READ IT: Governor Scott Walker’s sixth State of the State address

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MADISON -- Governor Scott Walker on Tuesday, January 19th delivered his 2016 State of the State address.

Below is Governor Walker's address as prepared for delivery: 

The state of our state is strong.  We are moving Wisconsin forward. 

Think about these simple facts: 

There are more people working in Wisconsin than at nearly any other point in our history; state finances are stable; our school students are doing well overall; college tuition is frozen; and property and income taxes are down from 2010. 

The Wisconsin Comeback is real. 

When I was running for re-election just over a year ago, I said we would ensure everyone who wanted a job could find a job.  So, what kind of progress have we made in the past year? 

Well, the most recent unemployment rate in our state is the lowest it has been since March of 2001.  Let's put that into perspective: my son, Alex, is a junior at the University of Wisconsin and my son, Matt, is a senior at Marquette University.  The last time the unemployment rate was this low, they were 5 and 6 years old. 

Late last year, we saw the largest monthly jobs gain since April of 1992.  That's nearly 24 years ago, back before Tonette and I even went on our first date. 

The percentage of people working in Wisconsin, the Labor Force Participation Rate, is 67.8 percent.  This is 5.3 points better than the national rate and puts us in the top ten states in America. 

According to the federal government's current employment statistics and local area unemployment statistics, more people were working in Wisconsin in 2015 than at any time in the past 20 years. 

That's right.  While so many in the media seem to obsess with negative stories, these facts from the federal Department of Labor show more people were working during this past year than at any time in the past two decades.  

Last year, initial weekly unemployment claims averaged the lowest level since 1989.  The facts show that fewer people are filing for unemployment and more people are working. 

People like Sam Critzer of Madison who was hired as a Certified Nursing Assistant at St. Mary’s and Brian Schuster from Lodi who got a job working as an Architectural Designer at Sullivan Design Build. 

Not only are more people working, new business formations were up 3.6 percent last year.  The economic impact of tourism increased 5.5 percent. 

To continue this kind of growth in jobs and commerce, employers want stability.  That's why we work so hard to get our fiscal house in order.  It also ensures that the government will not be a burden on future generations. 

I am proud that Wisconsin finished the fiscal year with a $135.6 million budget surplus. 

The state's rainy day fund is the largest in our history—165 times bigger than when we first took office. 

Wisconsin is one of only two states with a fully funded pension system.  While our neighbors to the south have a pension that is not even half funded, we are covered.  This fact provides peace of mind to our retirees and gives businesses part of the certainty they need to hire people in Wisconsin. 

Our per capita debt—which includes pension and long-term health obligations—is among the lowest.  That means we are one of the top ten best states in the country. 

Bonding levels in the current state budget are the lowest in 20 years. 

And we continue to weed out waste, fraud, and abuse to make government more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to you—the hard-working taxpayers. 

In 2012, I launched the Lean Government Initiative.  Here's one example: this past year, the Department of Safety and Professional Services used lean to save nearly $38,000 annually by switching to electronic documents for some of its panels.  Thankfully, our employees realize that every dollar counts. 

To put this in perspective, the money saved from this reform is enough to pay for 43 students to go through a youth apprenticeship.  Tonight, Janie Brischke, a state employee who was the sponsor of that lean project, is here with us.  Thank you, Janie. 

Let me repeat, our goal is to ensure that everyone who wants a job can find a job.  One of the best ways to get people the skills they need to succeed is through a great education.  Thankfully, we have some of the best schools in the country here in Wisconsin. 

The graduating class of 2015 had the 2nd highest ACT scores in the country.  And thanks to our efforts to prepare all students for college and career, the class of 2016 will be the first to be given the opportunity to take the ACT free of charge; helping overcome financial barriers and close achievement gaps. 

In our state, 4th and 8th grade reading scores went up again in 2015. 

According to the most recent report, Wisconsin’s high school graduation rates are also up again—to third best in the country.  Here with us tonight are students from Kewaunee and Fennimore high schools.  In the most recent report, these two high schools graduated 100 percent of their senior classes. 

