Tag Archives: job creation

Walker gave over $1 billion to the rich, but has no evidence it created jobs

In recent testimony before the Legislature, the Secretary of the Department of Revenue for the Walker administration claimed that a runaway manufacturing and agricultural tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporations enacted in the 2011 state budget is helping create jobs. But in response to an open records request by One Wisconsin Now seeking documentation to back up Rick Chandler’s job creation claim the agency replied: “We do not have any such records.”

In 2011, Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP cohorts concocted a late-night scheme to give away more of our money to their wealthy friends under the guise of creating jobs. Walker never required proving jobs were created to get the money, and now we find that his own administration can’t provide a shred of evidence of any actual jobs actually being created.

As reported by the Associated Press on March 29, “Gov. Scott Walker’s Revenue Department secretary is defending a manufacturing tax credit that’s cost far more than originally expected. Revenue Department Secretary Rick Chandler told lawmakers on the Joint Finance Committee on April 20 that the manufacturing and ag tax credit has helped led (sic) to an increase of 31,000 manufacturing jobs in the state since 2011. The tax credit was passed in 2011 but took effect in 2013. It’s projected to cost $1.4 billion by mid-2019. It’s costing more than twice as much as originally estimated now that it’s fully implemented. (Editor’s Note: Even if the money had created 31,000 jobs, that would mean each job cost more than $45,000.)

Seeking confirmation of Chandler’s allegation, One Wisconsin Now submitted a request under the state open records law for “copies of all documents which show jobs created specifically and as a direct result of the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit, since its adoption in the 2011 budget.”

In response, the DOR replied, “We received your open records request for copies of all documents which show jobs created specifically and as a direct result of the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit, since its adoption in the 2011 budget. We do not have any such records.”

According to an analysis of the tax loophole by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, 11 of the wealthiest people in Wisconsin will reap a windfall of $21 million in 2017, with no requirement that jobs be created. And, in 2017, claimants making over $1 million will be showered with tax breaks of over $161 million.

Walker and the legislative Republicans have cut public education, technical colleges and our university by record amounts. They’ve kicked tens of thousands of people off their health care. They’ve allowed our roads to crumble. It is an outrage they can’t back up their job claims with any proof

Scot Ross is executive director of One Wisconsin Now.

 

At least 11,331 Wisconsin jobs went overseas in last 5 years

Federal data reveals the economic wreckage caused by the large-scale outsourcing of Wisconsin jobs since Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson took office. They’ve aided and abetted multinational corporations in selling out Wisconsin workers for short term profits.

Data kept by the U.S. Department of Labor shows that at least 11,331 Wisconsin jobs have been outsourced to other countries since Walker’s scandal-ridden “jobs” agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, was launched July 1, 2011. This is a very low-end estimate of the impact of outsourcing in Wisconsin, because it only accounts for groups of workers who successfully applied for Trade Adjustment Assistance from the federal government by proving their jobs were eliminated because of global trade agreements. It does not account for outsourcing to other states or downsizing. In those cases, it’s not possible to prove jobs went to a foreign country or were impacted by global trade deals.

Walker and Johnson have consistently supported a rigged economic system that allows multinational corporations to pit Wisconsin workers against low-wage foreign workers.

Walker’s WEDC has consistently refused to hold accountable the corporations that take public job creation dollars and then outsource Wisconsin jobs. The WEDC board has refused to require corporations receiving public dollars to create a net positive number of jobs (i.e. not to outsource and downsize more jobs than they are paid to create).

Recently a Citizen Action of Wisconsin open records request found that WEDC is not enforcing its own 30 day notice policy for outsourcing and downsizing. Senator Dave Hansen and Reps. Andy Jorgensen and Debra Kolste introduced a bill that would have banned corporations who outsource from receiving state economic aid for five years. But it was voted down by the conservative majorities in both chambers.

While Walker has aided and abetted outsourcing through state government,  Johnson has done nothing to challenge unfair trade deals that rig the economy against Wisconsin workers. This is not surprising, given that during his election campaign in 2010 Johnson touted global trade deals like NAFTA as “creative destruction.” Johnson touts his manufacturing credentials, but seems oblivious to the impact of outsourcing on manufacturing workers across the state.

