Democratic candidate for governor issues jobs plan

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MILWAUKEE (AP) - Mary Burke, a Democratic candidate for Wisconsin governor, released a five-point plan Tuesday that would invest in entrepreneurs, focus on higher education and promote the creation of an online guide showing how well the state is meeting its job-creation goals.

Burke said her “Invest for Success” plan evolved from her business experience as a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive. She said she’s concerned because the state lags its neighbors in job creation and capital investment, despite the rosier economic picture Republican Gov. Scott Walker is touting.

“For all the talk about being pro-business, the failure to take a businesslike approach to growing jobs here is holding our economy back,” Burke said.

Burke’s announcement came one day after Walker signed a bill that provides half a billion dollars in property- and income-tax cuts statewide.

The issue of jobs will be key as Burke tries to unseat Walker in November. Walker had pledged during his 2010 campaign to add 250,000 private-sector jobs by the end of this year, a goal that appears unlikely to be met.

Unlike Walker, Burke isn’t committing to creating a specific number of jobs. At a question-and-answer session Tuesday afternoon at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Burke said her goal is to make Wisconsin “a top-10 thriving economy,” measured in percentage job growth year over year.

“We need to not only look at how many jobs we’re creating but we have to understand how much those jobs are paying,” she said in reference to a question about whether the majority of new jobs would be minimum-wage positions.

With her jobs plan, Burke said she also would measure success based on greater investment in startups per capita and an increase in the number of college graduates.

Wisconsin residents would be able to keep track of how well the state is meeting its goals through the creation of an online “Wisconsin Jobs Dashboard.”

Walker’s campaign countered that the governor’s current jobs plan is working. It accused Burke of copying what made Walker’s efforts successful.

More than 100,000 jobs and 17,000 businesses have been created since Walker took office in 2010, Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said. The economy will continue to grow as long as government gets out of the way and lets taxpayers keep more of their money, he added.

Mary Burke’s plan looks familiar because Governor Walker has already taken the lead on policies aimed at closing Wisconsin’s skills gap, lowering tuition costs, and improving the state’s business climate,” Evenson said in an email.

Burke’s proposal focuses on five strategies for job growth: investing in entire industries rather than individual companies, producing more college graduates, investing in entrepreneurs, improving the state’s international export market and eliminating government red tape.

Burke said it makes sense to invest in industries, such as manufacturing or business services, because doing so helps all companies in the sector. She said she’d encourage companies to collaborate on innovation and worker training, and would ask industry leaders to weigh in during strategy sessions.

She also said a company’s growth can be hindered by a lack of qualified workers, so she wants more Wisconsin residents to earn college degrees. She said she’d work to lower college tuition costs, help graduates restructure their loan debts and strengthen K-12 education.

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