BizOpinion: Bipartisan vote on early stage capital bill may set tone for Legislature

This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.

There were times in recent years at which the Wisconsin Assembly couldn’t muster 91 votes to pass a resolution confirming the sun rises in the east.

Lingering bitterness over the 2011 public-employee bargaining bill, and the related recall elections that followed, widened divides that often separate Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature. Lawmakers are people, too, so there was no shortage of bruised feelings in the Capitol.

The 91-2 Assembly vote in support of a bill to create a state-leveraged venture capital program may represent the beginning of a less rancorous era (or, at least, a brief respite). Democrats and Republicans will continue to disagree on many issues – school vouchers and tax cuts being current examples – but it may now be OK to occasionally agree without penalty.

Thursday’s overwhelming vote for Assembly Bill 181 sets the stage for a $25-million state investment in a “fund-of-funds,” which would attract a 2-to-1 private match to invest in some of Wisconsin’s most promising early stage companies. The state would be a limited partner in the fund, which is modeled after similar programs in other states, meaning it would share in the profits down the road as those companies mature.

The bill would put $25 million into a fund that invests in several high-growth sectors, including agriculture, information technology, engineered products, advanced manufacturing, and medical devices and imaging. Private investors would bring at least $50 million more to the fund.

The state investment would also produce another dividend – more companies and more jobs, which Democrats and Republicans alike want to encourage over time.

Read the full column for more