Sen. Jennifer Shilling column: Leverage investments to spur job growth

Wisconsin is struggling economically. While other states have invested in their communities and boosted family wages, Wisconsin has seen stagnant job growth and a declining middle class. It’s no secret that the “cut and borrow” approach over the last four years hasn’t worked. So where do we go from here?

It’s simple. Stop cutting and start growing.
 
By working together to strengthen our schools, expand access to health care and invest in modern infrastructure, we can grow Wisconsin’s middle class and create thousands of good-paying jobs.
 
We are a diverse and hardworking state. In order to succeed, we need a team approach to leverage our shared assets and lift all communities equally.
 
Whether it’s an energy-saving upgrade to reduce utility bills at a local school, a broadband project to boost internet access in a rural community, the construction of a cultural center to encourage creative thinking and tourism or a highway expansion to improve safety and reduce traffic, communities across Wisconsin rely on one another to leverage our public resources and maximize private investments.
 
Like many in our state, I was skeptical when Governor Walker first proposed borrowing millions to help pay for a new arena facility in Milwaukee. I recognized the importance of this project and what it meant for our state, but I didn’t think it was the best deal for taxpayers or workers. I knew we could do better.
 
I wanted to see a more fiscally responsible plan that strengthened our state's bottom line and included stronger protections for all Wisconsin families. 
 
By listening to local residents and working to find a more bipartisan solution, we have been able to leverage additional private investments, reduce the amount of state borrowing, increase the amount of state funding available for schools and create thousands of quality, family-supporting jobs for Wisconsin workers.
 
Keeping the Milwaukee Bucks in Wisconsin and encouraging more than $1 billion in private sector economic development will benefit everyone in Wisconsin. Best of all, the new plan doesn’t raise taxes and it ensures first and foremost that Wisconsin workers are protected. The state won't be on the hook for future maintenance or repair costs, and we can invest additional revenue into our schools and communities. 
 
With these improvements to the governor’s original proposal, this investment is good deal for taxpayers, workers and families across Wisconsin.
 
But the same can be said for other state investments as well.
 
We all know it’s better to invest in quality schools and affordable higher education than additional prison cells. It’s better to help working families get regular health checkups and preventive care than pay for expensive emergency room visits. It’s better to keep our lakes and rivers free from arsenic and mercury than clean up industrial pollution later.
 
Across Wisconsin, I want to make sure that we are strengthening communities by responsibly leveraging our public resources to encourage private investments and expand economic opportunities.
 
Generating more revenue for our schools and creating thousands of family-supporting jobs with a new Milwaukee arena project is a good deal for working families that I am proud to support. I know it is a much better deal for families than the “cut and borrow” alternative and I hope that this spark of bipartisanship will renew our desire to come together and invest in other forward-looking priorities across our state.