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Our View: Ditch the second stimulus proposal for state
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Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced an economic stimulus package called Wisconsin Invests Now.

The plan could compete for attention in the Legislature with Gov. Jim Doyle's own economic stimulus package, announced in his State of the State address last week.

The bottom line is the state doesn't need two stimulus packages to debate. It has the potential to create gridlock and delay any kind of positive effect on the economy.

Doyle's stimulus plan emphasizes long-term private investments in Wisconsin through preferential tax treatment, while the Senate plan calls for immediate direct investments in large-scale public works projects.

While Doyle's plan doesn't do enough for immediate relief, it's got more support than the Democrats' plan, which is immediate, but smells of pork spending.

Many parts of Doyle's plan originated with Republican lawmakers. Assembly Republicans already have expressed support for major portions of Doyle's economic development agenda.

Democrats say their stimulus package would be funded by closing the Las Vegas Loophole, a law that allows corporations to create out-of-state companies to avoid paying Wisconsin taxes.

The Democratic plan would cost roughly $79 million a year, while the loophole closure would bring in $90 million. Over half of that money, $50 million, would be spent to improve roads, translating, Democrats say, to 2,500 "good-paying jobs to our state." How? Where's the proof?

Parts of the Democratic proposal reek of pork spending. The plan would increase car rental fees by $13 in Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine to pay for the KRM commuter rail line. Democrats supported the plan in the state budget, but a majority of Republicans in the Assembly rejected it.

Another portion of the proposal would provide $5 million a year in increased funding for incentive grants for state technical colleges for "emerging occupations." Some money will be earmarked for welding training.

Other pork spending includes increasing financial aid for UW and technical college students by $1.3 million annually and increasing funding by $8 million to provide grants to new and existing businesses to expand renewable fuel production.

While some may label these investments as important for the state, they are pork spending, and seem to be the Democrats' way of trying to get back some of the things they lost in the state budget process.

Assembly Leader Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, spoke out against the plan Wednesday.

"Families and businesses throughout Wisconsin are anxious about our economy, and the Senate Democrats are pushing a 'tax and spend' agenda at the worst possible time," Huebsch said. "Growing the economy and creating jobs is done by working with employees and businesses, reducing taxes, cutting state spending and providing incentives and credits to grow the economy."

It sounds like the environment's ripe for another contentious battle over how to handle the state's lagging economy. Wisconsin can't afford, nor should it tolerate, a prolonged political fight. The Legislature is set to adjourn in mid-March. There's little time left for compromise.