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New governor plans to make state more inviting for business

Chief Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson administers the oath to Gov. Scott Walker while his family observes. Photo by Mary Callen, Wisconsin Newspaper Association

During a telephone conference with outstate reporters four days before his inauguration as Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker talked about his plans for leading the state to economic growth.

"To me, if it's not about jobs and the economy, it's not a priority," said Walker during the Dec. 30 noontime press conference.

The changes Wisconsin will make and the changes Minnesota expects can mean opportunities for Wisconsin border communities like Hudson and River Falls, said the new governor.

Walker predicted the policies of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, will make that state less attractive to businesses while new policies here will make Wisconsin more inviting.

The message, said Walker, will be "that Wisconsin is a better place to do business."

The greatest potential for more jobs comes from the expansion of existing businesses, said Walker. That will be encouraged, he said, by reducing the tax burden and by cutting regulation, litigation and health care costs.

Walker said his appointee as secretary of the Department of Commerce, former Green Bay Mayor Paul Jadin, is well suited to helping Wisconsin grow and create jobs.

Jadin is a gifted combination of a businessman familiar with private sector needs and a person who understands the political process, said Walker. He said Jadin is "a master of both areas" and will be able to provide outreach to businesses while operating in a political environment.

Walker said he wants to preserve the state's land, water and air but wants also to preserve its quality of life, which means watching out for the economy.

The state's financial situation is so dire, he started with budget briefings the afternoon of Nov. 3, said the governor-elect.

Even with recent good news, Wisconsin is still looking at a $3-billion deficit, said Walker, who ruled out raiding the transportation and other designated funds to balance the budget. Also, he said, the state won't have economic stimulus money to spend like it did two years ago.

The governor and Legislature will have to do what should have been done two years ago, said Walker.

He said balancing the state budget isn't just about cutting, it's about making government work better and finding long-term solutions.

Walker said he wants to make the Department of Regulation and Licensing more about providing professional services. If businesses don't get good customer service, they will be less willing to grow in Wisconsin, he said.

The governor-elect talked about his plan to transform the Department of Commerce into a public/private partnership. While the agency would remain a state department, Walker also proposes forming the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, governed by a 12-member board and chaired by the governor. Walker said the secretary of commerce would have a second role and title: CEO of the Wisconsin EDC.

That board of directors, said Walker, would develop a strategic plan for economic development.

Walker said he hopes to change the administrative rule process to offer more safeguards and greater accountability.

He said his administration will look at future rules but will also do a cost/benefit analysis of existing rules.

As the state trims aid to local governments, his goal would be to give them relief from wage and benefits pressure, said Walker. He suggested a moratorium on some state mandates as a way to drive costs down.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.