Evers’ war on manufacturing

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — On this Manufacturing Month, let’s pause to remember what Gov. Tony Evers has done to Wisconsin’s leading sector.

From his efforts to eviscerate the state’s successful manufacturing tax incentive to his extreme climate change agenda, the liberal governor’s policies have shown he’s no friend of Wisconsin manufacturers and the hundreds of thousands of people they employ.

“I would say there’s outright disdain for factory workers by the Evers administration,” said Scott Manley, executive vice president of Government Relations at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. “I think they’re considered second-class citizens by this administration.”

Manufacturers in Wisconsin account for north of 475,000 jobs, employing about16 percent of the state’s workforce. The critical sector accounted for $64.88 billion in output in 2019, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. And factory workers earned an average annual income of $74,252.23.

So what was Evers’ first order of business in his first budget in 2019? He moved to gut the state’s Manufacturing and Agriculture tax credit. The incentive, signed into law by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, is designed to enhance competitiveness and motivate businesses to locate their manufacturing and agriculture operations to Wisconsin.

It was part of $1 billion-plus in proposed tax hikes Evers pushed in his budget proposal. The Republican-controlled Legislature stopped him.

“If Tony Evers had his way, we’d probably be talking about a $500 million per year tax hike on middle-class manufacturing jobs,” Manley said. “Middle-class workers were the ones who were going to come out on the losing end of that policy”

The incentive accounted for the creation of nearly 21,000 manufacturing jobs from 2013 to 2016, a 4.6 percent increase, and more than 42,000 total jobs in Wisconsin, according to an analysis by the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The positive impact of the credit continued in the years after my study was completed,” said Noah Williams, then-director of CROWE, in a 2019 report. “From 2009 through 2012, manufacturing employment grew at almost exactly the same rate in the counties on either side of the Wisconsin border. But from the introduction of the credit in January 2013 through March 2019 (the most recent county-level data), manufacturing employment has grown by a cumulative 12% in the border counties on the Wisconsin side, compared with a cumulative increase of 6.4% in the counties just over the border.”

Manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin plummeted in the second quarter of 2020, thanks to

Evers’ disastrous statewide lockdowns in response to the pandemic. Employment in the sector declined from 477,900 jobs in February 2020 — the month before the COVID-19 outbreak in the Badger State and Evers’ stay-at-home orders  — to 445,800 in May 2020, according to the Federal Reserve in St. Louis. That’s a a drop of more than 32,000 jobs. As of August, the sector was still 3,100 jobs below the February 2020 mark.

Evers has also led the Wisconsin charge on the left’s extreme climate change agenda. His carbon-free by 2050 plan would hike electricity bills for Wisconsin families by $1,960 a year, over $90 per month, according to a new study from the Center for the American Experiment. Manufacturers would  see electricity bills soar by an average of $262,292 per year, a hike of $21,857 per month. These costs would peak at $472,367 in 2050.

All told, Evers’ radical and expensive climate change initiative would cost
Wisconsin ratepayers an additional $248 billion combined, the study shows.

“Rising electricity prices would threaten jobs in energy intensive industries like manufacturing and agriculture. Jobs in the papermaking industry would be particularly at risk,” the study warns.

The governor proposed doubling the state’s energy tax, which would have hiked electricity and heating bills by more than $100 million. And Evers said with a straight face that his tax increases were “small” and “pretty close” to not raising taxes.

“Unfortunately the record of Tony Evers and (Lt. Gov.) Mandela Barnes has been one of placing a target, a bullseye on the backs of manufacturing, and by proxy manufacturing workers,” Manley said.

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 24, 2022

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