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Walker unveils economic development proposal

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday he is recommitting to a $75 million economic development loan fund in his next budget, as well as increasing the amount of money dedicated to attracting international tourism and bolstering entrepreneurs in Wisconsin.

While Walker unveiled some parts of his agenda at an economic development conference, he said work on the biggest piece is ongoing. It involves determining how a venture capital fund, available to investors of startup companies, will be structured and funded.

Walker reiterated his commitment to his 2010 campaign promise to create 250,000 private sector jobs by 2015, vowing not to back away from fulfilling it even in the midst of economic uncertainty that he says was created by protests over his collective bargaining proposal, his recall election and others, and the threat of going over the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

“In Wisconsin, we don’t make excuses, we get results,” Walker told state and local economic development officials meeting at a convention center near the Capitol.

Wisconsin ranked 42nd in private-sector job creation, based on the latest government data released last month and covering the 12-month period from June 2011 to June 2012.

A focus of Walker’s job creation agenda has been to increase the amount of money, known as venture capital, available to help new businesses grow in the state. Such investments typically carry high risk but also the potential for high returns.

A $400 million venture capital plan was put forward in 2011, but it died amid disagreement among politicians and special interest groups about how the program would work.

Walker said his new proposal will not include certified capital companies, known as CAPCOs. Those companies generated controversy over their handling of state money under a previous state venture capital program.

The head of the semi-private state agency in charge of economic development in November requested $200 million from the state pension fund to help pay for venture capital. That request was rejected and Walker’s spokesman has said that will not be pursued.

Walker said Thursday that he didn’t know whether the venture capital plan would be in his budget or be a separate bill. The parameters of the fund, including the amount, also remained in flux, he said.

Walker did unveil other parts of his economic development agenda that will be in the budget he releases on Feb. 20. Those include:

- Providing an additional $75 million to an existing tax credit program designed to encourage businesses to expand and retain jobs, invest in job training and remain located in Wisconsin.

- Adding nearly $11 million over two years to support a marketing program that promotes Wisconsin as a place to do business.

- Investing nearly $6 million in programs that support high-potential entrepreneurs and businesses.

- Lifting the maximum $47.5 million cap on a tax credit program focused on encouraging private investment in startup companies. An annual limit remains, so the move would essentially allow the program to continue indefinitely.

- Allocating $500,000 to a program designed to help veterans start their own businesses.

- Starting a $100,000 annual program to attract international visitors to Wisconsin.

- Providing $75,000 a year to attract national meetings, conventions and sporting events to Wisconsin.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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