- - Thursday, December 15, 2011

ANALYSIS / OPINION:

My two sons are typical teenagers, so I asked them a simple question the other day: “Which would you prefer: an unemployment check from the government or a paycheck from a business?”

Their response was what I would expect from most people: They preferred the paycheck.

Sadly, many in government have lost sight of that common-sense instinct.

For some, the true measure of success for government is determining how many more people are on public assistance. In their world, unemployment-compensation checks are viewed as a form of economic development.

A better measure of success for government is how many move off unemployment-compensation rolls and onto private-sector payrolls. Who seriously disputes that true economic development comes from a healthy free-enterprise system?

If we are going to grow the economy in America and create more jobs, it must come from more entrepreneurs — not more government.

For that to happen, we must make it easier for entrepreneurs to thrive, start new businesses and expand existing ones.

In 1959, Robert and Patricia Kern founded a new business in a rented garage in Wales, Wis. Their idea grew to become Generac Power Systems, one of the world’s largest independent manufacturers of complete engine-driven generator systems.

Generac recently announced that it is hiring hundreds more employees at several sites in Wisconsin. Its expansion plans are not based on specific public incentives.

Instead, Generac is interested in a state that is committed to a friendly environment for job creators. It needs a skilled workforce, reliable and cost-effective sources of power and a strong infrastructure system to get products to and from the market.

In addition, it would like an attractive tax, regulation and litigation climate — and it got all three early in 2011 in Wisconsin.

The first act was to call the state legislature into a special session on jobs, which resulted in reducing the tax burden on job creators, streamlining the regulatory climate and passing some of the most aggressive tort reform in the country.

Wisconsin also made it easier for small-business owners and workers to access affordable health care options through the use of health savings accounts. We also replaced our old Department of Commerce with a new public-private partnership called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. with the sole purpose of making it easier to create jobs in our state.

The state also enacted a balanced budget that turned a $3.6 billion deficit into a surplus with true structural reforms for state and local governments. One of the bond-rating agencies even called our budget “credit-positive.”

These reforms were enacted at a time when other states were passing major tax increases on individuals and businesses and then still having to consider massive layoffs and the shutdown of state facilities. In Wisconsin, we avoided tax increases and massive layoffs.

The middle class gained protection — not by more government programs, but by fewer. For years, the middle class paid for the expanse of government. Requiring government to live within a budget, just as Wisconsin families do, ultimately protects middle-class taxpayers. In fact, property taxes went down this year for the first time in six years, putting more money in the pockets of middle-class taxpayers.

Reducing government spending has the added bonus of making Wisconsin an attractive place in which to do business.

No surprise, employers like Generac are looking to add more jobs in our state. After losing 150,000 private-sector jobs from 2007 to 2010, we have seen thousands of new jobs in 2011. In addition, a recent Chamber of Commerce survey showed that 88 percent of the job creators in our state think Wisconsin is headed in the right direction. This compares to just 10 percent in 2010.

If we want to see more jobs in America, the answer is simple: focus on policies that make it easier for private-sector employers to provide more paychecks instead of seeking to give more people unemployment checks and other forms of public assistance. Making it easier for people like the Kerns to start and grow businesses in our country is the best way to get America working again.

• Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin.

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