Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday released drafts of five bills meant to create jobs. The legislation won’t directly help contractors, but industry lobbyists said any pro-business legislation would be a productive first step.
“There’s good stuff in there, and we’re supportive,” said Jim Boullion, director of government affairs for the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin Inc.
The legislation would reform job-related lawsuits, offer tax credits to moving businesses, expand the economic development tax credit from $75 million to $100 million and require a two-thirds supermajority for the state Assembly and Senate to approve tax increases. Another bill would focus on the affordability of health savings accounts.
These are changes that would promote job growth for all industries, Walker said.
“I believe it sends a clear message to businesses that tax increases are off the table,” Walker said Tuesday, just before meeting with his cabinet for the first time.
Besides the announced bills, though, Walker promised regulatory reform — a key issue to construction companies and trade groups — also will be on the table soon. Construction groups want fewer licensing requirements and restrictions on the work they perform.
Walker’s pledge to ease Wisconsin’s regulatory climate has drawn criticism from some Democrats, most notably Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, who has said he’s concerned about worker safety and the environment.
Barca also has questioned whether regulatory reform should be a priority for sparking employment growth.
Walker insisted it would help employers trying to add jobs.
“The more we can show them that things are going to be easier to do business in the state in the future,” he said, “the more I think they take that leap of faith and start putting people to work, even in the next few weeks.”
The special session should mark the beginning of a promising year for the industry, said John Mielke, vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin Inc.
“What I’m anticipating might be a two-stage process,” Mielke said. “I think you’ll get the shell in the special session and the filling in the budget bill (later this year). That’s probably the way it has to be done.”
In the meantime, Mielke, like Boullion, said he’s looking forward to sharing ideas with the Walker administration about how to increase construction work. Mielke also said he thinks Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch will be heavily involved in such discussions.
“If I were reading the tea leaves — and that’s all I’m doing — I would expect Rebecca Kleefisch will want to play a role connected to the economy and job growth,” Mielke said.
“That’s what she campaigned on, and I think there’s a lot of leeway in the lieutenant governor’s position to identify priorities.”
Walker administration spokesman Cullen Werwie did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kleefisch’s role.
While Walker has asked the Legislature to pass bills related to his jobs plan by February, he said Tuesday that just having the bills in writing sends a message to businesses that it’s time to start hiring.
“I would argue that the most immediate impact is not just going to be from (legislation),” Walker said. “It’s going to be from the reaction of employers who see a change.”