Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen turns down a chairmanship of the Small Business and Tourism Committee. He said he wanted Health and Education, because it’s more important. Wisconsin Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett says this issue is a lot deeper than just tourism. “Tim Cullen has been a real friend to tourism.”
Cullen said small business and tourism are important to the state’s economy, but he said neither have ever been considered important committees in the Senate. He says Majority Leader Mark Miller declined Cullen’s requests to head other committees and that was a blatant insult. “The state senate, historically, small business and tourism have not been very significant committees at all and people who’ve been around here know that. I’m interested in health; I’m interested in education; I’m interested in economic development.”
Klett says she knows how very supportive Cullen is to tourism, and his decision to turn down the committee chair isn’t considered an insult. Klett also notes, tourism crosses party lines. “The one thing about tourism is we really work with all parties, you know, left, right, in the center. We don’t care. And we really invite everyone to the table. So, I think with Senator Cullen that issue is a lot more than just tourism because he knows the impact is invaluable to Wisconsin, that it’s a $16 billion industry. But I think there’s some politics going on that he’ll just need to straighten out.”
Cullen is no longer a member of the Senate Democratic caucus, following the perceived snub to his district. He’s contemplating becoming an independent.
Tourism had a $16 billion impact on Wisconsin’s economy in 2011. Over 95 million people visited Wisconsin in 2011. The tourism economy generates over $2 billion in annual tax revenue. One in every 13 jobs in the state is sustained by tourism activity, according to the state Tourism Department.
AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:28