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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

New pro-business attitude comes to Madison

I wrote the following piece for the latest edition of Conservative Digest that includes articles by Governor-elect Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor-elect Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senator Mary Lazich, state Senator Glenn Grothman, state Representative Jim Ott, Congressman Paul Ryan, Congressman Tom Petri, Reza Kahlili of, Sarah Palin, Rich Lowry of the National Review, and James Wigderson.

To hear Zach Brandon’s assessment, one would believe Wisconsin’s outlook for job creation and retention is quite rosy.

Brandon, Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce under Governor Jim Doyle, was addressing the Special Legislative Council Study Committee on Strategic Job Creation at the state Capitol on August 25, 2010. The committee assignment, in part, was to “study and make recommendations to promote strategic development of high-wage jobs and an educated and skilled workforce in the state.” One of the proposed methods to bolster job creation was to promote “green jobs and industries utilizing solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass technologies, including technologies for converting farm wastes to energy.” The committee’s mission was flawed from the very beginning.

Controlled by legislative Democrats, the committee stacked the invited panel of experts with public sector representatives, including Brandon who committee members, “
Wisconsin has put together some of the most powerful economic development tools in the country.” In clinical fashion, Brandon rattled off a litany of available state tax credits, grants, loans and bonding for business owners. Wisconsin’s reputation of being uncompetitive was no more, Brandon claimed. Why, just the previous week, the governor had lured a southern company to Fond du Lac.

Sitting, observing, and listening in the hearing room, my skepticism-meter was jumping. Joanna Richard, Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development also had me shaking my head when she called the massive federal stimulus expenditures a “God-send.” Apparently Richard either dismissed or ignored an Associated Press analysis from earlier this year that found, “A federal spending surge of more than $20 billion for roads and bridges in President Barack Obama's first stimulus has had no effect on local unemployment rates” and that “it didn't matter if a lot of money was spent on highways or none at all: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless. The stimulus spending only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry.”

During the all-day hearing, there were no slides, charts, graphs, power point presentations or even mentions about Wisconsin’s abysmal business climate, rated as one of the ten worst among all states by The Tax Foundation, rules and regulations that have put a stranglehold on businesses, and our horrendous budget deficit and tax and spending fever.

Committee Chair, state Senator Robert Wirch (R-Kenosha) couldn’t hold back from chuckling when he informed everyone that the committee had specifically invited two representatives from the private sector to testify but both cancelled. Too bad. The committee could have gotten a necessary earful. The Business Services page on the state of Wisconsin web site says, “Wisconsin is a great state for business.” Not if you talk to people who actually run businesses.

In early 2009, legislative Republicans convened a roundtable in Brown Deer of close to three dozen business owners from SE Wisconsin who laid their position out in no uncertain terms and unanimously: State government is hostile to job creators.  The businesspeople noted they were scared, they feared losing everything, they have never felt welcome here by state government, they are demonized because they make profits, and they are capitalists, not, as one businessperson put it, “a faceless bastard.”

Is Wisconsin a great place to live? “Yes,” said one speaker, “if we can survive.”

Badger State businesses that confront one government obstacle after another to prosperity have little in their arsenal. They can stay and gut it out and struggle to avoid passing cost increases onto customers. Or they can pack up and take their operations to any of the 40-plus states that treat their businesses more favorably. Expansion here has not been an option as wary business owners sit back and wait to see if the economy brightens, in part, because of a change in the political landscape. That change has come in the form of a steamrolling Republican takeover of Madison.

If you run a business, the message should be crystal clear: You now have loyal friends in the new Governor and the people controlling the state Senate and state Assembly. There’s an entirely new attitude about doing business in Wisconsin that, coupled with state policymakers making the right moves, should be the blueprint for true job creation and retention the previous party in power never understood.

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