(The Center Square) – The split over getting people back to work in Wisconsin is obvious in the weekend radio addresses coming out of the State Capitol.
Both Gov. Tony Evers and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, focused on the state’s workforce needs in their weekly radio messages.
They come just days after the Republican-controlled legislature fell short of overriding the governor's veto of a plan that would have forced Wisconsin out of the enhanced federal unemployment benefit system.
Vos said Wisconsin businesses need help now.
“It doesn’t matter what town, what city, what village you’re in, you drive down Main Street or a rural road, and what do you see? Help wanted signs,” Vos said in his address.
Vos and business groups in the state say Wisconsin has been facing a long-term worker shortage for years. But Vos said businesses in the state are dealing with a worker crisis right now.
“The studies have shown it and anecdotally almost every person in the state of Wisconsin knows it. If you pay people over $17 an hour to stay home and not work, there are going to be fewer people working. It’s not rocket science” Vos added.
“The reality is, you talk to any business leader or any business owner, Republican, Democrat, non-partisan, and they all agree for the most part that we’ve got a problem that is at crisis levels,” he said.
Evers said he’s dealing with the needs of small businesses and manufacturers across the state who’ve been saying for months that they cannot find enough workers.
“A few weeks ago, I announced we are investing $130 million of our federal funds into workforce initiatives to help reduce barriers to employment and get folks back to work,” the governor said to start his address.
“That investment includes $100 million to find real, long-term solutions to address these challenges at the local and regional level, $20 million to support job and training opportunities for workers through local employers, and $10 million to help get workers connected with jobs that are available.”
Evers has said those grants and subsidies likely won’t begin until later in the fall.
The governor then said if lawmakers really want to help get people back to work, they’ll agree to spend an extra $550 million on public schools and the UW System.
“Here’s the deal folks, if we want our state and our economy to continue recovering from this pandemic and we want to address our workforce challenges, we need to be investing in our kids and our schools too. We know these investments will pay dividends for our state’s future,” Evers said.