The race between Republican Senate candidate Leah Vukmir and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin has been contentious, including on the topic of creating a climate for business and innovation.
Baldwin has made a point of reaching out to Wisconsin's business community during her time in the Senate. She's advocated for defense contractors, farmers, beer makers and others. The senator has also introduced a bill that she says would reform tax credits, for which smaller companies are eligible when they innovate.
“My measure is simplification for when you're filing your taxes, making it easier for smaller business to claim it, but also broadening the definition, to make the tax deduction more generous," Baldwin told WUWM.
Baldwin has also promoted the idea of helping clean-water technology firms bring their products to market.
That's a popular concept at the Global Water Center, a collaboration of universities, the private sector and water utilities in Milwaukee.
UW-Milwaukee scientist and Global Water Center Facility Manager Marcia Silva says a key mission is to find faster ways to head off drinking water problems. “If we had ways of detecting these pollutants at an early stage, we could potentially prevent the crises from happening," Silva said.
A bill signed Tuesday by President Donald Trump includes language from Baldwin that authorizes $10 million a year for a water technology grant program. Water Center President and CEO Dean Amhaus says more money should overcome reluctance by some water utilities to using new technology.
"They're risk-adverse. We're fortunate here in Milwaukee that we have utility managers who are willing to try those new innovations. But there's always a cost with that. So, one of the things we've talked with Senator Baldwin about is, to accelerate that innovation, is how do you reduce those costs, so our businesses can do those pilots with utilities in a partnership," Amhaus said.
Amhaus makes it clear the Global Water Center is not endorsing Baldwin's re-election.
Twice in the last month, WUWM reached out to the campaign of Vukmir, as to her plans for business innovation and companies she would like us to highlight. The campaign did not get back to us, so we listened to Vukmir's debates with Baldwin, for clues as to the philosophy of the Wauwatosa Republican.
On Oct. 8, during a debate co-sponsored by WUWM, Vukmir promoted the federal tax cut legislation that passed last year. "This has spurred the economy, along with the regulatory reform that the president and we here have done in Wisconsin,” Vukmir said.
Baldwin voted against the federal tax cut package, saying the great majority of the savings have gone to large companies, and the loss of revenue for the U.S. Treasury now threatens Social Security and Medicare.
And while the incumbent is promoting the science of water technology, challenger Vukmir said during a debate that she believes climate change is occurring but is skeptical of some of the ways to reduce warming.
"That's the problem with so many of these green ideas. They're not based on science. They're based on a whim, and there's no certainty that it's actually going to make a difference," Vukmir said.
With Trump's backing, and that of some state and national business groups, Vukmir is expected to make a hard push in the final two weeks of the campaign. While Baldwin, supported by many labor unions, some venture capitalists and shipbuilders hopes to win a second 6-year term in the U.S. Senate.
Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.
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