Tech Council recommends policy changes in white papers report

The Wisconsin Technology Council is recommending a host of policy changes in this year’s white papers report, including a new tax credit to incent employers to invest in their own workers.

Some previous recommendations have recently been passed into law, including the expansion of the state’s investment tax credits law and the elimination of a fee on capital raised by certain early-stage companies.

“Some might suggest bold ideas won’t fly in Wisconsin for political or budgetary reasons. Our own history suggests otherwise,” report authors said.

Suggestions in this year’s report roughly fall into four categories: workforce, investment, tech infrastructure and entrepreneurism.


“The ideas offered in our 2018 white papers will continue the public discussion about improving the state’s tech-based economy,” said Greg Lynch, chairman of the Tech Council and senior partner at Michael Best. “As the state weighs its budget priorities for the next two years, policymakers deserve to hear ideas that focus on the creation of next-generation jobs for Wisconsin — and keeping our best and brightest young people at home.”


The proposed “Future Workers Tax Credit” would give incentives to employers for spending on training and education for their own workers. Report authors say that would empower employers, rather than the government, to determine what skills their workers need most.


Another workforce suggestion: raise annual appropriations for state student grant aid, to bring Wisconsin up to Minnesota’s level of spending.


“This needed increase in the annual appropriation for Wisconsin Grants should be apportioned among students in the three sectors, as is currently the case,” report authors said. The funds would be split up 55 percent for UW students, 20 percent for tech college students and 25 percent for state citizens attending a private, nonprofit college in Wisconsin.


“This would cost about $140 million spread over multiple budget cycles; it could pay for itself over time through rising per capita incomes and tax collections associated with that revenue growth,” report authors said.


The Tech Council also recommends expanding opportunities for internships and apprenticeships.


On the investment capital side, report authors say the state should establish a $150 million fund of funds based on a private/public partnership model.


They also say the State of Wisconsin Investment Board should should double its investment in Wisconsin-based venture capital. And for earlier-stage businesses, the Tech Council recommends creating matching funds of 20 percent for seed funds, angel groups or venture debt programs targeting the first $250,000 invested.


“This could be financed with a portion of the return on the state “rainy day” fund, if re-invested through the State of Wisconsin Investment Board versus current low-yield options,” report authors added.


The Tech Council’s tech infrastructure suggestions include accelerating investment in broadband; improving access to clean, out-of-state power; embracing innovations in transportation such as autonomous vehicles; and more.


And in the final focus area, entrepreneurism, the council stresses: “First, do no harm.”


That means avoiding state-based restrictions on research, and validating current legislation against other states “to ensure we maintain an open and competitive innovation environment for entrepreneurs already in our state – as well as attracting entrepreneurs to Wisconsin.”


Report authors suggest comparing professional and occupational licensing in-state with other parts of the country, to ensure Wisconsin isn’t excluding anyone that shouldn’t be.


They also suggest carefully following the employment non-compete debate “with an eye on enhancing mobility while keeping appropriate, existing protections for confidentiality, intellectual property, trade secrets and non-solicitation.”


See the full report here: