Thanks to Sconz reader Andrew Vance for directing me to this analysis of Scott Walker's ideas for improving the Wisconsin business climate. It begins by challenging one of the underlying premises of Walker's campaign message: That Wisconsin is not open for business:
Long-time political observers were more than a little perplexed trying to figure out just what changes the governor-elect had in mind. "We haven't been anti-business [in Wisconsin] for a long time," said John F. Witte, a professor of political science and public administration at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "We've been grubbing for business. It hasn't really mattered which party was in power."
The fact is that Wisconsin's fundamental tax and regulatory structure hasn't changed much in recent years. As much as the GOP sought to portray Doyle as a tax-and-spender, he could hardly have been a big spender even if he'd wanted to be -- the structural deficit left by the Thompson administration, which drastically increased state spending and expanded state government, forced the state to make cuts or raise revenue every biennium. Did Doyle raise taxes? Sure, but they were negligible increases that mainly targeted wealthy individuals or large businesses that were dodging Wisconsin taxes.
Although most of Walker's business rhetoric was vague, one of the concrete proposals he did make displays the consequences dogmatic deregulation could have for the state:
In a bid to "[Make] Government Accountable to Farmers," Walker has pledged to "require state agencies to review permit applications within 60 days of receipt and approve or deny them within 180 days or else they will be presumed approved."
...the changes he is proposing actually relate to the large industrial farms known as CAFOs, short for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. It is CAFOs that are subject to environmental regulations controlling potential contamination of nearby rivers, streams, and groundwater supplies.
These mega-operations account for only 2 percent of Wisconsin's farms, but 50 percent of its output from animal-based agriculture. CAFOs typically crowd hundreds or thousands of animals into relatively small areas. They produce millions of gallons of waste, typically as much as a small city, along with pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.
Would "presumptive approval" mean that if an industrial farm submitted an application to the state Department of Natural Resources to expand its operations, the failure of the department to act in six months would give the farm a permanent green light to, for example, dramatically increasing the amount of manure it would spread over soil?
And why isn't anybody mentioning the fact that Wisconsin's unemployment rate is two points lower than the national average?