One of the most important duties I have serving as your Governor is to provide you directly with updates related to the operation of our state government. I also frequently provide updates on Facebook (Governor Scott Walker) and Twitter (@govwalker). Please feel free to share this update with your family, friends, and others who may be interested in state government operations.
Legislature Passes "Wisconsin Fast Forward" Legislation
This week, state legislators showed overwhelming bipartisan support in passing Assembly Bill 14/Senate Bill 23, which supports workforce development. I asked the Legislature to work on this last month as part of a $100 million agenda to develop our state's workforce.
This bill is the next step in our efforts to ensure workers have the skills they need to fill the family-supporting jobs available now and in the future. Highlights of the Wisconsin Fast Forward legislation include:
Worker Training Grants: Funds $15 million GPR over the biennium for DWD grants to both public and private organizations, such as technical colleges, Workforce Investment Boards, regional economic development organizations, and Wisconsin businesses, and provides training to new and incumbent workers. These matching grants ensure businesses, as well as the state, are invested in the outcome of the worker training programs being funded. Other states, including Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Texas, currently have state-funded worker training programs; and Wisconsin not having one put us at a competitive disadvantage.
Office of Skills Development: Creates the Office of Skills Development at DWD and funds four full-time positions to administer the worker training grants. With the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Technical College System, economic development agencies, and businesses, the Office will quickly adjust training grants to current and changing workers' skill needs and emerging skill clusters, providing workers with a responsive, flexible, and valuable training resource.
Labor Market Information System: Develops a state-of-the-art Labor Market Information System through the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to track job vacancies and link unemployed workers to openings they are qualified to fill or to training they can complete to become qualified, helping the unemployed return to the workforce faster.
I would like to thank state lawmakers for their bipartisan support to help move Wisconsin forward as well as State Senator Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) and State Representative Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) for authoring the bill. The bill passed the Senate 33-0 and the Assembly vote last week was 94-4.
Access to a Great Education
Every child, regardless of income or geographical location, should have access to a great education. One way we can do that, in addition to providing incentive funding for high performing and rapidly improving schools, is to provide alternative educational opportunities to students who are enrolled in a district that has multiple failing schools. Parents should not be forced to send their children to schools that are failing to meet expectations.
While my budget contains funding specifically dedicated to failing schools, if they agree to create and implement a turnaround plan, that wasn't enough. For parents whose children are in districts where there are failing schools, I wanted to provide them with immediate additional choices. Specifically my budget plan expands the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program to school districts that have at least two D or F schools, at least 4,000 students enrolled, and at least 20 students applying to the program. Enrollment in new districts would be capped at 500 for fiscal year 2014 and 1,000 for fiscal year 2015. Only middle-income and low-income families are eligible for vouchers through this expanded program.
My goal is to empower parents to make decisions regarding their children's education. I will continue to advocate strongly for middle-class and low-income parents whose children are in school districts with more than one failing school. Providing additional educational opportunities to these families will ensure children all across the state have access to a great education.
Mining for Jobs Legislation
I would like to thank the legislature for sending me Senate Bill 1 to sign. This bill streamlines the mine permitting process, while keeping in place protections for clear air, clean land, and clean water.
A mine will be a lifeline to the people in northwestern Wisconsin, where the unemployment rate in Iron County is the 2nd highest in the state at 12.5 percent. But the benefits will be felt all across Wisconsin. We have the potential for $1.5 billion investment here in our state that could lead to as many as 3,000 construction-related jobs and 2,800 long-term jobs.
I would like to thank the legislature for their work in reviewing and streamlining the process for safe and environmentally sound mining in the state. The bill passed the Senate last week, and the Assembly vote this week was 58-39.
Recently, I joined with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to promote businesses choosing to relocate or expand in Wisconsin. Our business climate is improving and we need to continue fostering a pro-business environment in Wisconsin. Employers feel good about our state and are noticing that we are heading in the right direction.
Over the past two years, Wisconsin moved up 21 spots on Chief Executive Magazine's ranking of the best and worst states for business. CNBC moved us up to number 17 and Site Selection Magazine ranked our state as high as 13.
But there is more that needs to be done. My budget includes a $25 million proposal for investment capital initiatives. Studies show the majority of net new jobs come from businesses less than five years old, and the most limiting factor in developing these opportunities is the availability of new capital. We need to show we're serious about growing the economy in Wisconsin by ensuring startups have access to capital.
Currently, Wisconsin only has 0.36 percent of the nation's venture capital investments. Continued inaction increasingly puts Wisconsin as a competitive disadvantage. Start-ups are being creating all over the state and Wisconsin needs to be able to invest in these ventures to make sure small businesses in the state can thrive.
Click here to view WEDC's recent updates and video, "Why Wisconsin Works," to see how we are working to move Wisconsin forward. There are also good testimonials from business owners, who have grown and prospered here in Wisconsin.
It has been a pleasure communicating with you. It is an honor to serve as your Governor and represent the residents of Wisconsin.
Governor Scott Walker