Walker: ‘State of the state is good’Jobs: That will be the focus of the next two years, the governor said time and again as he addressed the Wisconsin Legislature on Tuesday during his third annual State of the State address.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Jobs: That will be the focus of the next two years, the governor said time and again as he addressed the Wisconsin Legislature on Tuesday during his third annual State of the State address.
From an issue likely to have a great impact in northern Wisconsin to the rest of the state, the governor touted the bold vision that’s moving the state forward.
“Two years ago when I first stood here as your new governor, Wisconsin was facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit,” Walker said “Property taxes had gone up 27 percent over the previous decade, increasing every year, and the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. Today, Wisconsin has a $346 million budget surplus, property taxes on a median value home have gone down in each of the last two years and the unemployment rate is down to 6.7 percent.”
With a surplus, Walker said, the state can invest in its priorities.
Walker said among those priorities is cutting income taxes for the middle class — a plan that will be laid out when the governor presents his budget to the Legislature next month. The governor said Thursday, while in Superior, the tax cuts would target the mid-range of the tax code so it will truly help middle class people.
“Unlike the message coming out of Washington, I believe that putting more money in the hands of the people instead of the government is good for the economy,” Walker said during his address Tuesday night. “Helping the people of Wisconsin create more jobs is my No. 1 priority.”
Small businesses want certainty, and Walker credits measures taken since he took office in 2011 with improving the state’s business climate.
“We’re going to double down and be even more aggressive to improve the jobs climate in this state,” Walker said. “That’s what I head during my listening sessions around the state; people want us focused on things that will improve the economy and our way of life.
With that in mind, Walker said he established five clear priorities for the second half of his term:
• Create jobs.
• Develop the work force.
• Transform education.
• Reform government.
• Invest in infrastructure.
“One of the best ways we can show the people of Wisconsin that there state government is focused on jobs is to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining,” Walker said.
The governor urged the legislature to resurrect a bill rejected by the senate last year, include “reasonable modifications” and get the bill to him to sign early in the session.
A bill similar to voted down by the senate last session was introduced Wednesday, as the governor traveled to Green Bay and Hartford on a State of the State tour. Thursday, the governor brought his message to Superior, in addition to stops in Wausau and La Crosse, among others.
Walker said he isn’t married to any specific piece of legislation and believes what is finally approved could include proposals from a Senate Committee on Mining formed late last year.
“A mine would be a lifeline to northwest Wisconsin, where unemployment in Iron County is the second highest in the state at nearly 12 percent, Walker said Tuesday night as members of Operating Engineers Local 139 and carpenters and millwrights from northern Wisconsin stood at the podium holding the state flag, highlighting the state’s mining heritage.
“If there’s any state that can move forward with a way to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining, shouldn’t it be the badger state,” Walker said.
Other initiates Walker highlighted for creating jobs included ensuring access to capital and ridding the state of costly, burdensome regulations.
In addition to creating jobs, the next step is making sure the state has qualified workers to fill those jobs, which starts with education. From elementary and secondary schools to higher education, Walker said creative and cost-effective solutions will make sure workers are qualified for employers to hire.
And investing in the state’s infrastructure is vital to keeping Wisconsin businesses competitive, the governor said.
“Creating 250,000 jobs by 2015 is about much more than fulfilling a campaign promise,” Walker said. “Simply put, it’s about improving the lives of 250,000 families in Wisconsin.”