sector, which employed more than 450,000 workers as of July 2013.

Walker told the audience when it comes to manufacturing in Wisconsin, there are many key areas the state government can help.

“One is lowering the cost of doing business in Wisconsin,” he said. “More often than not, it is just getting out of the way.

Walker noted he signed into law Sunday a property tax relief bill. The two-year, $100 million increase in state school aid is projected to save $13 for the typical homeowner this December.

He also mentioned the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit, which is available for income derived from manufacturing or agricultural property in the state. It will offset a share of Wisconsin income taxes.

In 2016, the credit will increase to 7.5 percent.

“When you lower the cost of doing business, you put money into the hands of people, as consumers, and into the hands of employers,” Walker said. “That makes tremendous business.

“The time is right for us for us, particularly when it comes to manufacturing, to make a case that we have a pretty compelling argument to be in the state of Wisconsin.”

Walker also explained the state aims to become a better partner in the role of education.

“When it comes to manufacturing, one of the things we did, in particular in this budget, is we put funding in so we in the future can start as early as sixth grade, doing academic and career planning,” he said.

The state’s technical colleges will also be counted on to play a role.

“We want to stress when it comes to manufacturing, how important it is to have good technical colleges focused on advanced manufacturing, healthcare and IT, those are the areas with the biggest work shortages in Wisconsin,” he said. “We think filling those positions, and putting more resources in our technical colleges and worker training programs are key to economic growth and ultimately more jobs in the state.”

Walker said some members of his generation are in need of a “wake up call” in regards to the changes in manufacturing.

“If you look in the state of Wisconsin, the average manufacturing job will pay $52,000 a year,” he said. “That’s 25 percent higher than all jobs out there.

“It’s not just a higher salary, 87 percent of all manufacturing jobs have benefits, compared to 72 percent of jobs statewide.”

The turnover rate in manufacturing careers is 4.7 percent, compared to 8.1 percent across all jobs, Walker pointed out.

“Manufacturing is the place, and we need to do a better job of selling that, particularly to schools,” he said. “There is a tremendous need and opportunity out there, and it is only going to get bigger.”

The third and final area Walker indicated the state could assist manufacturing is in infrastructure.

“You need a good transportation system to get product from market,” he said. “That is why we invested $6.4 billion in the state’s transportation system this year.

“Whether you are a manufacturer, whether you are a cheese maker, or a dairy farmer, or anything else, you have got to have a good transportation system. And it has to be in all parts of the state of Wisconsin, not just around the big cities.”

In closing, Walker referenced a voluntary portal for employers to list job openings. Many of the 30,000 to 40,000 jobs listed weekly are manufacturing jobs.

“Consistently, we hear from manufacturers that one of the challenges is not that they don’t have jobs open, they do, the challenge is not having enough training to fill those jobs,” Walker said. “So we got people looking for work over here, and we got jobs over here.

“We need to do more to connect the dots, to make that connection.”

Following his remarks, Walker told the media gathered it is an exciting time to be a young person in Wisconsin, but also an exciting time as Governor, as he tours the state and learns success stories.

“Today is a good example, you have a great crowd here. You have some young people, you have some businesses,” he said. “It is similar to when I was earlier in the year was over at Cabela’s and we saw some of the students involved in the Gold Collar program, and saw the partnerships not just with Cabela’s but other businesses that were partnering with that as well.

“What I like about what you see at Southwest Tech, and you see it at other great technical colleges around the state, is a very real connection between the technical college and employers in that region. And I think that is the key to success.

“We can’t just have people going through courses, whether it is in our technical colleges or for that matter our University of Wisconsin system. We have got to have a focus on, what are the needs, what kind of perspective employees are employers looking for and how do we help make sure there are more?”

From “State leaders encourage students to consider manufacturing jobs” — GRAND RAPIDS — State and local leaders are encouraging students across Wisconsin to consider manufacturing jobs when planning their academic future.

As a major part of the state’s workforce, manufacturing jobs play a key role in growing the economy, Gov. Scott Walker told students today as part of the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce’s Heavy Metal Bus Tour, which gave dozens of south Wood County middle and high school students the chance to tour local manufacturing plants and hear about the industry.

“I’d love to have it in every community, connected with every technical college and employers in every part of the state of Wisconsin, just because it’s a great opportunity to open the eyes of not only students, but really of parents, of guidance counselors and others to see there are great careers — not just jobs — but great careers in manufacturing,” Walker said during a lunchtime stop at Mid-State Technical College’s Wisconsin Rapids campus. “Getting these kids interested early on is key to this.”

The local event coincided with October Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin, which is designed to spur job creation through the promotion of manufacturing as a career. Nearly 75 seventh- through 10th-graders from across south Wood County participated in the bus tour, which took them to Domtar Corp., Corenso North America, Tweet Garot Mechanical and Mariani Packing Co., said Melissa Reichert, president of the Wisconsin Rapids-based chamber.

“They’re learning all kinds of things about the great careers that are here in central Wisconsin,” Reichert said. “These are good-paying jobs that average over $52,000 a year, and these companies are hiring.”

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and state Rep. Scott Krug, R-Rome, also participated in today’s event.

The state should financially support programs that make technical education more affordable and expose students to the importance of manufacturing — through hands-on learning and other activities — at an earlier age, Krug said.

“We’re looking to close that financial gap (and) make sure it’s accessible to everybody,” he said. “Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, those programs are important … (in) helping local employers fill those jobs they have open right now. It’s a no-lose situation, and it’s a small investment for the state to make.”

On a more local level, Mid-State Technical College continues to work with local employers and other agencies to help address the so-called “skills gap” — the difference between the qualifications company leaders are looking for and the skills potential workers possess, MSTC President Sue Budjac said.

“When we talk to employers in manufacturing, what they’re telling us is that in the very near future, they’re going to have retirements on a massive scale, and they are going to need skilled and qualified workers to fill in behind those retirees that are going to be leaving their industry,” Budjac said. “We are adjusting our curriculum — the content and our courses — in ways so that we make sure that we’re responsive and delivering the skill set that they need.”

Such local efforts — one of two programs in the state and three rural sites nationwide — can serve as a model for other parts of the state as a successful partnership between private-sector employers and post-secondary education and training institutions in order to help spur workforce development that meets employers’ needs, Walker said.

“The more frequent (the) communication, the more partnership there is, the more shared accountability there is; employers will step up and put money and time and resources and equipment, in many cases, behind technical colleges that are responding to the needs that they have with the jobs they have right now as well as those in the future.”

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