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Burke defends Doyle's biotech alliance veto

By Brian E. Clark

MADISON – Commerce Secretary Mary Burke said Tuesday that state businesses will save close to $300 million over the next two years due to the tax freeze in the budget signed by Gov. Jim Doyle on Monday.

Burke said figures from the state revenue and administration departments showed that if property taxes had risen at the same rate as they had in recent years, more than $270 million would have been brought into state coffers.

Burke also defended Doyle’s decision to cut $2 million in funding for the Biomedical Technology Alliance. Doyle’s partial veto left $500,000 for the Alliance, which Burke called a “good start.”

The money will fund cooperative research efforts between UW-Milwaukee, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the UW-Parkside.

Doyle’s cut was harshly criticized Monday by Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, who said he thought had commitment from Burke for the entire funding.

Burke said that while she and the governor support the Alliance and its goals, she did not promise Kanavas anything.

“I talked with the senator prior to any money being put in the budget,” she said. “We did not talk about where the money would come from. I did not think it would be from existing programs.”

In his veto message, Doyle said the grant would have drained funding for start-up businesses and technology transfer centers funded by the Department of Commerce under Act 255, which was passed in 2003.

“Using all that money would have hampered other important initiatives,” she said. “The governor did not want to hurt economic development in other parts of the state.

“It would have taken $2.5 million out of the $2.6 million in the pot,” she said. “We needed to balance the needs of all the areas of the state.”

Burke also said she was pleased that her department’s Enterprise Development Zone program was expanded by 17 areas in the budget and that it will have access to $120 million in unused tax credits.

Burke said the overall budget Doyle signed would enhance business development in the state by investing in the Wisconsin’s educational system.

“Our workforce is the greatest asset of this state,” she said. “And our businesses need educated workers to be successful and expand and grow.

“Funding K-12, technical colleges and the university system is vitally important,” she added. “And we especially need tech schools that can respond to business needs with new courses and resources where there are shortages of workers.”

Burke said the technical schools could have used additional funding and expressed disappointment that the Joint Finance Committee cut $5 million in funding for those schools.


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