Let's give a big round of applause to them and to their teachers and parents—and to all the others like them across Wisconsin.  Thank you! 

And speaking of students, we helped make college more affordable at our University of Wisconsin campuses as we froze tuition—for the first time ever—four years in a row.  As a parent of two sons in college, I know how important it is to keep costs down for students and for the families who support them. 

During the ten years before our freeze, the average annual increase in tuition within the University of Wisconsin System was over 8 percent.  That was a 118 percent increase over a decade. 

Compared to the previous trend, our tuition freeze saves the average student more than $6,000 over four years.  That's real money, and it helps make school more affordable to college students and working families. 

With us tonight are a few UW students who have benefitted from our tuition freeze.  Please welcome Erin Larson from Greenleaf, Michael Daniels from Appleton, and Sarah McQuade from Hartland. 

We're also making it easier to get a great education at any of our excellent technical colleges within the state.  Through our Blueprint for Prosperity initiative, we helped our technical colleges enroll another 5,000 students into high demand career programs. 

And we increased the number of youth apprenticeships and adult apprenticeships over the past four years. Our Youth Apprenticeships have more than doubled and our adult apprenticeships have increased by more than 30 percent. 

You see, good-paying careers typically require more than a high school diploma.  We need our young people to have as many excellent higher education options as possible to prepare for the workforce needs of the 21st century. 

It also means changing our perspectives.  We must value our students who choose to be highly skilled welders, IT technicians, or certified nursing assistants as much as we do those who choose to be doctors or lawyers.  Each of these professions is vitally needed for a strong economy in Wisconsin. 

Tonight, we are joined by Fox Valley Technical College students, Grant Richman from Madison, Sarah Dernlan from Appleton, Monica Stinski from Menasha, Emily Rohde from Neenah, and their instructor, Elizabeth Rath.  They are all finishing their training as CNAs this week. 

In addition, we are helping working families, senior citizens, small business owners, and family farmers afford to live, work, play, and retire here in Wisconsin.  Tonight, I am proud to say that property and income taxes are down from where they were when we took office. 

We didn't just slow the rate of increase; we actually reduced the tax burden from where it was five years ago. 

Tonette and I used to grumble when our property tax bill showed up each December.  In fact, we often let it sit for a few days before we opened it up because we were afraid to see the increase.  Now, it is great to hear the stories of so many people who have a sigh of relief when they open their bills. 

Property taxes on a median valued home in Wisconsin were $116 lower this past year than they were in 2010.  Over the past five years, that homeowner saved $1,227 from where property taxes were headed versus how they've gone down under our reforms collectively between 2010 and 2015. 

And it’s not just property tax relief—we've cut income taxes, too.  A median income family will see a four-year income tax reduction of $916.  That's real money for hard-working taxpayers all across Wisconsin. 

We also helped farmers and manufacturers in our state with a production tax credit that is phased in through this year.  This helps some of our most important industries. 

And we helped lower the tax burden on small businesses.  Our reforms help them invest more into their companies and to expand their workforces. 

One of the common things I hear from employers all across the state is that they have job openings, but that they cannot find qualified workers to fill these positions.  That's why we've invested millions more into worker training programs.  Still, we need more people in the workforce.  We cannot afford to have anyone on the sidelines. 

I am so proud that we helped transfer 8,334 people from government dependence to true independence.  You see, the State of Wisconsin now requires able-bodied adults without children in the home to be enrolled in a job training program before they can get food stamps.  We believe in helping people get the training necessary to find rewarding careers. 

That's good for the taxpayers as it reduces the number of people on government programs.  It's good for employers as many are looking for skilled workers.  Best of all, it is good for each and every individual who now is able to find employment and control his or her own destiny. 

People like Jessica who enrolled in our program last June.  In August, she got a job in housekeeping at a local hotel.  She now works full-time at a wood flooring mill.  Along the way, she also received help to finish her studies at Northcentral Technical College to be a certified nursing assistant.  She took her final exam for certification on January 8th.  Congratulations, Jessica! 

