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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, October 16, 2006

[Blank] Jobs

You can fill in the blank.

A couple things struck me reading this morning's relatively in-depth article on the economic development platforms of Governor Jim Doyle and Mark Green. One, if Green is elected, he had better hope that Democrats take back the legislature, because his ideas won't get past those Republicans:
Green's goal would be to reduce the number of economic development programs to 10 or fewer. Doyle's most recent budget proposal, for 2005-'07, included a plan to restructure the Wisconsin Development Fund, which would have eliminated several inactive and outdated programs. The Legislature did not include that restructuring plan in the final budget bill. [. . .]

A current state tax credit for "angel investors," who provide funds for start-up companies, would be expanded from $6.5 million annually to $20 million, Green said. It was Doyle who started tax credits for angel investors as part of his "Grow Wisconsin" agenda. Doyle wanted to offer $10 million in credits annually. The Republican-controlled Legislature scaled it back to $6.5 million a year.

Also, Doyle's 2005-'07 budget expanded a program that provides tax credits to businesses expanding or locating in areas known as "enterprise development zones." The $243 million program was created in 1995, and $123 million in credits had been used by 2005. But the remaining $120 million in credits couldn't be used in recent years because of a limit on the number of development zones in Wisconsin. Doyle used his veto power to lift that cap. [. . .]

Green said states can pay too much to attract new jobs. But, he said, such incentives packages can be good investments based on the number of family-supporting jobs they help attract. [. . .] Doyle last year proposed $2.5 million in annual state grants for businesses moving to Wisconsin's border counties from other states. The Legislature did not approve that program.
Got it? Green wants to recycle a whole slew of Doyle's old ideas, ideas that in many cases were shot down by the very people now out campaigning for Green.

But what struck me even more in reading this is the extent to which the governor is expected to meddle in the process of development--an expectation that can only lead to a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation for anyone in that office. We already know, for example, that a tremendous double-standard exists for Gov. Doyle: If, for example, Doyle had leaned on the DNR about that whole Menard's flap, he would have been tagged as bending the rules for big campaign donors. Instead, he stayed out of it, Menard's built elsewhere (which probably had little to do with DNR anyway), and Doyle got tagged for not being aggressive enough in pursuing them.

Green, in this morning's article, trots out Honda. As we have discussed before, Honda was not coming to Wisconsin, no matter what we might have said or done. It wouldn't have made a lick of sense, and besides, the paper today tells us what it might have cost us:
For Honda, Indiana is providing $141.5 million in state and local incentives - or $70,750 for each job created. That amount includes money for future roads and other public improvements to accommodate additional commercial and residential growth tied to the Honda plant.
That's got to be more than the annual salary of those workers. Given how far away from scoring the plant Wisconsin actually was, can you imagine how much more it might have cost us? Is it, at those kind of numbers, worth it?

And here's the damned-either-way part: Had Doyle promised, say, $100,000 per worker in your tax money to subsidze the Honda plant, would he--could he--have gotten away with it? And what if there were campaign donations involved?

There are a whole lot of people who make good money complaining that neither political party is worth anything. Even the paper, in another of its annoying "kids, play nice" editorials, bemoans the lack of a focus on issues in this campaign. (They need a bit of a heal thyself moment.) But here we have a solid study on the issues, with seemingly no recognition that the whole concept--governors personally inserting themselves into the commerce of the state--invites at the very least the appearance of corruption, and at worst, a culture of actual corruption and putting business interests above those of the people, the environment, and the well being of the state.

And the irony is, that after all the negative press Mark Green has been able to stir up about Jim Doyle, Green's own plan--the part he hasn't stolen from Doyle--puts him even deeper into the mess:
Green would replace the Department of Commerce, the state's main agency overseeing economic development efforts, with a new public-private agency, called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. That agency would be led by a non-partisan board, chaired by Green, made up of industry, labor and University of Wisconsin System leaders.

The new agency would be more flexible than the Commerce Department and able to respond more quickly to changing business conditions, Green said. Having the governor lead the agency would create a more visible contact for businesses seeking economic development help, he said.
Not that I want Green to win, but if he does, I can't wait for the first time this new agency meets, Green firmly at the helm, and a business with $10k or $20k or $50k of donations to Green sitting across from him, asking for handouts. Middleman eliminated, Green would do a true job on the state of Wisconsin.

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