THU AM News: WMC Foundation’s Wisconsin 2035 report lays out workforce strategies; FEMA teams expected to assist with hospital staffing in Wisconsin

— The WMC Foundation is calling for the reduction or elimination of the state’s individual income tax, arguing the move would help address employers’ workforce concerns. 

In its Wisconsin 2035 report, the WMC Foundation provides an outline for policymakers and business leaders in the state, aimed at driving economic growth through workforce attraction, retention and expansion. 

“More employers than ever before are having trouble finding workers, and Wisconsin’s demographic concerns will only intensify this economic problem,” said Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and chairman of the WMC Foundation Board. 

The report proposes a number of strategies, including boosting funding a talent attraction campaign, “breaking down barriers to entry” to the state’s labor force, and expanding programs to put students on a pathway to a career in Wisconsin. Report authors say “the state is ripe for reform” to its tax system, noting that states without an income tax saw greater population growth over the past decade than the national average. 

“Reducing, flattening and perhaps eliminating this tax would not only make headlines, it could serve as a catalyst to grow the state’s economy and improve its ranking nationally for tax friendliness,” report authors wrote. 

Still, the report notes that “taking on such a bold reform would face significant challenges,” as nearly half of the state’s general purpose revenue is projected to come from the individual income tax under the 2021-2023 state budget. It proposes “a slight increase” to the state’s sales tax, which is the lowest in the Midwest at around 5 percent, to offset the impact to government funding that would result from getting rid of the income tax. 

Wisconsin’s biennial budget directs the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to use $3 million of its state appropriations for talent attraction and retention initiatives, but the report calls that “a small investment” compared to the $90 billion in spending laid out in the budget. Report authors argue that “the door must be opened even wider in future years.” 

“Wisconsin’s population desperately needs in-migration to grow,” they wrote. “Without it, other states will quickly leave Wisconsin behind to be just another Illinois — which actually lost population over the last decade.” 

The report also points to government regulations on occupational licensing as a “roadblock” to state residents seeking work. Those include “costly fees to earn government-mandated certifications” and “endless training requirements to earn licenses masked in the name of consumer safety.” Report authors say occupational licensing and classification of independent contractors should be streamlined to make it easier for people to join the state workforce. 

They’re also calling for an expansion of the state’s dual enrollment program that allows students to earn college credits while still in high school, in order to “jumpstart their earning potential” at an earlier age. 

And report authors say the Department of Public Instruction should adjust curriculum to “better connect education to careers.” Suggestions include expanding coursework in industrial subjects and technical education, and giving students more flexibility to take classes that fit their career interests. 

WMC Foundation Executive Director Wade Goodsell will discuss the report’s findings today during the Future Wisconsin Summit 2021, being held at the Monona Terrace in Madison. 

See the full report: 

— Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake says FEMA workers are expected to help with Wisconsin hospital staffing stressed by COVID-19.

During a press briefing, Timberlake said the state has requested medical reserve teams from FEMA to bolster the state’s health system, particularly for intensive care units that are nearing capacity. That could include up to five regional teams with as many as 20 members per team. Timberlake expects Wisconsin will get that support in “a matter of weeks, not months.”

Health officials have identified at least three additional cases of the omicron variant in the state on top of the first case reported over the weekend. But they said the main concern remains the delta variant, which is contributing to strained hospital capacities throughout the state.

Timberlake says this issue is “fundamentally a staffing challenge,” with 270 hospitals and long-term care facilities in the state requesting staffing support.

Since establishing a staffing contract in October to help these facilities, the agency currently has over 360 nurses, certified nursing assistants and other professionals supporting more than 65 hospitals and long-term care providers around the state. She noted $19 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding has been allocated to this effort so far.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers says the state will “have to be more creative” in its approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, as cases and hospitalizations in the state continue to rise amid slow progress in vaccinations.

“We’re exploring other things, to be frank, but if we can’t convince people to get vaccinated because of public health reasons, and we’ve already done statewide money for people to be vaccinated, we’ll have to be more creative going forward,” Evers said during the briefing.

— The Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows just 41 of the state’s 1,331 ICU beds are immediately available. 