In the spring of 2015, Rebecca joined our program.  Through job classes, she worked on interview skills and made a resume.  Rebecca searched for work and successfully gained employment at Wal-Mart in the deli department.  Rebecca has been employed now for more than five months and is grateful for the experience she received with our program. 

Thomas sought our help last June.  Within a month, he got a job.  In December, he was hired by Harley Davidson as a full-time warehouse employee. 

For too long, government programs have entrapped individuals like this into extended dependency.  Our reforms help people get the training they need to get back up on their own feet. 

When we first proposed these reforms, some in this Capitol argued that we were making it harder to get government assistance.  The truth is: we're making it easier to find a job. 

You see, true freedom and prosperity do not come from the mighty hand of the government.  They come from empowering people to live their own lives through the dignity that comes from work. 

When I was a kid, my first job was washing dishes at the Countryside Restaurant.  Later in high school, I flipped hamburgers at McDonald's in my hometown of Delavan. 

These jobs taught me the importance of hard work.  Tonette and I made sure our sons worked similar jobs at a pizza place and a custard stand.  Traveling the state, I've heard many people tell me stories of their first jobs.  It is in our nature as humans to want to be productive and contribute to our families and to our communities. 

Think about it.  No one signs a high school year book saying, “good luck becoming dependent on the government.”  Instead, we aspire to be able to support ourselves and our families and to provide a good life for future generations. 

That's why our focus in state government is simple: everyone who wants a job can find a job.  Helping people identify a meaningful career is worth far more than a paycheck.  It's really about helping people achieve true independence.  It's about living the American Dream. 

In 2016, we want to help more people live that dream here in Wisconsin. 

As mentioned, people across this state constantly tell me about job openings in their areas.  To fill these positions, we need to work with students at a younger age to get them ready for the many exciting careers available in our state. 

In the fall, 25 school districts will be part of an Academic and Career Plans pilot.  We provided funding, so every child in the state between grades 6 and 12 can have access to a plan beginning in the 2017 school year.  This will prepare students to think about their interests so they can take courses in junior high and high school that will prepare them for their future occupations. 

We have some of the best schools in the country, but we need to do more for our students to succeed in the 21st century.  In the past, we enacted major reforms that helped schools reward great teachers, improve curriculum, and balance budgets. 

Now, we need to do more to reform state government and put those savings into public education.  One area to consider for real reform is the way we administer health insurance for state employees, which some experts believe could save tens of millions of dollars. 

Tonight, I commit to investing every penny of savings to the general fund from these specific reforms to support public education.  People tell me that they appreciate our efforts to get the state's fiscal house in order and that now is the time to use savings to help our students prepare for the future. 

Even before the next budget, we want to put more resources into public education.  Tonight, I am pleased to announce we will provide an additional $3 million for dual enrollment programs in our schools through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program.  These grants will help districts to partner with local technical colleges, so our students can get a jump start on their career plans. 

We are also excited to work with the University of Wisconsin System to explore providing a three-year degree that would start in our high schools and continue on many of our UW campuses.  This would help reduce costs and move people into the workforce sooner. 

As we mentioned this past week, student loan debt has increasingly become a burden for young professionals.  The best way to tackle this issue is to keep the costs down in the first place.  That is why we worked together to freeze tuition for four years. 

Still, there are many young people who took out loans before our freeze or did so at private institutions.  So we have a package of ideas to help offset the price of college and reduce the costs of student loan debt.  We believe that these measures can garner bipartisan support in this legislative session. 

Thank you to Representative Dave Murphy, as well as Senator Howard Marklein, Senator Sheila Harsdorf, Representative John Macco, and Representative Dave Heaton, for working with us to put together these plans: 

  • First, we will allow for the full deduction of student loan interest on state income taxes.
  • Second, we will increase Wisconsin grants for technical colleges to help another 1,000 students, which is on top of the more than 5,000 students we added under our Blueprint for Prosperity.
  • Third, we'll expand the emergency grants program for students at technical colleges and two-year UW Colleges.
  • Fourth, we'll increase internships within the UW System to help prepare students for future careers.
  • Fifth, we look to expand transparency by sending information to students each year about their current and projected student loan debt levels and education costs.  

