Gov. Scott Walker says bill proposed for the fall session will help him live up to his promise to create 250,000 jobs. Democratic leaders express skepticism.
Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders have taken wraps off of eight economic bills they say will be priorities for passage prior to the end of the session. The proposals include creating a program to help low income people in areas with high unemployment find work. Another measure would boost spending for apprenticeship programs. Walker says the package of development bills would "go an awful long way" to helping him fulfill his 2010 promise to create a quarter of a million new jobs in the state.
In response to the GOP plan, Assembly Democratic leader Peter Barca released a statement, referring to the legislation as "sparse." He went on to state: "Republicans are clearly nervous as they see Wisconsin fall farther and farther behind in job creation and wage growth. So they took an assortment of minor bills and proclaimed that they are going to reverse the negative direction they have taken the Wisconsin economy for the last two-and-a-half years."
Some legislation lawmakers will consider this fall has bipartisan support.
The governor's office summarized the legislation proposed to date:
Developing Our Workforce
LRB 2949 - Investing in Youth Apprenticeship (Sponsors: Rep. Nerison, Sen. Harsdorf)
--Increase funding for Youth Apprenticeship by $500,000 annually so funds can meet demand. The Youth Apprenticeship program is a proven, nationally-recognized strategy to develop the next generation of the workforce. Enrollees receive on the job training, as well as technical college-level instruction at their local high schools. Last year, nearly 1,900 apprentices at 1,300 employers were trained. The program touched 210 school districts and 81 percent of the program graduates received job offers with the employer who provided the training. This funding would build on the investment of $1.8 million in the most recent state budget for Youth Apprenticeship. Consortia across the state say they can train even more with additional funding. In total, funding would be $4.6 million over the next two years.
LRB 2976 - Apprenticeship Tuition Reimbursement for Apprentices and Employers (Rep. Nerison, Sen. Harsdorf)
-- Provide funding to reimburse the student or employer for 25 percent of the apprenticeship tuition and fees up to $1,000 per apprentice. The Wisconsin Apprenticeship program dates back to 1911, the nation's oldest. It combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction to meet worker and employer needs. Technical colleges most often provide the training. Program graduates can receive national industry recognized credentials, providing employers with highly skilled workers. Apprentices increase their skills and grow their wages. On average, nearly 10,000 apprentices in manufacturing, construction and service industries learn skills each year. The average annual earnings of those who complete an apprenticeship, roughly equal those of a college graduate and nearly double those of a high school graduate.
LRB 3115 - Technical Education Incentive Grants (Rep. Petryk, Sen. Gudex)
-- Invest in an incentive program, originally proposed by Superintendent Tony Evers, offering a $1,000 per pupil incentive payment to school districts. Eligible school districts will establish programs encouraging students to earn industry recognized certificates in high-need occupations before graduation from high school. High-need occupations would be determined in cooperation with the Dept. of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Technical College System. The program would begin in the 2014-15 school year giving time for the occupations to be chosen and schools to prepare. Both the Governor’s College and Workforce Readiness Council and the Be Bold 2 study had these goals.
Senate Bill 274/Assembly Bill 351 – Vocational Rehabilitation Services (Sen. Shilling, Rep. Shankland)
-- Invest nearly $4 million state funds in vocational rehabilitation services for persons with special needs. It is expected the state investment would be matched with $14 million from the federal government over the next two years. The Dept. of Workforce Development estimates nearly 3,000 more individuals could be served over the next two years.
LRB 3026 - Technical Excellence Higher Education Scholarship (Rep. Krug, Sen. Gudex)
-- Fund new scholarships to reward students who are top of their class for technical education to use at state technical schools. The current Academic Excellence Higher Education Scholarship rewards students who are the top of their class with a state scholarship. This program is a great incentive for students to succeed in the classroom; however, very few students use the scholarship to pursue a technical education. In the 2012-13 academic year, only 16 of 726 first-year scholars used their award to attend a state technical school. This new scholarship would mirror the current one, but allow school boards to design the criteria for awarding the scholarship. Scholarships would first be awarded in the 2015-16 academic year giving schools time to establish criteria and select scholarship award winners.
LRB 3054 - Wisconsin Workers Win Update (Rep. Loudenbeck, Sen. Lazich)
-- Continue Wisconsin Workers Win pilot program, which expired this year, for another two years, as well as incorporate recommendations to improve upon the original pilot program to make it a more impactful tool to help unemployed workers gain jobs skills for available jobs. The program operated in three high-unemployment areas and was a voluntary option for unemployed workers to train in a new occupation, while continuing to receive unemployment. It will help match job-seekers with potential employers and provide an opportunity to gain skills in a real-world job training experience. Last session, the Wisconsin Workers Win pilot program was created. It was modeled after other state programs such as Georgia Works. In less than one year of operation the program saved the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund $80,000, reduced the weeks on UI for those enrolled and saw 166 participants have positive employment outcomes. The average starting wage for participants was $13.56/hr and the average age, 45.
LRB 1866 - Licensing Reform (Sen. Lasee, Rep. Kooyenga)
-- Allow prospective licensees to take their licensing exams at the Dept. of Safety and Professional Services prior to completing their training. Though the license would not be issued until training was complete, this would allow new license holders to begin work immediately upon completion of training. Currently, some prospective licensees must wait months to take an exam keeping them from beginning work in their profession.
LRB 3183 – Transitional Jobs Program Expansion (Rep. Weatherston, Sen. Darling)
-- Create a new Transitional Jobs Program to serve cities or counties with high unemployment and/or child poverty rates through the Dept. of Children and Families. This provides low-income adults with immediate income, work opportunities, and the ability to gain skills for long-term employment. The dept. would use existing agency funds to run the program. The number of communities served would depend on available funding. The Transitional Jobs Demonstration Project was established to provide low-income adults with an immediate income, an opportunity to develop the skills and experience their local labor market demands and a positive work history. It provided those without other options with longer-term career preparation and support to move to unsubsidized employment. From Sept. 2010 to June 2013, 4,074 workers participated in the program. The Transitional Jobs Demonstration Project ended in June of this year. Its successor, the Transform Milwaukee Jobs program, was created in the biennial budget targeted to Milwaukee.