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Blog Series: Changing of the Guard - Wisconsin

Chaaron Pearson on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 12:00:00 am

The 2010 election that swept the GOP into the majority in the U.S. House also brought about big changes in governor’s mansions and state legislatures.  Over the coming weeks, ACCE’s Policy Clearinghouse Blog will highlight some of the states that had significant change in political power after the 2010 elections.  We’ll talk with chambers to find out what opportunities and challenges they anticipate with the new state administrations.  First up is Wisconsin.

Wisconsin saw big electoral changes in 2010.  Democrats lost control of the Governorship and both houses of the legislature.  With a solid mandate from the electorate, new governor Scott Walker has ambitious plans for the Badger State.  I spoke to a few of our chamber friends in Wisconsin to see how they feel about the election results and what lies ahead for their policy agendas.

Steve Baas, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) Government Affairs Director, feels good about the new administration and the new legislative leadership.  They are looking forward to a broad shift in philosophy to one focused on empowering entrepreneurs and relying on the free market to create jobs, economic development and wealth.  That holds great opportunity for fundamental changes in the tax, regulatory and litigation climate in Wisconsin that MMAC has supported for years. 

Kevin Little, Director of Public Policy at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, says that they are optimistic, but also anticipate some challenges ahead.  They are encouraged by some of the job creation proposals being lead by incoming Governor Scott Walker and other state leaders.  Some of the proposals include a change in the state’s commerce department, new and expanded tax credits for business expansion and other regulatory and legal changes to protect businesses.

Little does raise a potential challenge that his community might face with the change in power.  Madison is home to the state’s flagship university, which is also one of the top research universities in the country.  They have earned that reputation thanks to the medical research on campus; some of which – like embryonic stem cell research – can be controversial.  They do anticipate legislative efforts to restrict this research, which the chamber will strongly oppose.

Baas sees the biggest challenge facing the new administration is finding way to balance the budget in the face of a $3 billion deficit left by their predecessors.

Like with any administration, Little says that the Madison Chamber can’t predict total agreement, but they are pleased that the first order of business is jobs and finding ways to ensure that Wisconsin is a place that grows and retains businesses. 

Bass and the Milwaukee chamber are looking to play more offense and focus on moving their agenda items forward.  Though their agenda remains fundamentally the same because it is driven by issues and not ideology, this political landscape could prove to be favorable.

A long time member of ACCE, Paul Jadin, President of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and former mayor of Green Bay, will be leaving his post in late January to join the new administration as Wisconsin’s newest Secretary of Commerce. 

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