Gov. Walker proposes Rural Economic Development Fund in State of the State Address     

Earlier today, Gov. Scott Walker delivered his eighth State of the State Address. He used the speech to unveil what he is calling his Ambitious Agenda for 2018. As part of his Agenda, the governor proposed the creation of a Rural Economic Development Fund to provide a $50 million per year investment in economic development projects in rural parts of Wisconsin. According to the governor’s office, the new Fund would be “used to stimulate private investment, improve productivity, and to fill open jobs in rural communities.”

Although few details were released on the proposed Rural Economic Development Fund, according to a press release issued by the governor:

  • The program would be operated by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
  • Funds could be distributed through existing programs offered by WEDC and through others created by WEDC with legislative approval.
  • Projects would be eligible for grants in counties with a population density less than 155 persons per square mile. This would include 56 out of 72 Wisconsin counties.
  • Grant recipients would be subject to repayment parameters, including being required to repay the grant if the recipient provides false information to WEDC or if the business fails to meet agreed upon employment or investment levels.

WEDA supports the goal to provide long-term investment in economic development projects in rural Wisconsin. We look forward to learning more about the proposed Rural Economic Development Fund and potentially working with Governor Walker and the Legislature to implement the proposal.

Walker also proposed the following initiatives in his speech, many of which will require legislative approval:

  • Create a $100 per child refundable tax credit.
  • Provide $200 million in state and federal money to stabilize insurance premiums for individuals who purchase health coverage in the ACA individual market.
  • Seek permanent federal approval for SeniorCare, the state’s prescription drug plan for seniors.
  • Increase funding for low-spending school districts and rural school districts.
  • Encouraged the federal government to finalize rules to increase broadband access in underserved areas by advancing television white space technology. WEDA is supportive of the effort.