“The continuing toll of outsourcing in Wisconsin is not a natural disaster; it is human made. Accountability is coming to all the politicians who are aiding and abetting the outsourcing of their constituents’ jobs,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “The public is on to the fact that the political and corporate establishment are committing economic treason against Wisconsin workers. The public is also increasingly realizing that if the economy can be rigged against workers, it can also be re-rigged in our favor through policies that expand economic opportunity.”

Web Link to News Release http://www.citizenactionwi.org/at_least_11_331_wisconsin_jobs_outsourced_overseas_over_the_last_five_years

WEDC issues false claims of producing jobs in Sherman Park

Gov. Scott Walker’s troubled job agency has not created new jobs in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, despite claiming credit for 483.

Citizen Action conducted a review of reporting by Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs agency and could verify no job creation in the area, which was the site of civil unrest over the weekend.

As Citizen Action of Wisconsin documented in its statement Tuesday on the Sherman Park civil unrest, the neighborhood has borne the brunt of the outsourcing and deindustrialization that has taken place since the 1970s.

Citizen Action’s review of the Wisconsin Economic Development Agency’s database found claims of creating 483 jobs in the area. But an investigation revealed that the companies named do not actually exist in the neighborhood.

WEDC’s map on their website lists eight companies in Sherman Park receiving tax credits or related programs. Only three of them claim to have created jobs.

But a review of the companies show they do not exist in the community, despite what is indicated on the WEDC map. All of the locations are listed with the same area on WEDC’s website, which is in fact residential neighborhood:

  • Saelens Corporation, which received $400,000 in tax credits, is actually based closer to Menomonee Falls on Milwaukee’s far northwest side
  • Novation Companies, which received $750,000 in tax credits, is actually based downtown and is selling its office to a California tech company.
  • Merge Healthcare Inc., which received $500,000 in tax credits, was actually based in Hartland

Even if WEDC had created 483 jobs, that would not be nearly the scale of employment necessary to help the thousands of area residents who cannot find good jobs.

The revelation that Wisconsin flagship economic development agency is doing little to nothing for one of the most economically distressed areas in the United States is consistent with early reports by Citizen Action and others that it is emphasizing investments in wealthy suburbs. WEDC’s own website takes credit for impacting more jobs in Waukesha County (12,317) than Milwaukee County (11,889), despite Milwaukee’s much greater population and poverty rates.

Also, Walker choose to turn down over $800 million in federal money for high-speed rail, forcing a train manufacturer in the Sherman Park neighborhood to leave Wisconsin. This could have been an anchor for further economic development in the area.

“It is clear that Sherman Park and other economically devastated areas like it have been abandoned by Gov. Walker’s failed economic strategy,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “WEDC’s misrepresentations of its job creation efforts in Sherman Park are yet another affront to area residents, who simply want real economic opportunity and their fair share of the American dream.”

“For decades, jobs within Milwaukee’s industrial core have been lost to other countries and other communities. We know investment is deeply needed, yet we haven’t seen it — and now must find answers to where the state’s flagship jobs agency is actually making its investments,” said state Rep. Evan Goyke, whose district includes part of Sherman Park. “Where did the money actually go?  As we move to build strong neighborhoods throughout Milwaukee, we are left asking questions about the state’s investment, which could be the economic foundation from which to rebuild prosperity in Milwaukee’s most economically distressed neighborhoods.”

See also:

Ex-banker to plead guilty in fraud case against WEDC recipient

WEDC approved tax credits for Walker donor who cut jobs

Dem official: WEDC illegally gave out $21 million in taxpayer dollars

 

 

Wisconsin fails small businesses and startups

 

Last year the U.S. economy soared, thanks to a strong dollar, increased job growth, lower gas prices, higher consumer spending, and improvements in the housing sector. But Wisconsin saw scant benefits, and the state’s GOP leaders are largely to blame.

A critical problem with the GOP’s approach to governing jumped out at us a year ago from the pages of a Pew Research Center report. The data is clear: Wisconsin is now home to the fastest-shrinking middle class in the nation.

