Gov. Walker Promises More Funding for Wisconsin Tourism

Following three weeks of protests in the state capital, the man who's famous for making controversial budget cuts against Wisconsin unions is now advocating budget increases in favor of Wisconsin tourism, according to local media reports.

Addressing a crowd of travel and tourism professionals last week at the Governor's Conference on Tourism at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Gov. Scott Walker promised to increase the state's tourism marketing budget by $1.2 million in fiscal year 2012 and by $2.3 million in fiscal year 2013.That's up 10 percent and 20 percent, respectively, from this year's budget, which is $9.9 million.

"We're going to help you sell the state's attractions, drive more people to Wisconsin and in turn help you create jobs," Walker said in his speech.

In his full two-year budget — which is separate from the emergency budget repair bill that was passed last week, limiting labor unions' collective bargaining rights — Walker has proposed budget cuts for local governments and school districts. In defense of his decision to increase funding for tourism, he indicated that tourism — one of the state's three biggest industries at $12 billion a year — will help the state generate 250,000 new private-sector jobs in the next four years.

"It's an industry we know will rebound if we only make the investments," Walker said of tourism. "The time to invest is most important when times are the toughest. That's why we're giving you the tools. I know we can turn the state around and you're going to help us."

To help Wisconsin generate tourism, Walker plans to create and participate in a governor's tourism motorcycle ride in May, promoting Wisconsin destinations as well as Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson. State tourism officials, meanwhile, have proposed increasing promotion of Wisconsin's Native American tribes, promoting green travel opportunities, and creating a matching-grant program to generate more meetings and conventions business.