State lawmakers cautiously supportive of venture capital - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

State lawmakers cautiously supportive of venture capital


LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – With the Governor set to deliver his vision for the state's next, two-year budget February 20, both Democrats and Republicans said they'd be open to the idea of the budget including funding for venture capital. 

Rep. Steve Doyle (D, Onalaska) said small businesses create most of the state's new jobs, so helping them get off the ground or expand would be beneficial to the economy. 

"The guy out there, or woman out there, that's got this great idea and just needs a little bit of extra help to do it -- that's where we want to funnel that money to," Doyle said. 

"Even if we're not talking about huge amounts of money, it sends the right message and gives a bit of a jump start to our state economy," he said. 

A venture capital failed to pass during the last legislative session. 

Doyle said it was a "pie in the sky" type of proposal aiming to provide $400-million in funding to new and growing companies. 

He said aiming for a lower number might prove more realistic and attainable. 

The Governor has spoken this year about the possible establishment of what he calls a "fund of funds," in which venture capital money would be set aside for small businesses to apply for. 

State Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D, La Crosse) said she supports that idea in principle. 

"Looking at a fund of funds, we'd want to be making sure the state investment board has oversight on it," she
said. "We also would want auditing being done of that fund on a regular basis to make sure all money being given out is responsible to tax payers," Shilling said. 

Doyle said he would like any companies applying for venture capital money to demonstrate they have received other funding. 

"If you can't get the banks behind you, that's not a good sign," he said. 

Doyle also said all companies applying for funding should be able to show, in detail, how many jobs their start up or expansion would create. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R, Rochester) said he is also cautiously supportive of the state providing venture capital. 

"I think the idea of saying, if a company needs $1-million and the private sector puts up some money then the state puts up matching funds so we're both at risk, that's something I might be open to," Vos said. "But I wouldn't want to have it be all just government money."

Vos also said he would not support lawmakers having too much influence over which companies receive money from a possible venture capital fund. He said he favors a non-partisan approach. 


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