Lawmakers respond to State of StateGov. Scott Walker reviewed his accomplishments and promised to “double down” on efforts to improve Wisconsin’s job climate as he delivered his State of the State address Jan. 15.
By: Judy Wiff, The Republican Eagle
Gov. Scott Walker reviewed his accomplishments and promised to “double down” on efforts to improve Wisconsin’s job climate as he delivered his State of the State address Jan. 15.
While Republican lawmakers who represent Pierce and St. Croix counties were complimentary of the governor’s speech, the area’s lone Democratic representative advised a wait-and-see reaction.
During the 30-minute message, Walker called 10 out-of-work union members to his side, introducing them by name as “people who really want to work.”
As they and eight other union members held up a Wisconsin flag, Walker pointed to the image of a miner to the right of the state seal, to mining tools in the upper right corner of the flag and to the flag’s badger — a nickname for the state’s early settlers, who were miners.
“If any state can move forward with a way to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining, shouldn’t it be the Badger State?” asked the governor.
He said one of the best ways the state can prove it is focused on jobs is “to pass a bill that streamlines the process for safe and environmentally sound mining.”
Calling a mine “a lifeline to the people in northwestern Wisconsin” where unemployment rates are nearly 12 percent, Walker also said a mine’s benefits would be felt throughout the state.
When he was first elected two years ago, said Walker, the state was facing a $3.6 million budget deficit, property taxes had increased 27 percent over the previous decade and unemployment was at 6.8 percent.
Now, said the governor, the state has a $342 million budget surplus, property taxes on most homes went down in each of the last two years and the unemployment rate has dropped to 6.7 percent.
“With the introduction of my proposed budget next month, I will lay out a clear plan for reducing the burden on hard-working families by lowering income taxes on the middle class,” Walker pledged. “We want to continue to put more money in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers and small business owners of our state.”
Walker said the state needs to make administrative code changes to make it easier to do business here and must work to align educational programs with the needs of the workplace and current and future employers.
“Governor Walker presented a solid foundation for what I anticipate to be a successful and productive legislative session,” said Republican Warren Petryk, Eleva, who represents much of Pierce County in the Assembly. “I was encouraged by his enthusiasm and his plan to build on the successes of our last legislative session.”
Not so fast, said Democratic Senator Kathleen Vinehout, who also has most of Pierce County in her district.
“As every governor does in the State of the State, he made a lot of positive statements and general promises. We will know what is real when we see his budget next month,” Vinehout said.
She was equally skeptical about Walker’s taking credit for turning the state’s economy around.
“In the last two years of slow recovery with a Republican governor and a Democratic president, Wisconsin has trailed other states in job creation. During the recession when we had a Republican president and a Democratic governor, the Wisconsin economy didn’t fall as far or as quickly as other states,” Vinehout said. “It seems to me to be a matter of political choice who gets the blame and who gets the credit in either case.”
Republican lawmakers, though, called attention to the state budget surplus and the declining unemployment rate as evidence of a turn-around.
“Our jobs numbers have improved and our state has reversed the trend of job losses,” Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, said. “However, there is more work to be done to encourage job growth and get people back to work.”