Local lawmakers help set Walker’s jobs agenda
Written by Nathan Vine, Stevens Point Journal Media
 
Bills written by two central Wisconsin lawmakers are helping shape Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs agenda for the 2013-14 legislative session.
 
Speaking Wednesday at the third annual Governor’s Small Business Summit at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center in Stevens Point, Walker highlighted eight bills – including one authored by Rep. Katrina Shankland and another by Rep. Scott Krug – that focused on workforce development. The bills call for $8.5 million in new state funding, and build upon $100 million already committed to workforce development in the 2013-15 state budget.
 
A bill co-written by Shankland, D-Stevens Point, would invest nearly $4 million in state funds for vocational rehabilitation services for people with special needs. The investment is expected to be matched with $14 million in federal funding over the next two years.
 
Shankla
nd said the bill would help disabled people with job searches and help them with transportation and other assistance when they do find jobs. She said that up to 4,000 people could receive assistance through the bill during the next two years.
 
“From the numbers perspective, the bill is a no-brainer because of the federal funding we could receive,” Shankland said. “Getting people with special needs the assistance they need to get into the workforce will help the economy, and I’m pleased that the governor is supporting it.”
 
A bill co-authored by Krug, R-Rome, would create the Technical Excellence Higher Education Scholarship, which would be awarded to top high school technical-education students.
 
The state currently has a similar scholarship, the Academic Excellence Higher Education Scholarship, that awards cash to high school students with the highest grade point averages in each public and private school throughout the state. The governor’s office said just 16 of 726 students used their scholarships to attend state technical schools in the 2012-13 school year.
 
 “We need to address the skills gap in the state, and that means helping students who are interested in a trade go on to a technical school and build their skills,” Krug said.
 
Local school boards would set criteria for winning the new scholarships, which first would be awarded in the 2015-16 school year.
 
Walker said the bills package represents his goal for workforce development, which is to get people off of unemployment benefits.
 
“There are two ways to put not only you as small-business owners, but your potential employees in a better position,” Walker said to the crowd at Wednesday’s summit. “We can help create a better business climate, which in many cases is us getting out of the way. The other part is us being a better partner with you by making sure every kid in the state has access to a great educational system and improving how we run programs that help people in temporary need of assistance from the government.”