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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

 12:45 PM 

Venture capital debate includes Dem substitute amendment

Once again, the venture capital bill has bipartisan support from the body, but Democrats feel there's more that can be done on the long-debated measure.

The current bill, as amended, would allow management of a $25 million fund by an separate fund manager. That manager would be chosen by a committee consisting of three members from the State of Wisconsin Investment Board and two members of the Department of Administration Capital Finance Office. It also would limit investment of the funds to six target industries.

The Democrats have offered a substitute amendment to the venture capital bill that would create a separate venture capital authority to manage the fund and direct $208 million to the fund over the next five years. Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, says the amendment is necessary for a "robust" VC fund that will create jobs and establish companies in the state.

Lassa said that the proposal from the GOP would take years to see any substantive job creation and that the size of the alternative fund is appropriate to start creating some economic progress in the next year.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said that the VC process has been like a Dr. Seuss book: previous attempts to find compromise didn't work out and were either "Too small, too big...too bumpy, too lumpy." Darling said that the fund isn't perfect, but it's a good start.

"Is it enough money? No," Darling said. "Is it all we want it to be? No. But as the Cat in the Hat would say, 'You just have to take a hat and you just have to run with it.'"

That amendment was tabled on a 19-13 vote, with Sens. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, joining Republicans.

Right now, Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, is speaking on an amendment that would remove the six target industries from the bill, making it "industry agnostic." This is to address Dem concerns that bioscience has been excluded from the list of targeted industries for socially conservative concerns.

"I'm asking rather than targeting a limited list of industries, we should empower the managers to invest where there is going to be the greatest return on investment," Taylor said.


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