December 23, 2008

The Grinch doesn't have a thing on this holiday season!

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

With some of the economic news lately, you would think that Grinch really has stolen Christmas.  The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has released some disturbing news. Unemployment in Wisconsin is on the rise. 5.3% of Wisconsinites are currently jobless—which is a full percentage point higher than this time last year.  That equates to a decline of 32,500 non-farm payroll Wisconsin jobs through November. This troubling data and when combined with the home foreclosure crisis, the holiday season can grow bleak.   It is clear that we are not immune to the larger economic woes currently facing our country. However, this cloud has a silver lining.

There are billions of dollars in highway projects slated to take place in Wisconsin in 2009 – in addition to an Obama administration stimulus package that promises more public works projects.  Opportunity is on the horizon!

The $800 million Marquette Interchange Project, which exceeded all minority participation goals, is an example of how public works projects can be successful at putting people in our community back to work.  Infrastructure and the jobs that it creates is the Christmas gift that we can offer back to our communities this holiday season. 

Looking at our calendar of projects that are slated to begin soon – including the Zoo Interchange, 1-94 corridor expansion to Chicago, the KRM High Speed commuter rail possibilities, we can see countless jobs for skilled and unskilled laborers.  Taking care of our existing infrastructure will be a high priority too.  All these projects will need workers.

The key for you and I is to ensure that the state exceeds minority business participation for these projects and all our state contracts.  While the Marquette project is a shining example of exceeding those goals, much more work, diligence, and oversight is needed to keep Wisconsin on the path to an inclusive contract climate. 

I look forward to working with Governor Doyle and my colleagues in the Legislature to make sure that Wisconsin is hitting all of its obligated minority participation goals on public works, as well as on many other state contracts and projects.  Together, we can create jobs that will impact us all.

So it may looks like the Grinch has a hold of our economy and holiday spirit, but really, with the right planning and leadership, Wisconsin should be able to provide a good Christmas gift for our economy.

Happy Holidays to you all from my staff and I!