Let's call what's been happening to Wisconsin's economy for the past four years exactly what it is: "The Scott Walker disaster."
Consider the facts. Under Walker's leadership, Wisconsin ranked 42nd for business. We're 49 out of 50 for long-term job growth and we're dead last — 50th — in short-term job growth. And that's not according to some liberal commentator but the analysis of Forbes Magazine, the conservative business publication, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
That's not all the bad news. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we're 44th in job growth and 45th in wage growth. A recent survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts found we have had the sharpest decline of any state in the middle class.
Under Scott Walker, however, we are near the lead in one category. United Van Lines says Wisconsin is in the top 10 for people leaving the state.
Walker would like us to believe that the state's dismal economic performance on his watch is everyone else's fault. He's blamed Jim Doyle, Barack Obama and Mary Burke among others for his failure. He's not faulted the man in the moon yet, but that's probably coming.
The reality is Walker is largely responsible for Wisconsin's lagging economy at a time when the national economy is doing reasonably well and neighboring states are far outpacing us.
Walker has sent back well over a billion dollars in federal funds that would have fueled our state's economy. Wisconsin traditionally lags in attracting federal money, so his stubborn rejection of this money is especially harmful. He blocked almost a billion dollars for construction of high-speed rail that would have created thousands of jobs and made the state far more attractive to business. He also refused Medicaid money that would have infused hundreds of millions of dollars into the state economy as well as provided health care coverage for tens of thousands of Wisconsites.
He has virtually killed the renewable energy business while other states are creating tens of thousands of jobs in the wind and solar power industry. This may please his patrons, the Koch brothers, but it reduces employment both directly and indirectly. A recent news story reported that information technology companies, with their high-wage jobs, want to expand in states with renewable energy.
He has totally mismanaged the state's job creation agency. He dismantled the Department of Commerce in favor of his semi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. That entity has been called an "epic failure." It has failed to create jobs and has even been giving your tax dollars, intended for job creation here in Wisconsin, to companies that are moving jobs out of state.
Walker's policies not only have caused Wisconsin's economy to do poorly in the past four years — they also threaten our future. His budget proposal is likely to continue to undermine Wisconsin's economy in the years to come.
One of the most important drivers of future growth is a high-performing university. Yet Walker's budget would dramatically cut the UW budget, a move denounced even by usually Walker-friendly business associations. The campus in Madison is responsible, directly and indirectly, for $15 billion in annual economic activity. By cutting support for the university when others states are upping their investment, Walker is causing long-term harm to the competitiveness of the UW.
Walker also proposes decimating the Stewardship Fund, which has been a key to maintaining the state's $12-billion-a-year outdoor recreation industry.
Scott Walker now says that he wants to do for the national economy what he's done for Wisconsin. Watch out, America!
Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee. He currently serves as the vice president of the national Sierra Club and is an adjunct professor of urban and regional planning at UW-Madison.
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