By Shelley Nelson
As the race for 7th District congressional seat heats up, Democratic candidate, state Sen. Julie Lassa of Stevens Point is turning her attention to jobs.
Lassa has created a three-tier plan to get Wisconsinites and the nation back to work.
With unemployment in Wisconsin stagnant at 7.9 percent between July and August statewide and the nation facing a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, Lassa said jobs must be a priority.
"The first [goal] is stopping the bleeding," Lassa said.
She said her priorities include closing tax loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas, promoting Wisconsin and United States goods in government contracting and reforming job-killing trade deals like NAFTA to level the playing field for U.S. companies and workers.
"This is all wrapped into ending the failed Washington policies," Lassa said.
The plan includes getting tough on China. Currently, she said the nation has a $227 billion trade deficit with China because of the way they manipulate the Yuan, and shipping products and dumping them in the market.
"We've seen with the paper mills where they're subsidizing their paper and dumping it over here for less than what they can make it for," Lassa said. "That impacts not only the paper mills and the workers, but the timber industry and everything. We really need to get tough on China and make sure they stop those practices."
Part of the problem with trade agreements like NAFTA is that the agreements are not being enforced. She said the agreements need to be enforced and reformed to help put American businesses and workers on a level playing field with other countries.
"What you have is this race to the bottom, where you have wages that are being lowered, benefits are being dropped and what those agreements should do is encourage workers in other countries to be lifted up in terms of wages, environmental standards," Lassa said. "We shouldn't be lowering our standards to second and third world countries. I don't see how that benefits Wisconsin workers or businesses at all."
The second phase of the proposal to create jobs targets incentives to middle class workers and their families and Main Street businesses.
"The incentives I am calling for would create a payroll tax holiday for expanding small businesses," Lassa said. "So if a small business would add employees, there would be a payroll tax holiday for them."
Incentives would also be used to empower entrepreneurs, such as expanding deductions for startups. The plan includes expanding access to credit for businesses.
"I know from traveling the district both small and mid-size businesses are having trouble accessing credit in order to expand or make the purchases that they want to make at their business," Lassa said. "That's why I believe we need to foster partnerships between Main Street businesses and community banks to make that link to get access to the capital."
The third tier of the plan would work to ensure success.
Lassa said fostering mentorships, and creating and expanding business incubators would also be a priority to ensure businesses and entrepreneurs are successful in their endeavors.
"It's to make sure that our strategy is pro-business and pro-worker, Lassa said.
Clean energy is one area where Wisconsin has the potential to grow its economy.
Currently, Wisconsin is among the top five states in the nation when it comes to coal imports for energy, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists. And Wisconsin spends about $16 billion annually to import energy into the state.
"What I'm calling for is the creation of a revolving loan fund for small and mid-sized manufacturers to invest in new equipment" to manufacture components to build the state's clean energy industry, Lassa said. She said the fund would also allow manufacturers to invest in energy efficiency.
"This is a very dynamic, emerging industry and is something that I believe could really revitalize Wisconsin's manufacturers and create thousands of jobs," Lassa said. "It not only helps us in terms of jobs, but it puts us in better stead in terms of our national security and moving to a much cleaner energy source."
Money would also be designated to educate the workforce for the emerging industry.
"I've put a lot of work into this plan," Lassa said.