Middle-class purchasing is the nation’s largest single economic generator. That means that when middle-class dollars shrink, so does economic activity. Our Republican leaders have failed to focus on policies that benefit the middle class, and the economic result was predictable.

In fact, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers have initiated few, if any, policies in general to help the state’s economy. Instead, they’ve focused on making government less transparent and elections less fair. They’ve taken the state backward socially by attacking women’s health, transgender rights and immigrants.

What economic policies the GOP has enacted are counterproductive in at least three ways. First, they’ve extended tax breaks and incentives to large corporations and the wealthiest individuals.

This tactic has never worked. It’s based on the disproven premise that economic benefits showered on people at the top will “trickle down” to the middle class. More than 30 years of history have shown this simply doesn’t happen.

Wealthy people use their money for investments, luxury goods, vacation properties and other expenditures that do not put dollars into Wisconsinites’ pockets the way that middle-class spending does.

It is small businesses and startups, not corporate titans, that form the backbone of the nation’s economy. Small businesses create most of the nation’s jobs and led the post-recession economic recovery. Nearly 54 million Americans now work for themselves in small businesses that they created.

But in a second failure, the state’s Republican leaders have ignored the economic potential of small business growth. Wallet Hub recently ranked Wisconsin 46th in the nation for business start-up activity, 30th for “innovation potential,” and 38th in economic activity. States where those measures rank high, such as Utah, Washington and California, have the nation’s most successful economies.

Third, the GOP embraces right-wing ideology over reality. They’ve shifted money away from higher education, even though that’s necessary for a healthy economy. They’ve eliminated regulations, such as restrictions on pollution, that make doing business in the state less burdensome for companies, but at the cost of public health and safety. They’ve misguidedly “invested” taxpayer dollars into businesses through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Walker’s disgraced job-creation agency.

With policies like these, it’s no wonder the state is an economic basket case.

So what can Wisconsin lawmakers do? For one, they can stop doling out tax credits to politically connected companies that, in return, either ship jobs out of the state or create ridiculously few of them. They can stop cutting and rather restore funding to K-12 and higher education. They can offer meaningful tax relief — more than a few dollars per month — to poor and middle-class earners instead of the one-percenters.

To rebuild our middle class, GOP leaders must start investing in venture capital and assistance for small business startups. Successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — not self-interested politicians — should be involved in making decisions that involve investing our tax dollars.

Republican leaders must also invest in infrastructure improvements. Just ask a middle-class person — if you can find one — the cost of our disintegrating roads.

The bottom line is this: So long as Republican leaders continue to put their political interests and those of their corporate donors above the good of the state’s economy, Wisconsin’s middle class will continue to suffer and its economy will fail to launch into the 21st century. Walker and crew must take note of the remarkable economic successes achieved by states such as Utah and Minnesota, where start-up businesses proliferate. They must emulate the policies of those states rather than continue to legislate in ways that only serve their personal interests and political ideology.

 

Officials probe $66M discrepancy for Walker’s agency

Wisconsin’s economic development agency is checking on nearly $66 million in discrepancies in tax credits awarded and actual jobs created.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that officials with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. are still working to understand the scope and magnitude of the problem. Last year, the an investigative report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed that the troubled agency exceeded its authority and improperly awarded more than $21 million in taxpayer funding to businesses and Gov. Walker campaign contributors.

Agency officials said at a meeting last week they have identified inaccuracies in how the agency counts the number of jobs a company creates that qualify for tax breaks. The board discussed few details before going into closed session.

The Legislature ended the state’s jobs tax credit and economic development tax credit programs in December. The agency has been under close scrutiny after a series of critical audits and reports about failed loans and unmet job promises.

Failed jobs pledge

In his 2010 campaign for governor, Scott Walker pledged to create 250,000 jobs. At the center of his pledge was the creation of WEDC, a public-private agency that replaced the state Commerce Department.

The primary purpose of WEDC was to grant loans supporting companies’ efforts to grow and hire more workers in the state. But a 2013 audit found that money was being handed out without any such agreements. Since that audit, large loans have been made to companies that outsourced jobs to places such as Tijuana, Mexico. We’d love to hear Walker explain the thinking behind that plan.

