Subscribe for 33¢ / day
FOXCONN DEBATE-15-08172017154528 (copy) (copy)

The Wisconsin Assembly chambers, photographed during debates over the Foxconn deal in August, 2017.

The state Assembly voted on Tuesday to approve a $50 million annual investment in rural economic development programs proposed by Gov. Scott Walker last month. 

Under the bill, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would distribute funding to eligible projects in counties with no more than 155 people per square mile — a measure Walker has said applies to 56 of the state's 72 counties.

Walker said earlier this month he thinks the move could help keep young adults in Wisconsin's rural communities. 

Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, said the bill is "without question, a step in the right direction." One of the biggest obstacles rural communities face is a shortage of people, he said.

"Coming from a rural part of Wisconsin, I can tell you firsthand how important is is and how vital it is that we invest in rural Wisconsin," Tranel said.

An amendment authored by Tranel instructs WEDC to prioritize underserved communities in rural counties in its administration of grants. 

As Madison as it gets: Get Cap Times' highlights sent daily to your inbox

Democrats have criticized the plan for being too late or not large enough.

"This is going to give (rural communities) a tiny little piece, maybe a blueberry or an apple, but they want a whole piece of the pie," said Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point.

Despite some Democratic criticism of its timing, the bill passed unanimously. The bill has not yet been taken up by the Senate. 

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.