Tonight, I call on lawmakers in both parties to pass this legislative package as soon as possible to help lower the cost of higher education and to ease the burden of student loan debt. 

In addition, I look forward to working with UW System President Ray Cross and Board of Regents President Regina Millner and Vice President John Behling to strengthen and promote programs to allow students to graduate on time, to explore a three-year degree, and to expand the UW Flex Option to a number of students equal to a new UW campus.  We want a quality education to be affordable in Wisconsin for college students and their families. 

You see, we now compete in a global economy.  Education will drive success, as will technology.  That is why I am glad that we tripled the amount of funding in our budget dedicated this year for broadband access across the state. 

People can do business anywhere in the world, but they need access to high speed internet connections.  Our program partners with local investments to install a fiber network.  Once completed, a private company provides the service. 

Without our assistance, rural areas would be deprived of quality internet access because private companies could not justify the rate of return on investment.  Our program helps small businesses, family farmers, tourism attractions, and public schools across the state. 

While these investments are great, investing in our people is even more important.  Today, we are assisting people with disabilities prepare to enter the workforce by helping employers understand their unique abilities. 

In 2015, the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation assisted nearly 5,000 people with disabilities reach their employment goal.  This was the highest rate in 15 years. 

We are also helping people with disabilities in high school get ready for careers through something called Project SEARCH.  Here in Wisconsin, the program has a success rate of 85 percent—higher than the national rate. 

Last year, we grew Project SEARCH to 16 total employer sites.  Tonight, I am pleased to note that our funding will help add three more employer sites in 2016. 

Helping to keep valuable employees in the workforce is also important.  For example, many don't know that the majority of caregivers for people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease are employed beyond their roles as caregivers. 

With this in mind, we have a new kit for employers to use to help their valued employees who are caring for a loved one.  Tonight, I invite you to get more information about this at dhs.wisconsin.gov/dementia. 

The idea for the kit came from former Wisconsin Governor Marty Schreiber whose wife, Elaine, has Alzheimer's disease.  He worked with my Secretary of Health Services, Kitty Rhoades, on the project.  Governor Schreiber is traveling tonight, but we’re grateful to him and to Secretary Rhoades for their hard work on this issue. 

Helping people deal with their health care needs—including mental health—is another way to retain top talent in the workplace.  We need to break the stigma and assist people to get the help that they need.  I am proud that we put more resources into mental health services than any Wisconsin Governor in the past 25 years. 

In 2013, I pronounced that no man or woman who served our country in the Armed Forces should return home and not be able to find employment. 

Here in Wisconsin, I am proud to say that we lowered the unemployment rate for veterans in 2014, and again, in 2015.  Our state now has one of the lowest unemployment rates for veterans in the nation, significantly below the national unemployment rate for veterans. 

Our goal is to see it drop again this year.  We owe it to our returning heroes. 

All of these different initiatives are designed to increase independence while helping people get the education and skills they need to succeed in the workforce. 

As I said at the onset of this address, the state of our state is strong.

 There are more people working in Wisconsin than at nearly any other point in our history; state finances are stable; overall, our school students are doing well; college tuition is frozen; and property and income taxes are down from where they were before I took office. 

Looking ahead, we have an aggressive plan over the next year to ensure that everyone who wants a job can find a job.  We will enact this plan by helping the people of this state improve the economy and by investing in K-12 education, higher education, and worker training. 

Still, we need to do more.  We need to prepare for the future. 

As we think about the next 20 years, I want to hear from you about your hopes and dreams—for your families, your communities, and your state. 