Millions of dollars in loans were made without any terms attached. Technically, they weren’t even loans — they were handouts, because they were granted without stipulations or payback terms. Many were not recorded, so they can’t be tracked and will never be repaid. Those were among the findings of a 2013 audit of the agency.

Since 2013, more than $4 million in loans were written off by WEDC because they were only 90 days behind in their payments.

Critics, including Republicans, said WEDC treated taxpayer money like play money.

Loan recipients were not contractually required to submit information showing that jobs were created and/or retained. WEDC failed to comply with state laws or to collect information about the numbers of jobs created and retained as a result of its handouts.

In his 2015–17 budget, Walker proposed fixing the mess he created by combining WEDC with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority — in other words, bringing it back under government control. But after the last audit, he sent an SOS to the Legislature, asking lawmakers to step in and handle it.

Critics say that it’s emblematic of the Walker administration’s arrogance, incompetence and disregard for the rules. They say it illustrates not just ignorance of the most fundamental workings of government but also a complete lack of interest in them.

It reveals a character that cannot accept responsibility and whose only leadership strategy is to spin his failures into someone else’s problem, according to naysayers.

WEDC has been criticized by numerous state audits and media reports — here, here, here – for failing to properly award, document and track millions of dollars in state aid to businesses. Republicans responded by eliminating state audit agencies.

Johnson Controls

Last year, the Wisconsin Democracy Alliance published a report showing a case that demonstrated the reasons for WEDC’s failure.

WEDC awarded Johnson Controls nearly $2.47 million in tax credits in March 2014 for two projects, including $1 million for its Milwaukee Business Center in suburban Glendale, where it laid off all of its employees beginning in January, according to the report. The company said the jobs lost in Wisconsin would be sent to Johnson Controls’ accounting and finance operations in China, Mexico and Slovakia.

Meanwhile, company employees contributed about $5,700 to Walker in 2014 when the tax credits were awarded and the governor was at the agency’s helm. Top Johnson Controls employee contributions to Walker in 2014 were $1,000 from Andrea Ferestad, of Mukwonago, senior program manager; $600 from Donald Pfeiffer, of New Berlin, an engineer; and $550 from Paul Thompto, of Brookfield, a control engineer.

Since Walker was first elected governor in 2010, through June 2015, Johnson Controls employees have contributed about $28,200 to the governor.

 

In Illinois as in Wisconsin, tax breaks to corporations have failed to create the promised jobs

Tax giveaways to corporations are a key component of the Republicans formula for job growth. But they’ve failed miserably in Wisconsin and now there’s evidence they’ve flopped in Illinois as well.

The Chicago Tribune analyzed (http://trib.in/1GnWjHk ) 783 deals the state has made through the Economic Development for a Growing Economy program and found that two-thirds of the companies that completed agreements didn’t maintain agreed-upon job levels.

State officials also can’t say how many jobs have been created by the program, known as EDGE, which Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner wisely put on hold in June.

Since 1999, Illinois has promised more than $1 billion in EDGE tax breaks, which officials say helps lure new firms, hang onto employers who might move elsewhere and encouraging businesses to add jobs. Companies have so far collected about $450.3 million — money that, if collected, would help pay for public services such as education and health care.

Rauner’s move came this summer as he and the Democrats who control the General Assembly disagreed over a new state budget, though new deals the state reached with Amazon and ConAgra Foods before June have only been recently announced.

The Republican governor reiterated last week that, even when the EDGE program is restarted, the state won’t provide tax breaks unless companies create new jobs. At least 78 companies that have signed EDGE deals since 2004 were not required to add jobs, and at least 51 of those were made by the administration of Rauner’s predecessor, Democrat Pat Quinn.

But Rauner defended the tax breaks promised to ConAgra as crucial to the company’s plans to move its headquarters from Omaha, Nebraska, to Chicago. Neither ConAgra nor state officials have disclosed the terms of that deal beyond the requirement that the company add 150 new jobs.

“Getting corporate headquarters for a Fortune 500 company like ConAgra is a big deal long term to the economic growth in Illinois,” Rauner told The Associated Press. “And they will be adding jobs. We would not give them edge credits unless they were adding jobs.”

