Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Column: An Opportunity Lost?

Here is my latest column...


Recently, the Wall Street Journal described how truck manufacturer Oshkosh Corporation was awarded a $1 billion defense contract to build a Humvee-like vehicle for use by troops in Afghanistan. The article gives an overview of how the Wisconsin-based company landed such a huge government contract and its impact on the labor market in the Fox Valley.

I, for one, could not be happier for Oshkosh Truck, the city, and the entire valley. This contact alone is expected to create 500 to 600 new jobs; great news for a city with an unemployment rate hovering around 8 percent.

Undoubtedly, it’s a great story, but could it have been better? Should it have been?

Oshkosh Truck had been preparing for the possibility of landing this contact for months. Engineers had been working around the clock to ensure its design, and its bid for the work, would best its competitors. As a private sector company it had to be prepared for anything, have an answer for any question, a solution for any problem or complication.

Their hard work paid off when Oshkosh Corporation was awarded the sole contact that could ultimately be worth upwards of $12 billion. The contract was so big in fact, the company’s Wisconsin facility could not handle all of the workload. In addition to hiring hundreds of people here, the company recalled over 500 laid-off employees in Pennsylvania. Terrific news for people in the Keystone State, but could those jobs have been created here?

If Governor Doyle thought more like the people at Oshkosh Truck, being prepared for anything, expecting the unexpected, he would have done something, anything to keep those jobs in Wisconsin in the months leading up to the contract announcement?

The Governor’s lack of a plan has once again hurt Wisconsin. If he would have thought of the folks in Janesville the story of Oshkosh Truck may have been even better. He should have been prepared to offer tax cuts, credits, exemptions, anything to put our citizens back to work and encourage Oshkosh Truck to retool the Janesville GM plant to help build the new vehicle.

Governor Doyle isn’t leading the gang that couldn’t shoot straight; he’s leading the gang that won’t shoot. Retaining and creating jobs is more than putting on a show, sending a letter or making one phone call to a CEO when the newspaper reports the tale of yet another company leaving Wisconsin. The tale of economic development is; if it’s in the paper it’s already too late.

When Thomas Industries left Sheboygan for Louisiana, the Governor said he personally called the company. That’s not going to cut it. The cost of doing business in Louisiana was less than Wisconsin. The company could save millions in labor costs by relocating. The decision to move was a no brainier from the business side.

Ultimately that’s the side of the equation the Governor Doyle doesn’t get. He doesn’t understand it, it’s outside of his comfort zone and that’s why he refuses to engage with the business community.

Right now we need a Governor that understands business and what it takes to create real jobs. 1,200 people lost their jobs when the Janesville General Motors plant closed. The city has an unemployment rate of 13.2%. Do you think Janesville could use a Governor that knows how to create real jobs?

I believe we lost a real opportunity to put Wisconsinites back to work on a large scale. The question about Jim Doyle now becomes: will he be ready the next time?


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Texas-Sized Problem

A week or so ago I wrote a column called “My Friend the Lawyer.” The column was based on a conversation with a friend who told me some of his clients were considering leaving Wisconsin in favor of lower-taxed states in the southwestern United States.

The response to the column was a bit unexpected.

The Democrat’s got defensive, which on its own is not unusual. I’d be a little sensitive too if I had to face my constituents after raising taxes and fees by $2.1 billion, bumping up property taxes by $1.5 billion, significantly increasing state spending and making it nearly impossible for Wisconsin businesses to create jobs.

Also not entirely surprising was a liberal special interest group attacking me for having the gall to point out that we’ve reached the tipping point in our state; people and businesses are leaving because we’re taxed too much and the job climate is only going to get worse. You would think if they really believed the Democrat’s budget was good for economic development, job creation and the future of our state they would want the media to remain focused on the budget and all the good is was doing. In reality the Democrats and like-minded third party groups are talking about anything but the budget.

The really unexpected bit started to arrive in my e-mail inbox a day or so after the article was posted on my website. Mixed in with contacts from my senate district were three e-mails from Texas. Not the Town of Texas, Wisconsin in Marathon County, represented by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, but the State of Texas; Austin, Lubbock and Sachse to be precise.

Unlike the Democrats who attacked my column and my take on their budget, the Texans liked it. They appreciated that someone recognized the benefits of lower taxes. One person went as far to express disappointment that the Democrat’s tax and spend policies are “not only ruining wonderful places like Wisconsin, they have infiltrated [Washington] DC, and will soon have our national economy, and worse the entire country on its knees if they have their way with us.”

If people in Texas understand what is happening here in Wisconsin why can’t our legislative Democrats understand?

If you were having trouble making ends meet, living pay check to pay check, would you go out and buy a more expensive car and increase your monthly payment? I would hope not, but that’s what the Democrats did this year. Their budget increased state spending 6.8%. To make matters worse, this week, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau published a report indicating our state’s structural deficit is now over $2.0 billion.

So in the last few weeks, the Democrats negotiated a deal amongst themselves to increase taxes, increase spending and grow the deficit and are now pretending like it never happened. They have shifted their focus to other things, like keeping an arm’s length away from $5.0 billion in new taxes before their constituents figure who is responsible.

Maybe if Senator Russ Decker and the Democrats would have focused more on the 1,700 people living in the Town of Texas, Wisconsin we wouldn’t have to worry about good Wisconsin businesses moving to the Lone Star State. Until they realize we have to keep job creating businesses right here at home, we are going to have a Texas-sized problem on our hands for years to come.