RACINE COUNTY — When it comes to jobs, everyone seems to agree: We need more.

But from a legislative standpoint, there are many roads to help reduce unemployment, such as investing in education or reducing taxes. So The Journal Times asked local legislators: How will you help improve the unemployment rate in Wisconsin, particularly Racine?

Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie

Invest in education (particularly technical school system) and wind energy.

“I was a big critic of the cuts that the Walker administration put in for, specifically, the technical school budget, so I think in that area clearly we have to find skilled workers for specific industry jobs out there. ... I would put more money back in for education. I think we are in a worldwide competition out there, and we simply have to have the best-trained workers to fill jobs.”

Additionally, “I would have the governor stop working against wind energy jobs in our state. We had a compromise, and he ruined the compromise, and it’s stopped new wind energy projects in our state. ... Gateway (Technical College) is actually training people in wind energy projects, and now those people have to go to different states to get employment instead of Wisconsin.”

Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine

Fully fund education, vocational training and transportation programs. Encourage private-public partnerships. Pass venture capital legislation.

“The focus should definitely be kind of three-fold: the K-12 system, technical college system and public-private partnerships to get the ball rolling. ... You’re really going after where the jobs are when you do that. There’s this gap between job openings and prepared people. At the same time, you have unemployment, and there are jobs sitting there.

“We’ve seen some real hits to the colleges, university and K-12 system under the Republicans, but that’s where I believe in the short, medium and long term, that’s where your best bet is.”

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha

Promote Wisconsin manufacturing “much like we promote tourism in this state.” Give incentives to prime contractors who use two and three-tier suppliers. Work with Gateway Technical College, the state district vocational board and the private sector to put forward a bill to “close the skills gap” by training job-seekers in the skills they need to get hired.

“There are 2 million jobs that can be filled immediately if people just have the skills to fill them. ... Those (listed above) are the bills that were left on the table this session. ... Those will be the first three that I introduce next session.”

Rep. David Craig, R-Big Bend

Simplify state tax code and streamline regulations.

“Wisconsin’s tax code is unnecessarily complex; we need to simplify the tax code for both businesses and individuals. Less deductions and flatter tax rates would bring more equity and transparency to the system. ... Our current tax structure hits small business profits which could otherwise be used to expand and create jobs. Lower tax rates would also make us more competitive with other states, and more attractive to potential job creators and investors.

“With Wisconsin’s current burdensome regulations and complex tax code, businesses are forced to hire experts just to help them comply with regulations and file their taxes. ... “When the state Legislature reconvenes in January, we need to hold hearings where every state agency must outline how they can streamline the regulatory environment in their purview while maintaining appropriate oversight where necessary.”

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester

Use legislation as tool to foster growth in private sector. Reassess government regulations. Train workers to meet job demands.

“While not one piece of legislation will spur economic growth, we will continue to work on ways to help the private sector grow. We need to increase assistance to small businesses and increase available loans to businesses. We also must take a closer look at government regulations that may be impeding the creation of small businesses. In addition, it’s important that we continue to find ways to better train our workers for the jobs that are in demand. Finally, I look forward to reforming our mining laws to allow for the creation of thousands of jobs throughout the state.”

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, could not be reached for comment.

Want to know where our area’s elected leaders stand on a different topic? Email comments or suggestions to alison.bauter@journaltimes.com or call (262) 631-1776.


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