Recent headlines illustrate that some EDGE recipients not only don’t add new jobs, but cut employees. Mitsubishi received a new EDGE deal in 2011 but now plans to close its plant in Normal, cutting almost 1,200 jobs. Two more EDGE recipients also recently announced layoff plans: 500 jobs at Motorola Mobility in Chicago and 700 at Kraft Foods in Northfield.

Jim Schultz is the director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which oversees EDGE. He called the terms of many of the existing deals “very distasteful.”

David Vaught, a former Quinn budget chief and commerce director, told the newspaper that Quinn wanted to try “anything that could get us a job in a recession.” Some companies openly threatened to leave the state during the recession unless they received tax breaks.

When Quinn announced the $29 million deal with Mitsubishi, he proclaimed, “Illinois is Mitsubishi country and always will be.” But the company, which has received $5.2 million in tax breaks, plans to close the plant in November and move production overseas. A small staff will stay on through May, which could allow the car maker to avoid EDGE provisions requiring repayment if the company closes its Illinois facility within five years of signing the deal.

“When you’re in an economic emergency compounded by decades of financial recklessness, you fight to keep businesses and jobs in Illinois,” Quinn said in a statement defending deals he made.

Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat who’s a longtime critic of EDGE tax breaks, calls the program “deeply flawed.”

“We have no idea what we’re getting in return in for our investment, and we don’t even know if anything works,” he said.

Wisconsinites who blame Gov. Scott Walker for the failure of his Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation should consider the mounting evidence that such programs simply don’t work. In Wisconsin, they’ve been nothing but gifts for Republicans’ cronies. Perhaps in Illinois, Democratic officials were the ones who made out like bandits.

It’s time to end pointless tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy. In 30-plus years, it has never trickled down. It’s only squirted up.

Tax breaks must target the middle-class people who generate economic activity. They must be used for funding education, infrastructure and social programs — all of which help people who actually need the help.

Report: Wisconsin job creation agency is spending more money to create fewer jobs

Wisconsin’s troubled job-creation agency handed out more awards last year but created fewer jobs, according to its annual report.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation awarded nearly $90 million more in economic development awards last year than the previous year, according to the recently issued report. But those awards are expected to create or retain almost 6,000 fewer jobs and result in $400 million less in capital investment.

Most of the additional funding resulted from a historic rehabilitation tax credit that Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature expanded in 2013, the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1OPh6L3 ) reported. Even without those credits, total awards increased $13.5 million, while promised job creation and capital investment dropped.

A WEDC spokesman says job numbers dropped because of declining interest in a tax credit program.

Democratic lawmakers on the WEDC board repeated their call for replacing the agency with a new public entity.

“I am deeply concerned that taxpayers are not getting the needed bang for their buck at WEDC,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said in a statement.

State Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said she’ll ask for an explanation of the numbers at tomorrow’s WEDC board meeting.

“We know Wisconsin continues to lag behind the national average in new job creation, and I think we have to acknowledge that our state job creation programs haven’t had the kind of impact we need,” Lassa said in an email.

Republican lawmakers on the WEDC board did not respond to a request from the newspaper for comment.

Walker and the Legislature created the WEDC in 2011 to replace the state Department of Commerce. The agency has been plagued with problems since the start. A May audit noted WEDC’s contracts with grant and loan recipients haven’t complied with state law and the agency hasn’t demanded proof that award recipients are actually creating or retaining jobs. Documents WEDC released in June showed the agency handed out more than $124 million to companies without a proper review — taxpayer money that is now mostly lost.

Wisconsin lost 300 jobs in June, according to preliminary report

According to numbers released today by the Current Employment Statistics program, the state lost 300 private sector jobs in June.

Although that’s nothing for Gov. Scott Walker to boast about on the presidential campaign trail, it was a better showing than in May, when the state lost 8,600 jobs and ranked dead last in the nation.

All told, Wisconsin experienced 1.49 percent job growth from June 2014 to June 2015, making the state 31st in the nation for job growth.

The numbers released today are preliminary. The final numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics should be available in a few days.

Earlier this year, a Pew Charitable Trust report showed that Wisconsin has the fastest shrinking middle class in the nation, with real median household incomes falling 14.7 percent since 2000. “Middle class” refers to people earning between 67 and 200 percent of the state’s median income.