With this in mind, I am proud to announce that we are going to visit every part of the state to hold listening sessions throughout 2016.  So far, we have held sessions in Seymour, Prairie du Chien, Milwaukee, Osseo, Kewaunee, Sturgeon Bay, and Ashwaubenon… and we plan on coming to a community near you soon. 

So far, participants have included principals, farmers, small business owners, local government officials, retirees, veterans, teachers, construction workers, union members, parents, high school students, nurses, charitable organization leaders, superintendents, insurance agents, ministers, college students, machinists, law enforcement, and a librarian. 

This is personal for me, as I think the best way to plan for the future is to hear from people all over the state.  We need a shared vision for the future.  This is why I want to hear from you. 

I call it our 2020 Vision Project.  The idea is to bring together a diverse mix of people in small group settings all across the state.  I want to hear from you about what makes Wisconsin great, where we want our state to be in the next two decades, and how we should measure success. 

Now, more than ever, it is important to consider the kind of state our children and grandchildren will inherit.  We need to think more about the next generation than just about the next election. 

The founders of our state and our country had that kind of long view of the world.  Their founding principles were able to overcome partisan and political differences.  We can do the same as we think about the kind of state we want to become over the next 20 years and beyond. 

On July 4th, we will observe the 240th birthday of this great country—a nation built on the principle of freedom.  As we celebrate, let us remember that our rights are endowed by our Creator, defined by our Constitution, but defended each and every day by the men and women who wear the uniform. 

They and their families deserve our praise—and more importantly—our prayers.  May God bless each and every one of them.  May God bless the great State of Wisconsin.  And may God bless the United States of America. 

Reaction to Governor Scott Walker's State of the State address from Democratic lawmakers:

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse):

“Over the last five years, we’ve seen deep cuts that have limited economic growth, stifled innovation and denied thousands of families the opportunity to get ahead. Democrats continue to believe that the best way to move our state forward is by restoring investments in our schools, infrastructure and worker training programs.

When it comes to the challenges facing our state, we need solutions, not sound bites. Placing more students in unpaid internships isn’t going to help the nearly one million Wisconsinites burdened by $19 billion in student loan debt. It’s time to follow the lead of other states like Minnesota and allow families to refinance their student debt at a lower interest rate just like you can with home and auto loans.

Democrats remain committed to creating a childcare tax credit for working families, supporting new jobs through infrastructure investments and expanding retirement security options for hardworking residents. With Gov. Walker’s presidential bid behind us, it’s time to look forward at ways we can improve our state and rebuild our middle class.”

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha):

"During his speech tonight, Governor Walker offered nothing more than Band-Aid proposals that are anemic and weak compared to the significant challenges we face.

The numbers are staggering.

In 2015, roughly 10,000 hardworking Wisconsinites received layoff notices, the highest single-year total since the governor took office. Wisconsin still ranks in the bottom third for job growth and worst in the Midwest, and our middle class is shrinking faster than any other state. We rank third-worst for student loan debt and our roads are also third-worst in the nation. And Republicans have cut $1 billion from public K-12 schools since 2010.

Wisconsin should be a leader; however, under Republicans we are falling behind. When I travel the state I hear people say we should invest in our public schools, level the playing field for the middle class, promote good-paying jobs and invest in our roads and bridges.

The truth is the State of our State is being neglected by Republicans putting their own needs above the needs of everyday Wisconsinites.

Last year, legislative Republicans turned their backs on Wisconsin’s interests in order to help Governor Walker in his failed run for president.

The Republican agenda included:

  • Shifting $800 million from public schools to unaccountable private voucher schools over the next decade;
  • A quarter billion dollar cut to our world-class university system;
  • Driving down wages for hardworking families;
  • And rejecting federal funding that would have meant health care coverage for tens of thousands more of our citizens.

This past fall, Republicans opened Wisconsin for corruption with an agenda designed to consolidate their own power and enrich the special interest groups bankrolling their campaigns. Perhaps most egregious was their late-night, secretive effort to dismantle our open records laws so they could hide their actions from the public.