At least 1,631 patients are currently in the hospital due to COVID-19, including 418 patients in the ICU, the WHA site shows. Both of those numbers have largely been on the rise since around the start of November. 

The latest seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the state was 3,155, which is down slightly from the recent peak of 3,823 cases per day on Dec. 3. 

While progress in vaccinating state residents has been sluggish, health officials have reported that nearly 100,000 kids aged 5-11 have been vaccinated over the past month or so. And nearly 1.2 million additional or booster shots have been administered in the state. 

As of yesterday, 59.2 percent of the state’s population had received at least one dose of a vaccine and 56.3 percent had completed the vaccine series. On the national level, 71.4 percent of the U.S. population has gotten at least one dose and 60.4 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. 

The state’s seven-day average for deaths from COVID-19 recently increased to 20 deaths per day, as 33 new deaths were recorded Tuesday. A total of 9,237 people in Wisconsin have died from the virus. 

See the latest case numbers here: 

See the WHA dashboard here: 

— The conservative Badger Institute is calling a new law aimed at reducing wait times for professionals seeking a state license “a significant victory for workers.” 

Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday signed into law legislation that allows a credentialing board to delegate authority to the Department of Safety and Professional Services to make an immediate determination on credentialing qualifications.

“We hear far too many stories about qualified professionals, some who have been practicing for years in other states, having to go without work and income while waiting for credentialing boards to review their applications,” Michael Jahr, senior vice president of the Badger Institute, said in a statement. 

See the text of the new law: 

See the release from Evers:

See the Badger Institute release: 

— A recent survey of business leaders from Madison-based First Business Bank points to increased optimism going into 2022 despite lingering pandemic concerns. 

The survey got responses from 103 businesses in Dane County, 80 in the state’s southeast region and 67 in Wisconsin’s northeast region. Across all three areas, the percentage of company leaders that expect “same or better” business performance next year ranged from 92 to 94 percent. 

Findings underline that companies across the state are seeing increased signs of recovery this year, with a greater proportion of respondents seeing improved business performance in 2021 compared to the prior year. 

Respondents in all three areas pointed to a shortage of talent as the top issue impacting their businesses this year. Other top challenges include supply shortages, employee absences due to illness or lack of childcare, employees working remotely and disruption of business travel. 

“Finding new talent, higher inflation, and the ongoing impact of the pandemic will continue to test the resolve of business leaders in Southeast Wisconsin,” said Kevin Kane, president of First Business Bank’s southeast Wisconsin market. “However, this year’s survey shows that companies have proven incredibly resilient throughout the most difficult operating climate of this century.” 

The survey was distributed through a software company called Qualtrics over a six-week period ending in mid-October. Multiple channels including social media and partner newsletters were used to get the virtual survey link to participants. 

See more survey results here: 


# Lawsuits for unpaid bills are on the rise in Wisconsin, according to study of state hospitals

# Hitting 800 companies served, gener8tor adds startup community director to support alumni

# Wisconsin finds three more cases of omicron variant of COVID-19



– Should Green Bay spend $100,000 on rebranding initiative? Most of the City Council thinks so.


– Nearly 20,000 sign-up for Farm Support Program 2.0


– I-94 east-west rebuild options up to $1.28 billion for eight lane expansion


– Conservationists aim to protect songbird in Wisconsin as its population sees steep decline


– Wisconsin requests federal help for staff-strapped hospitals

– FEMA medical teams may come to Wisconsin as COVID hospitalizations surge

– ProHealth Care buys two of its properties for combined $42.5 million

– Wisconsin needs more therapists, but a state paperwork backlog keeps many on hold for months


– DNR Deputy Secretary Todd Ambs to step down at the end of the year


– Vote of confidence: Harley-Davidson incentivizes CEO Zeitz to stay through 2024


– Bill could require animal-drawn vehicles to be registered


– Catholic Financial Life puts its 19-story Milwaukee HQ on sale block

– Catholic Financial Life listing its 19-story downtown Milwaukee building for sale

– Subdivisions proposed by Neumann, Bear Development would add 187 homes in Franklin


– Milwaukee’s Press Hard Seltzer on track for triple-digit growth in 2021


– Minor league sports, summer camps say tourism grants are game changers


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

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