UPDATE: Venture capital fund debate could be key in Governor's r - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Venture capital fund debate could be key in Governor's race

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MADISON (WKOW) -- If jobs are a key to the race for governor, then the growing debate over Wisconsin's $25 million venture capital fund could prove pivotal in deciding a winner.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) is touting his success establishing that fund, but challenger Mary Burke (D) says it is too small and exclusive.

FluGen Inc. is one of several companies keeping a close eye on what happens with the fund.  FluGen is developing what it hopes will be a world-changing vaccine to protect people against every kind of flu. It relies on investors for its very survival, but the state won't be making an investment in FluGen at this point, solely because it is a biotech firm.

"Biotech is clearly an engine for this state and so not being able to access those funds is really concerning to me," said Paul Radspinner, FluGen's Chief Executive Officer.

Social conservatives in the legislature excluded biotech firms from accessing the venture capital fund due to concerns over the use of embryonic stem cells.  It is something Burke wants to change if elected Governor.

"This is something that if we're going to grow Wisconsin's economy, we need to be able to provide the capital to start-ups that are going to grow jobs here in Wisconsin," said Burke.

Gov. Walker speaks very carefully about biotech's role in the future of the venture capital fund, but points out he is the first Governor to successfully establish such a fund.

"We're the first ones that actually put money in and a sizeable amount, $25 million," Gov. Walker told 27 News, citing the fact that similar efforts to establish a fund by past Democratic and Republican administrations failed.

But there is a question about whether or not that fund should be bigger.  Burke says it should be at least $120 million.  The Governor is taking a wait and see approach. 

"I think the taxpayers want us to show that it can work and if it does, we'll certainly put more money into it," said Gov. Walker.

The push from hungry companies FluGen will certainly only get stronger in the meantime.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Scott Walker is quick to point out that he is the first Wisconsin Governor to sign a bill establishing a state venture capital fund, but his Democratic opponent says that fund is far too modest.

Signed into law by Gov. Walker last year, the venture capital fund started with a $25 million investment by the state to help grow startup and small business ventures.

Gov. Walker says he wanted to see a larger number attached to the fund, but $25 million was the most the Assembly and Senate would agree to approving. 

With challenger Mary Burke campaigning on a promise to grow that fund to $120 million if elected, Gov. Walker is now answering a lot of questions about whether or not he would seek to increase the amount in his next budget if reelected.

"We want to see results first," the Governor told 27 News on Wednesday.  "Some people are talking about bigger dollar amounts. To me, I think the taxpayers want us to show that it can work and if it does, we'll certainly put more money into it."

There is also a debate about whether the fund should be expanded to include the bioscience industry, which was left out due to ethical concerns expressed by some conservative legislators.

Gov. Walker has been careful not to say much about that concern, while Burke is a staunch advocate for adding bioscience to the mix, arguing it will increase jobs in Wisconsin.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have more on this story on 27 News at 5 and 6.
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