Chief Executive Mag: WI Business Climate Dramatically Improved

As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker faces a recall election in a little over a month, Chief Executive magazine has some good news for the embattled limited government hero:

The Badger State keeps rising in the Chief Executive Best States/Worst States list, and that’s got Wisconsin businesses cheering—as well as investing.

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Wisconsin leapt to 20th place in our Best States/Worst States list this year from 24th last year, one of only eight states that enjoyed a rise of at least four spots. That followed a phenomenal 17-place leap in last year’s list, where it occupied the doldrums of 41st place. Wisconsin also fared well by other gauges last year, especially in how it treated entrepreneurs. The state ranked 4th last year in tax costs on new firms, as calculated by the Tax Foundation, and a Kauffman Center Index of Entrepreneurial Activity showed Wisconsin with the 7th largest rise last year among the handful of states that did better at all.

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As soon as he took office in January 2011, Walker, a Republican governor elected on a fiscal-responsibility platform, moved aggressively to close the state’s $3.6-billion budget deficit without raising taxes. His centerpiece was slashing costs by restricting collective-bargaining rights and organizing powers of Wisconsin’s powerful government-employee unions.

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Wisconsin executives say the new public-private economic-development commission created by Walker is much nimbler and more responsive than the previous government bureaucracy. Furthermore, entrepreneurs have been favored by, among other things, streamlining of a Qualified New Business Tax Credit for angel investments in start-ups.

Neighboring Illinois, under the tenure of Gov. Pat Quinn, has not fared so well, finding itself among the Worst States for a second year in a row. Via the Huffington Post:

A national survey of CEOs released Wednesday contained bad news for Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn as the survey identified Illinois as the nation's third worst state to do business in.

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Last year, Illinois increased taxes, sending several businesses either packing or threatening to leave the state. CBOE Holdings, Sears and CME Group all said they would vacate the state unless the General Assembly approved millions of dollars in tax breaks -- which they did.

Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. CEO Doug Oberhelman was among the more outspoken critics of the tax hike, announcing earlier this year that it would build its new plant in North Carolina instead of Illinois. Caterpillar said in a statement that the state's "business climate and overall fiscal health" made it "unpractical" for the company to base its new plant there.

But it's not all good news for Wisconsin. According to John Shannon, CEO of Quick Cable Corp. who is quoted by Chief Executive, if Walker is recalled on June 5, Wisconsin's gains could be swiftly reversed.

"This very committed opposition may recall Walker and put someone else in,” Shannon told the magazine, “and then we’ll have the pendulum swinging abruptly the other way.”