Governor Scott Walker and the newly elected Republican majorities were sworn into office almost exactly six months ago with the promise of making Wisconsin “Open for Business.” And while the state exploded for months in protest and anger in response to the Budget Repair Bill, the measures taken by the Walker administration and the legislature in the special “jobs session” are providing Wisconsin with a balanced budget and a business climate soon to be second to none.
A look at some of the recent pro-business initiatives of the first six months of the Walker administration:
- The first bill signed into law by Governor Scott Walker was the elimination of state income taxes on Health Savings Accounts on January 25. HSA’s are already exempt from federal taxes and Walker sought to exclude them from state income taxes for the benefit of workers.
- On January 27, Governor Walker signed into law a tort reform bill limiting liability and capping punitive damages in order to improve the litigation climate in Wisconsin.
- On February 1, Governor Walker delivered on a campaign promise to attract businesses and job creators to Wisconsin by enacting a measure that would allow companies that relocate to Wisconsin to not pay any corporate or personal income tax for up to two years.
- In an effort to encourage business and the creation of jobs in Wisconsin, Governor Walker signed into law a tax deduction for businesses that create jobs on February 5. Depending on the size of the business, the tax deductions range from $92 to $316 per job created.
- On February 11, Walker unveiled his now famous Budget Repair Bill. The Bill included measures that curtailed collective bargaining rights for public employees and paid down an income tax debt to Minnesota. The intent of the Bill was to fix current budget holes without massive layoffs, but it sparked massive protests and an intense battle that lasted until March 11 when Walker was finally able to sign the bill into law. It is currently being considered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court after a Dane County Circuit Court judge issued an injunction against the Bill for allegedly violating the Open Meetings Law when passed in a March 9 conference committee.
- In a March 1 speech, Walker unveiled his FY 2012-13 budget for the state of Wisconsin. It included significant cuts to state aid and public education, but manages to pay down the $3.6 billion deficit facing the state. The Budget has undergone some minor revisions as it passes through the Joint Finance Committee and will soon be considered by the Assembly and Senate by the end of June.
- On May 31, the Joint Finance Committee approved an elimination of the capital gains tax on long-term investments of over five years, or deferring capital gains tax if the money is reinvested back into a Wisconsin company. It is estimated to be a $36 million tax break for Wisconsin businesses.
- On June 6, Republican legislators inserted into the budget a proposal to all but eliminate a tax on production earnings for manufacturers and agricultural businesses. Currently, the tax on production is 7.9% and would be dropped down to just 0.4% by 2016.
When Walker and the Republican majorities were sworn in last January, they faced the prospect of solving a $3.6 billion budget hole while improving the business climate. Without raising taxes, the passage of an honest and fiscally responsible budget is imminent. And the measures taken to improve the business climate have yielded good results as 38,600 jobs were added in the first quarter and Wisconsin jumped 17 places on the annual Best/Worst States for Business rankings.
Despite the great turmoil in Madison, the first six months of the Walker administration have indeed opened Wisconsin for business.