Government Relations

Pending Legislation: Senate Bill 152

Before Senate Veterans Homeland Security
Military Affairs Small Business and Government Reform
April 21, 2005
Testimony of Charles Hoslet
Managing Director of Corporate Relations
University of Wisconsin-Madison

I appreciate the opportunity to submit written testimony in support of Senate Bill 152. Unfortunately I am not able to attend today’s hearing, but I do want to convey UW-Madison’s support for this legislation, which will create new educational opportunities for Wisconsin students and will contribute to Wisconsin’s ability to retain students. This legislation is an important component of a ‘brain gain’ strategy.

Employers and students both gain when an employer is willing to pay for the cost of higher education. Taxpayers gain because this approach leverages private dollars as financial aid for students.

One of the challenges Wisconsin faces in growing its economy is the low per capita income of our residents. In 2001 our per capita income was more than $1,000 below the national average, ranking 21st in the country. Minnesota by comparison ranked 9th in the country, with a per capita income of almost $3,000 above the national average. There is a correlation between per capita income and educational attainment. Wisconsin ranks 31st in the country in people with 4 year degrees; less than 24% of Wisconsinites age 25 or older have a college degree. In Minnesota more than 31% of people age 25 or older have a college degree, ranking them 7th in the country. I think it is well understood that if we can increase the number of people with higher education degrees in this state, we will increase the per capita income. Using the 2001 data, if our per capita income was at the national average, it would generate an additional $460 million in tax revenues without doing anything else. And I’m pretty sure the Legislature is looking for some additional revenues right now.

This bill will also help meet the demand for continuing education, whether it be at the technical college or university level. One of the things I have learned since working more closely with businesses in the state is that the need for our workforce to receive continuing education and professional development in their fields has never been more important. Our Office of Corporate Relations – which serves as a single point of contact for businesses in Wisconsin that want to access the many resources of the university – has received a lot of calls and e-mails from business owners looking for courses and programs to which they can send their employees for updated training and education. Advances in technology alone – which affects every industry – make it critical for businesses to be sure their employees are trained in the latest processes and equipment if they are to stay competitive. A perfect example of this is in engineering; the knowledge and techniques learned by students who graduate from UW-Madison this year will be obsolete in three to seven years, depending on their field of expertise. If they are not able to get updated training and education they are of no value to their employers.

I recognize that there is a cost to this bill. The Department of Revenue estimates that this bill would decrease revenue by approximately $20 million annually, but as I illustrated above tax payments from individuals with higher incomes would more than offset this. The difference between a high school degree and a Bachelor’s degree generates $1,250 in additional income taxes annually.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to share my comments in support of Senate Bill 152. If you have any questions, please call me at 608/263-5044.