On the campaign trail, Walker stresses the state’s unemployment rate, which is lower than the nation’s. But that measurement doesn’t take into account all the people who’ve run out of unemployment benefits but are still looking for work, those who’ve had to take lower-paying jobs and those who can find only part-time work but need to work full time.

Wisconsin’s private-sector job growth ranked 38th in the country last year, trailing the national average.

Wonder why state’s economy lags? Take a look at WEDC, Scott Walker’s job-creation agency

In his 2010 campaign for governor, Scott Walker pledged to create 250,000 jobs. At the center of his pledge was the creation of a new public-private agency called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which replaced the state Commerce Department. Right-wing media were overjoyed to bring in private business people to grow the state’s economy instead of relying on wonky government types.

Unfortunately, none of WEDC’s boosters seemed concerned about oversight and accountability. Yes, government regulators are annoying, with all those pesky little boxes to check on compliance reports and taking care to dot every “i” and cross every “t.”

But all that boring paperwork serves an important purpose, as WEDC ultimately proved by dispensing with it.

Left alone to run amok, that’s exactly what WEDC did the minute it left the station. Millions of dollars in loans were made without any terms attached. Technically, they weren’t even loans — they were handouts, because they were granted without stipulations or payback terms. Many were not recorded, so they can’t be tracked and will never be repaid. Those were among the shocking findings of a 2013 audit of the agency. Changes were promised following the audit, but a follow-up audit this month doesn’t suggest overall improvement. Since 2013, more than $4 million in loans were written off by WEDC because they were only 90 days behind in their payments. What sort of creditor forgives a loan that’s only three months in arrears? Does Walker think if he stopped paying his Sears bill the company would say, “That’s OK, forget about it,” after three months?

WEDC has continued to treat taxpayer money like play money. Walker, who chairs WEDC, says he’s horrified by the prospect that a food stamp recipient could buy lobster with taxpayer money. But he didn’t bat an eye when businessmen were showered with booze, iTunes gift cards and Badgers tickets at taxpayer expense through WEDC, according to the latest audit.

The primary purpose of WEDC was to grant loans supporting companies’ efforts to grow and hire more workers in the state. But the 2013 audit found that money was being handed out without any such agreements. Since that audit, large loans have been made to companies that outsourced jobs to places such as Tijuana, Mexico. We’d love to hear Walker explain the thinking behind that plan.

The more recent audit found that loan recipients are still not contractually required to submit information showing that jobs were created and/or retained. It also showed that WEDC has continued not to comply with state laws or to collect information about the numbers of jobs created and retained as a result of its handouts.

In his 2015–17 budget, Walker proposed fixing the mess he created by combining WEDC with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority — in other words, bringing it back under government control. But after the latest audit, he sent an SOS to the Legislature, asking lawmakers to step in and handle it. It takes an incomprehensible amount of gall for the man who set up the agency and serves as its chair to turn it into someone else’s problem. 

People who wonder why Wisconsin’s economy lags the rest of the nation need look no farther than WEDC. It’s emblematic of the Walker administration’s arrogance, incompetence and disregard for the rules. It illustrates not just ignorance of the most fundamental workings of government but also a complete lack of interest in them. It reveals a character that cannot accept responsibility and whose only leadership strategy is to spin his failures into someone else’s problem.

Former Trek executive Mary Burke brings strong business record to Democratic gubernatorial race

Democrat Mary Burke announced today that that she’s running for governor next year.

The candidate, who’s been meeting with officials and influencers around the state for months to explore a bid, lost no time in taking aim at Gov. Scott Walker for Wisconsin’s dismal job-creation record.

“Wisconsin ranks 45th out of 50 states in projected job growth,” Burke said in an online video announcing her entry into the governor’s reelection race. “We’re fifth from the bottom. I’m running for governor because we can do better than that. A lot better. But to do it, we’ve got to make some real changes in Madison.”

Burke, 54, is positioning herself as a job creator with private-sector business experience. As a former executive at Trek, the bicycle company founded by her father in 1976, Burke served as director of European operations, helping to create and manage companies in seven countries.

