By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed one of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals that bolsters money for workforce training and pays for the creation of a database to better match job seekers with openings.
No one spoke out against the Republican-sponsored bill that also easily passed the Assembly on a 94-4 vote last week. The proposal is part of Walker’s larger economic development agenda designed to make Wisconsin more competitive worldwide while also training workers to fill openings in growing sectors of the economy.
The measure would make $15 million available for job training grants over the next two years. Public and private organizations may be required to provide matching funds for the grants, which could be used to train both new and current employees in certain high-demand areas.
The state Department of Workforce Development would oversee the grants and also create the new database by next year to help fill jobs in high-demand areas more quickly. The bill gives the department $5 million to operate the program and database.
“It’s a solid marriage between public sector, private sector and state government,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac.
Walker promised in the 2010 campaign, and has reiterated since, that he will create 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of 2014. He was about 212,500 jobs short of meeting that target at the end of 2012.
Wisconsin ranked 42nd in private sector job creation, based on the latest government data released last month that covered the 12-month period from June 2011 to June 2012.
Democrats have criticized Walker’s focus, noting that the funding increase for worker training that he’s proposing doesn’t come close to making up for the hundreds of millions in dollars in cuts made two years ago to the University of Wisconsin and state technical college systems.
Other parts of Walker’s economic development agenda that are a part of his state budget proposal include recommitting to a $75 million tax credit program to encourage business expansion and job retention; setting aside $25 million to invest in startup companies through a venture capital fund; adding $11 million to support a marketing program that promotes Wisconsin as a place to do business; and investing nearly $6 million in programs that support high-potential entrepreneurs and businesses.
A more controversial part of Walker’s economic agenda, which is also included in his budget, is a proposal that would require the state’s nearly 76,000 food stamps recipients to enroll in job-training programs.
Walker’s budget will be dissected by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee over the next three months and isn’t likely to be debated by the Legislature until June.
The measure would make $15 million available for job training grants over the next two years.
Public and private organizations that provide matching funds would be eligible for grants, which could be used to train both new and current employees.
The state Department of Workforce Development would oversee the grants and also create the new database to help fill jobs in high-demand areas.
The bill now heads to Walker for his consideration.