By Tim Kowols
Cutting UW System tuition and increasing workforce development opportunities were among the highlights of Gov. Scott Walker’s seventh State of the State address on Tuesday. Gov. Walker told the audience inside the state capitol that his administration was “working and winning for Wisconsin,” touting low unemployment figures and a reduction in some taxes. While many Republicans praised the speech, Democrats panned it. State Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay says the picture is not as a rosy as the governor depicts it.
The governor is expected to release more details on his 2017-2019 budget in the coming weeks.
REACTIONS FROM LOCAL LEGISLATORS
Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay): “After listening to Governor Walker give his address, I am proud of the state of our state and enthusiastic about its future. Wisconsin continues to maintain a strong financial foothold while our economy and jobs climate continues to improve. In the last 6 years we have decreased taxes by nearly $5 billion, putting taxpayer money back in to taxpayer pockets. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate also continues to decline, well below the national average. It is evident that our reforms are working. With that said, there is still much for us to do to make the lives of Wisconsin taxpayers better. Freeing individuals from regulatory burden and making government as efficient and effective as possible remains crucial.
“As the session begins, I look forward to leading the charge on modernizing the K-12 funding formula. This is my top priority heading into this session. For fifteen years I served as a member of school board where I dealt with a variety of issues facing teachers, parents and students. In addition to chairing the Children and Families committee, I will continue to serve as the vice chair of the important Committee on Education. I know that my real life experience and expertise will serve these committees well.
I feel honored and privileged to be given another opportunity to serve the people of the 1st assembly district. I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to continue moving Wisconsin forward.”
Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette): “The state of the state is strong. The common sense reforms we’ve made during the past legislative session are working. Our economy has a solid foundation, more Wisconsinites are back to work than ever before, and our unemployment rate is well below the national average. “This past session, we have prioritized the taxpayers by holding the line on taxes, safeguarded our state’s students by freezing UW tuition, and we have been an ally for our most vulnerable populations by protecting important state programs like SeniorCare. “It’s the start of a new session, and I am looking forward to building upon the progress we’ve made. We will continue to strengthen education by investing in public schools; we will help local businesses by continuing to reduce burdensome red tape that inhibits job creation and growth; we will ensure Wisconsin taxpayers remain our top priority. “As I’ve said before, it’s clear that our reforms are working, but there is more work to be done. I eagerly anticipate working with Governor Walker and my legislative colleagues on initiatives that will continue to move Wisconsin forward.”
Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay): “The Governor made a lot of promises in his speech today not unlike the promise he made in his 2010 campaign to create 250,000 jobs—a promise that remains unfulfilled to this day. The upcoming budget should be watched closely. As we have seen over the years, nearly every promise made by this Governor has a catch—just as the 77 listening sessions he mentioned in his speech were by invitation only. Under his watch billions of tax cuts have gone largely to the rich and corporate elite while average families have seen pennies by comparison. Under this Governor we have seen the rich get rich while the average family has continued to struggle more and more. Governor Walker talks a good game, but like the old adage “the devils is in the details.” We will see soon enough if he is serious about helping average families or if his promises, like his jobs promise, are a road to nowhere.”
Sen. Frank Lasee (R- DePere): “Governor Walker put forth an ambitious conservative agenda during his 2017 State of the State address. Throughout the past six years Governor Walker and Republican legislators have worked together cutting unemployment in half, creating thousands of jobs, slashing taxes and runaway government spending. I look forward to continuing the legislature’s work with Governor Walker in the fight for increased personal freedoms, smaller government, and free-market principles.”