“I know that Wisconsin workers can compete with anyone in the world. That’s why when you look around at places like Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio, whose economies are creating more jobs than ours, you wonder what the heck’s going on?” Burke said in her announcement.

It’s likely her campaign will sharply contrast her business experience with Walker’s. The governor’s private-sector experience includes a part-time job as a warranty salesman for IBM while attending Marquette University, followed by four years as a fundraiser for the American Red Cross.

Walker never completed his degree at Marquette. He left shortly after being suspended for violating the university’s campaign rules while running for student body president.

In contrast, Burke has an MBA from Harvard University. She served briefly as former Gov. Jim Doyle’s commerce secretary and is currently a member of the Madison School Board.

Burke’s exploratory outreach included meetings with LGBT leaders in the state, as well as a quick, impromptu visit to the Wisconsin Gazette on Oct. 4.

“We welcome Mary Burke to the race for governor and look forward to engaging in a robust dialogue through our endorsement process about her vision for supporting the LGBT community as governor of Wisconsin,” said Fair Wisconsin executive director Katie Belanger.

Some Democratic officials view Burke as the best choice for governor because she can use her personal wealth to help overcome Walker’s enormous fundraising advantage. The governor has raised $3.5 million in the first half of this year alone to support his reelection.

A great favorite of the Republican’s tea party faction, Walker appears to have limitless financial support from the corporate right, which considers Wisconsin among the most critical states in its war against labor unions, corporate taxes, the minimum wage, women’s pay equity, environmental regulations, consumer protections, government-subsidized health care and easy access to voting. Many of the most controversial policies approved by Walker include boiler-plate legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-right group that develops model legislation that benefits big business.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin officials welcomed Burke into the race.

“It’s exciting news that a proven leader like Mary Burke is entering the race for governor,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Mike Tate in a statement. “Between her track record of growing good-paying private sector jobs right here in Wisconsin and experience as an executive in the public and nonprofit sectors, Mary really understands how to create jobs and opportunity for Wisconsinites. Mary also knows that the way we move forward is together. Her history of bringing people together for the betterment of our state will serve as a stark contrast to Scott Walker’s style of divisive extremism.”

But Democratic officials stopped short of endorsing the highly polished Burke over other Democrats this early in the election cycle.

“We know that Wisconsin deserves better than Scott Walker and are confident that Democrats will field the strongest possible candidate to take him on next year,” Tate’s statement said.

In the months leading up to Burke’s announcement, Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout had said she would not oppose Burke for the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination if the latter decided to run. Vinehout ran in last year’s primary to select a Democratic opponent to run against Gov. Scott Walker in his recall election.

But following Burke’s announcement, Vinehout said she’s still considering a run for Wisconsin governor. Vinehout, who said she wants the state to elect a woman governor, plans to announce her final decision early next year.

Two more obscure Democrats, Hariprasad Trivedi and Marcia Mercedes Perkins, also have filed gubernatorial campaign committees.

In addition to Burke’s ability to provide some of her own financing, she appeals to many Democratic leaders because of her slim public record. The longer a candidate’s political dossier, the easier it is for opposition researchers to spin a vote or statement out of context and then use it in political advertising.

But Burke is not popular among the most liberal Democrats, some of whom dismiss her as an elitist. They disapprove of her wealth, her support for a charter school in Madison over opposition from a teacher’s union and for spending $120,000 on her school board campaign.

In July, a Daily Kos blogger criticized Burke as a leftist Mitt Romney and said she would hurt Democrats. In non-presidential elections, when each party’s hardcore political base is more likely to vote than swing voters, candidates who fail to catch fire with their party’s most engaged voters often lose. The Daily Kos blogger claimed that Burke falls into that category.

In online rants, some staunch liberals are comparing Burke to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, a progressive who has earned their ire for making decisions stressing fiscal responsibility in budgeting and spending. But that same characteristic has earned him praise from middle-of-the road voters seeking decision-makers who emphasize problem-solving over ideology.

At any rate, Democratic officials – privately, at least – seem bullish on Burke for the same reasons that ideological purists oppose her. They say it will be hard for the political right to pin the epithet “Madison tax-and-spend liberal” on her candidacy.

But then her candidacy is only several hours old.