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Venture capital: After efforts to boost investment in startup Wisconsin companies went nowhere in the last legislative session, venture capital supporters believe they finally have a workable solution that will make it through this Legislature. Gov. Scott Walker put aside $25 million in his budget for a venture capital program, but didn’t lay out how it would work — leading many to believe lawmakers would spend it on other priorities. But a new bipartisan bill would use the $25 million for co-investment with private funds — a so-called “fund of funds” approach — in startups in the agriculture, IT, engineered products, advanced manufacturing, or medical devices and imaging industries. The hope is that about $90 million could be invested as a result of the public and private funding, with the state money eventually being paid back. While backers celebrate the bill, there are still some potential hurdles, some say. There remains a section of the Republican-controlled Legislature that rejects venture capital as corporate welfare, and there’s also a fear that anti-abortion lawmakers may try to attach amendments to the bill that would prohibit investment in areas such as stem cell research, possibly undercutting Democratic support. And the new bill won’t be the only approach for lawmakers to consider, as Dems Peter Barca and Julie Lassa say they’ll have their own version of venture capital legislation on the table in the next couple of weeks.
Air shows: Among the many impacts of federal sequestration cuts, air shows throughout the country are in jeopardy after the military grounds the jet teams that bring crowds — and tourist dollars — to see the Navy’s Blue Angels, the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team and others. Wisconsin’s largest air shows, however, are expected to weather the cancellations this summer. The Milwaukee Air and Water Show expects to have former military members and, potentially, foreign jet teams to fill out the show’s agenda, while the EAA’s AirVenture event in Oshkosh has never relied heavily on military planes. In Manitowoc, meanwhile, the Thunder on the Lakeshore expects a strong event schedule though officials are scrambling to fill in gaps with private owners of former military planes.
Foreign land sales: Debate on the 2013-2015 state budget bill has only just begun, but the Republican co-chairs are on board with removing one of the more talked-about provisions tucked into the governor’s original proposal. They circulate a memo announcing that, among other items deemed non-fiscal policy by the Legislature’s fiscal analysts, they’ll remove a provision allowing foreign corporations to purchase larger swaths of land in Wisconsin. Critics have called the proposal an unnecessary reversal of a 100-year old law, while the Wisconsin Farmers Union says the measure would have effectively sold off the state’s farms and forest lands to the highest bidder without regard to long-term impacts.