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Progress over Politics
Last week, Wisconsin Democrats announced their plans to launch an effort to recall Gov. Walker in the middle of November.  This effort was widely anticipated: recall of Gov. Walker is the Democrats’ top priority, far and away.  Later, Democratic Party officials were widely quoted saying they will also target legislative Republicans with recall efforts.
 
This week, we will be on the chamber floor working on OUR top priority: finding ways to improve the economy and create jobs.  Two bills will highlight Tuesday’s floor period the Jobs Tax Credit and the Imputed Income bill. 
 
Jobs Tax Credits: employers can currently claim refundable tax credits based on new hires and workforce training.  However, the benefit isn’t captured by the business until the end of the calendar year.  This bill moves up the date that these credits can be paid, beginning on July 1, 2011.  The jobs tax credit was passed in the first place to give employers an incentive to hire and train workers; this bill makes that benefit more timely and more a better incentive.
 
The Imputed Income Bill provides a tax exemption for certain employee reimbursements.  Currently, federal law exempts reimbursement payments from employer to employee, for workers covering health insurance payments for their adult dependents.  This bill provides a matching state exemption, cutting down on the bureaucratic burden at the state level and helping workers who are supporting their children in tough times.
 
Both bills have significant bipartisan components and support.
 
Though the Democrats will surely criticize Republican job-creation effort for some reason or another, these are two real-world benefits to help the private sector grow.
 
Throughout this time of high partisan tension, Republicans continue to focus on progress, not politics.  While the Democrats eye the next round of recalls or their next area of political gain, Republicans are going to continue working toward the good of the state – creating jobs and improving the economy.
Congress Passes Trade Deals
On Wednesday, Congress took significant action on an issue Republicans have highlighted as one of the best ways to promote job growth.  Both chambers approved three long-awaited free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, all on wide bipartisan margins.  The deals are expected to enhance foreign trade and open up new markets for American-made goods.  The three are the first trade agreements to pass Congress since Democrats took control of the House in 2006.
 
Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) praised the deals, calling them a “huge benefit to Wisconsin agriculture.”  The agency says that the new agreements will allow farmers to grow their businesses and create jobs.  Wisconsin exported nearly $100 million in agriculture products to Korea in 2010, making it the fifth largest export market.  DATCP estimated Korea alone to have a $1 trillion economy with 49 million consumers.  DATCP also identified Columbia and Panama as customers for Wisconsin corn, beef, soybeans and rice, among other products.  Wisconsin ranks 17th in the nation for agricultural exports with customers around the world in over 130 countries.
 
Overall, the deals were estimated to have a $13-14 billion impact, most notably in South Korea, the world’s 15th largest economy.  The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the South Korea deal alone could create as many as 280,000 American jobs.  The U.S. currently has similar agreements with 17 other countries.
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial: Trade deal will boost jobs
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Congress unifies for trade deals
LA Times Editorial: Don’t Recall
This week, an opinion on the looming recall battles in Wisconsin was heard from an unlikely place: California.
 
The L.A. Times ran an article encouraging Wisconsin Democrats to abandon their plans to focus on recall elections, even though that state recalled its own governor, Democrat Gray Davis, in 2003.  From that editorial:
 
Recall drives like California's, and the one Wisconsin Democrats plan to start circulating petitions for on Nov. 15, render meaningless the notion that voters elect governors to serve a set term.
 
Recalls make it nearly impossible for state leaders to get anything done because they go into campaign mode rather than legislating mode.
 
They worsen partisanship and, Davis' recall notwithstanding, they are usually a waste of time and money (an effort by Wisconsin Democrats to end the Republican majority in the state Senate via recall has already failed, with four of six GOP incumbents keeping their seats).
 
 
A Great Way to Learn About County Government
The National Association of Counties has developed a game to help citizens learn about the workings of county government. The game, called "Counties Work" is geared toward students in grades 6-12 and teaches them about the many different issues county officials deal with every day by letting them run their own county online. Issues such as budgeting, raising revenues, providing local services, and dealing with citizen requests are some of the issues that the player must address in the course of the game. Check out the free game online and encourage your kids to try it. It's fun and educational, too.
CDFI Bill Unanimously Passes Senate Committee
The Senate Committee on Economic Development & Veterans Affair unanimously approved AB 211, which provides a tax credit for investments into Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFI’s. 
 
The bill creates incentives for Wisconsinites to invest in their local communities.  CDFI’s provide micro-financing in economically distressed areas, where traditional financing can be nearly impossible to come by.  In addition to financing options, CDFI’s offer entrepreneurs and small businesses expert advisory services for developing their businesses. Our small businesses and entrepreneurs have great ideas, but sometimes need help getting to the next level. This bill provides another level of assistance in our difficult economy.