Walker wants to 'eliminate and replace' Commerce Dept. - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Walker wants to 'eliminate and replace' Commerce Dept.


By Capitol Bureau Chief Bob Schaper - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) -- A group of business leaders says the state's Department of Commerce should be eliminated and replaced - an idea supported by Gov.-elect Scott Walker.

Walker's been critical of the Commerce Department in the past, saying it focuses too much on regulations and not enough on job creation. But today he and others went one step farther, calling for an extreme agency makeover.

After a series of economic summits all over the state, a collaboration of business groups released a report Monday called Be Bold: The Wisconsin Prosperity Strategy. The report claims that Wisconsin's economy is in crisis, noting that the state's gross domestic product has shrunk since the 1960s and personal income has dipped below the national average.

"Right now, one of the larger impediments to the Wisconsin economy would be lack of capital for startup and emerging companies," Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technical Council, said.

The 19-page report has dozens of recommendations, including creating a $1 billion "prosperity fund" to make investments in high-tech, fast-growing companies. The report also calls for less spending on poverty relief and more on initiatives that create jobs.

"We don't have much time here in Wisconsin," Jim Wood, president of Wood Communications Group, said. "We're not the only state with these problems, but other states are hard at work at it. We need to get hard at work at it."

One key finding, according to the report, is that the Commerce Department is using traditional methods for creating jobs - methods that no longer work. What's needed, the report says, is an independent Job Creation Board appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature.

"We're very interested at looking at a public-private partnership that still has the state having a direct role in promoting economic development, but not necessarily being a state agency," he said.

In fact, Walker suggested his plans for change could be even more drastic.

"I want to be even bolder, so I want to take this plan and build off it, be even more aggressive to what they're presenting," Walker said. 

Aaron Olver, commerce secretary, was not available for an on-camera interview. But in a brief conversation, he suggested there were many people across the state who thought the department was doing a fine job.

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