By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers will propose more than $329 million in new economic development initiatives as part of his state budget proposal on Tuesday, including a new $100 million venture capital fund to help startups and $200 million to assist small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
Evers released details of his economic development plan on Sunday. He will submit his two-year state budget proposal to the Republican-controlled Legislature on Tuesday, which will then spend months reworking it before passing its own version this summer.
Evers, a Democrat, said the economic development proposals are designed to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans have blamed Evers for hurting businesses with his “safer at home” order last year that forced all non-essential businesses to close. Republicans successfully challenged the order, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down in May, after it had been in effect less than two months.
“Over the past year, our small businesses have seen the effects of this pandemic firsthand,” Evers said in a statement. “These investments will ensure our main street businesses, our workers, and our state bounce back and better than before by helping folks recover from this pandemic while investing in new innovation and startups.”
Securing capital for new business startups has been an ongoing issue for years in Wisconsin. Evers is proposing a new $100 million venture capital program that will make awards of up to $25 million. Recipients must match the award with private money and invest in Wisconsin. At least 20% of the money being managed will be invested in minority-owned or women-only firms.
The plan calls for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to create an oversight board to manage the program.
Evers is also calling for an additional $200 million to go to WEDC to assist businesses in recovering from the pandemic, including assistance for job retention and hiring. He also wants to increase an existing block grant at WEDC by $10 million, for a total of $51.5 million a year, that’s used for a wide range of programs.
His budget will include:
- $10 million to promote entrepreneurship in underserved communities, including minority and women-owned businesses.
- nearly $10 million for a new program within the Department of Workforce Development to help people overcome barriers to meaningful employment.
- $8 million for pandemic recovery grants to local workforce development boards.
- $8 million for organizations focused on local or regional economic development.
- $10 million for the Fast Forward program to support training for individuals, businesses, and organizations affected by the pandemic.
- $1 million more for training through that program targeting jobs in conservation and sustainability.
- using $780,000 in tribal gambling revenue to support businesses and communities among the state’s 11 American Indian tribes.
- $500,000 to expand youth apprenticeship opportunities.
Evers has announced several other budget proposals ahead of the release of his plan on Tuesday. That includes accepting federal Medicaid expansion to help pay for $150 million in mental health programs; legalizing medical and recreational marijuana; lowering prescription drug costs; creating a $500 caregiver income tax credit as part of a $600 million investment in long-term care; allowing counties and larger cities to impose a new half-cent sale tax; and expanding programs to benefit agriculture and rural Wisconsin.