Doyle: Wisconsin faces difficult futureThe state is facing some rough fiscal times ahead, Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday in his annual State of the State Address to Wisconsin legislators. “Make no mistake; challenging days are ahead,” he said, citing a slowdown in state revenues.
By: By BRADY BAUTCH / FORUM COMMUNICATIONS , FORUM COMMUNICATIONS
The state is facing some rough fiscal times ahead, Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday in his annual State of the State Address to Wisconsin legislators.
“Make no mistake; challenging days are ahead,” he said, citing a slowdown in state revenues.
While revenue totals are not yet official, early reports suggest they are down.
“There are rumblings that they are significantly down from what we forecast,” said State Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson.
In a prepared statement issued late Wednesday by State Sen. Bob Jauch, he seemed suggested the same.
“The best thing we can do at the state level is to put our fiscal house in order. This will require tough decisions. It will require shared sacrifice. It will require bipartisanship. It will require a statesman like approach to manage this problem before it becomes a full-blown economic crisis,” said the Poplar Democrat.
Some initiatives funded in the last biennial budget may have to be delayed, Doyle warned.
“We will have to make deep cuts and hard sacrifices,” he said.
Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch agreed with the governor’s assessment.
“We have to look at some of the new programs we pass in the last budget, and maybe delay them,” said the West Salem Republican.
Neither Doyle nor Huebsch specified which programs would have to be delayed.
Rhoades said she was pleased to hear that Doyle wasn’t going to increase taxes to fix the problem.
“I was glad to hear the governor say we have to do some reigning in of government,” Rhoades said.
Doyle outlined a number of tax credits that he said will help improve the state’s economy and make Wisconsin more attractive to businesses. They include “angel investor” tax credits for individuals investing in start-up businesses, credits for businesses reinvesting in technology and efficiency, and in research and development along with worker training.
“We are ready to stand with the governor on some of the economic objectives,” Huebsch said.
Jauch said everything should be on the table, including the evaluation of both spending and tax cuts.
“It will take honesty rather than political rhetoric to work together to manage this problem,” he said. “We must re-examine all of our decisions that were part of a balanced budget, and need to defer both tax cuts and spending until our fiscal condition is strengthened.”
Because of the slowing revenues Doyle introduced few other new programs, however he did use the speech to introduce a new health care initiative called BadgerCare Plus. He said the program is aimed at small business and would eliminate a one-size fits all health care plan. It would create a consumer-driven marketplace for nearly 800,000 people and reflect the most innovative solutions in the country.
“We’ll wait and see what the details are,” Huebsch said.
The governor also announced a renewable energy investment plan.
“Over the next 10 years, Wisconsin will invest $150 million to help our businesses, our farmers, our foresters and our manufacturers produce and promote renewable energy,” Doyle said.
He wants to increase the availability or renewable fuels in the state by 1 billion gallons and add 400 new pumps dispensing renewable fuel. Doyle called on the Legislature to pass a renewable fuel standard that requires oil companies to provide renewable fuel.
“We’ll have to wait and see the details to see how we are going to pay for it,” Rhoades said of the spending proposals
Doyle used his address to again call for a statewide smoking ban.
“From Appleton to Ashland, more than 30 communities across Wisconsin have gone smoke free. The patchwork approach to public health is bad for business, and the time for action is now,” he said.
He also called for the passage of the Great Lakes Compact, an international agreement to limit who can take water from the Great Lakes.
The governor also touched on education, saying in his next budget he will be calling for a new education initiative that provides merit pay for teachers.
“In the next budget, I will present a plan to invest in a compensation system that rewards teachers who take on the hardest assignments, who advance their skills, and who help their students achieve success,” Doyle said.
He reiterated a call for the Legislature to require insurance companies to provide coverage for autism treatment and to raise Wisconsin’s minimum wage.