On a 94-4 vote, The Assembly has passed a bill that would appropriate $15 million for workforce development training, downing several Democratic amendments in the process. The bill will now head over to the Senate.
Despite the overwhelming support for the bill, Democrats debated the utility of a provision requiring funding for a labor market information system. Democrats first proposed an amendment that would move funding for a labor market information system to the Wisconsin Technical College System. They then proposed the money for that system be shifted into the workforce development grants, boosting that amount to $20 million. Democrats have argued that the information system is unnecessary when agencies like the tech colleges have handled that role appropriately for nearly a hundred years.
"You guys are going to create another function in a state agency to duplicate what another state agency already does," said amendment author Rep. Corey Mason, D-Racine.
Mason also argued that the bill is a "half-measure to undo the damage we did last session" to technical college funding.
JFC Co-Chair John Nygren said that those systems for collecting labor market information are outdated and that the spending was justified to better connect employers and those looking for work. Bill author Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, said the tech colleges and other workforce development partners are on board with creating the labor market information system.
Other amendments from Democrats -- including one requiring an audit of the program by 2015 -- all failed on party-line votes. Those votes resulted in Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, arguing that the majority was "belittling the minority." That prompted Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, to "take umbrage" at the comments, noting that three of the proposed amendments came after an deadline for amendments agreed upon by both caucuses. He also pointed out that the bill passed both JFC and its Assembly committee unanimously.
"It's a great idea that not just Republicans have supported, but a great idea that Democrats have supported," Suder said.
The only representatives voting against the measure were Reps. Nick Milroy, Erik Severson, Dave Craig and Chris Kapenga.