Wisconsin Assembly Democrats Unveil "15 Bills for 2015"
By Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI
MADISON, Wis. - Clean energy, nanotechnology and "buy Wisconsin" proposals are among the 15 items Wisconsin Assembly Democrats have unveiled as part of what they are calling their economic-opportunity agenda for 2015.
Assistant Democratic Leader Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point says the plan puts middle-class families front and center, saying it's all about expanding and creating economic opportunity for all.
"Our constituents tell us no matter how hard they work, maybe they're working extra hours or more than one job, they feel like they just can't get ahead," says Shankland. "That's because of two things: we've seen declining wage growth and declining economic growth. We want to grow long-term family-supporting jobs, and our '15 for 2015' package does that."
Republican leadership responded to the plan, calling it recycled ideas to increase the size of government and increase government spending. The Democrats' plan is a counterpoint to the Republican budget and includes investment in small business, expanding rural broadband access, strengthening "Buy Wisconsin" programs and increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
Shankland says Wisconsin continues to lag behind most of the nation in job and wage growth, while running up one of the largest budget deficits in the country. She says the Legislature needs to focus on creating the jobs of the future.
"Nanotechnology and clean energy are both industry sectors that we see growing very quickly and pay well," she says. "Creating a nanotechnology hub and establishing a clean-energy jobs task force to promote and incentivize clean energy jobs are both really great proposals that I would hope would see bipartisan support."
The plan also calls for full restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families and for funding Farm-To-School grants to help connect local farmers with local school districts, a program the Republican majority cut in the last state budget.