At a press conference yesterday, Democratic State Sen. Chris Larson of Milwaukee and Democratic State Rep. Cory Mason of Racine introduced the Wisconsin Jobs Initiative. The introduction of the Wisconsin Jobs Initiative comes on the heels of failed efforts by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican-controlled rubber stamp legislature to make any progress creating jobs in Wisconsin, efforts that have yielded months of private sector job losses and an unemployment rate that’s higher now than when Gov. Walker was inaugurated.
Here’s some details on the Wisconsin Jobs Initiative, as well as statements by Rep. Mason and Sen. Larson:
The Wisconsin Jobs Initiative will provide job skills training and education to at least 35,000 Wisconsin workers through a significant investment in Wisconsin’s Technical College System (WTCS). The bill would replace the $34.2 million cut from the WTCS in the biennial budget. It also allocates $35.8 million in grants to provide skill training and education, assist dislocated workers, and expand capacity at technical colleges statewide. Preference for the grants will be given to areas of the state with high unemployment.
Rep. Mason said, “Wisconsin’s employers have joined the chorus of voices calling for a skilled workforce. A significant investment in our state’s workers is long overdue. I am proud to stand with Wisconsin’s struggling workers and employers during these challenging economic times. This bill gives employers what they say they need most right now: skilled workers. This initiative allows us to stand by the workers and companies who built the Wisconsin economy and help them grow in the future.”
“Governor Walker’s cuts to education forced Wisconsin’s technical colleges to scale back important job training. As a result, companies like Caterpillar have family-supporting jobs available but lack the right skilled workers to fill them,” said Sen. Larson. “This legislation will help in the short-term by providing Wisconsinites with vital job training to get our neighbors back to work and provide our local businesses long-term with the qualified, skilled applicants they need for years to come.”
The bill proposed by Sen. Larson and Rep. Mason would pay for the investment in Wisconsin’s Technical College System through the creation of a new top income tax rate for those tax filers whose annual incomes exceed $1 million. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) there are approximately 2,900 Wisconsin tax filers who would be impacted by this change, which would generate at least $70 million in new revenue in its first year.
Obviously the creation of a new top tax bracket for Wisconsin’s richest citizens will make the Wisconsin Jobs Initiative a non-starter for Republicans in the legislature, because God forbid the rich actually share some of the sacrifice during these tough economic times, but I think there’s a lot to be said for bolstering Wisconsin’s Technical College System, which has traditionally been one of the nation’s strongest technical college systems.