It is clear after that Republicans cannot be trusted to do the right thing for the people of Wisconsin.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans at this juncture could not be clearer. My Democratic colleagues and I have made growing our economy and rebuilding the middle class our top priorities.

Our “Economic Opportunity Agenda” would help create good-paying jobs, close the skills gap by connecting workers with available jobs, increase wages and make us more competitive in a global economy. Our “Bring Back the Middle Class” package would boost retirement security and provide relief from high child-care costs and student debt.

Today alone on the Assembly floor, Democrats voted for proposals that would ensure significant investments in our public schools and affordable health care coverage for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites that, incidentally, would save Wisconsin taxpayers more than $300 million over the next two years. Democrats also voted for much-needed relief for more than a million student loan borrowers and equal pay protections for women in the workplace.

Sadly, Republicans rejected every single one of these bills.

Yet even in the face of Republicans’ inaction on these important issues and their betrayal of your trust and your interests, I believe the State of the People of Wisconsin is resilient.

I am inspired every day by the hardworking men and women who make up the fabric of our state. Wisconsin is in need of bold action for our workers and middle-class families and Democrats are ready to lead.

As Republicans continue to stack the deck against ordinary Wisconsinites and obscure their harmful agenda with election-year distractions, Democrats are focused on leveling the playing field and rebuilding the middle class the Republican agenda has hurt so deeply.

You can trust Democrats to restore opportunity and grow wages for ordinary, hardworking people.

You can trust Democrats to work to rebuild a strong middle class.

You can trust Democrats to grow an economy that works for everyone, not just a privileged few.

While legislative Republicans pursue an agenda focused on helping special interests and their own self-interests, legislative Democrats will continue to advocate for the people’s agenda in 2016 and beyond – but we need your help.

One of the proudest moments of 2015 was when you rose up and demanded the Republicans end their assault on open records. Your hard work and advocacy forced Republicans to back down, and you can do it again.

I encourage you to talk to your neighbors, friends and families about the direction our state is headed. Become engaged and make your voice heard. Together, we can put Wisconsin back on the right track and make sure the State of our State is stronger for all our citizens."

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning:

"Democrats were hoping to hear Governor Scott Walker outline a plan to work across the aisle to solve the challenges Wisconsinites face each day. Unfortunately, Gov. Walker gave an election year speech focused on spinning a failed agenda rubber-stamped by his Republican-controlled legislature instead of a plan to increase opportunity for citizens in every corner of our state.

Wisconsin Republicans have spent the last five years on an agenda that decreased family incomes and shrunk the middle class. Local schools are struggling to do more with less in the face of budget cuts, our roads and bridges continue to deteriorate, and mass layoffs just hit a five-year high.

If Republicans are ready to listen to concerns of Wisconsin families instead of focusing on their self-interests, Democrats are ready and willing to help lead on an agenda focused on growth, innovation, and opportunity.

After a year of missed opportunities, it's time to return to basic Wisconsin values and make sure that those who pay their fair share and play by the rules will have an opportunity to succeed and get ahead. Our state deserves an economy that works for everyone, not just millionaires and billionaires."

Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) issued this statement:

“Governor Walker is giving student loan borrowers false hope.  The Governor’s speech tonight touted a ‘college affordability’ plan that will do virtually nothing to help more than one million Wisconsinites buried under student loan debt.  Governor Walker refuses to allow Wisconsinites to refinance their student loans, just as they can with a home mortgage or auto loan.  Meanwhile, other states like Minnesota and Connecticut have adopted this idea and are offering refinancing for its citizens.  Rhode Island offers refinancing to its citizens at 4.25%.  Virginia is building bipartisan support for these ideas.  Wisconsin deserves a serious policy solution to the $19 billion in student loan debt.”

Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton) issued this statement:

“No one’s falling for the Republican ‘smoke and mirrors’ act anymore,” said Jorgensen.  “With crumbling roads, struggling schools, and far too many of our neighbors and friends either jobless or having difficulty making ends meet, we all know the state of our state is in real trouble.”

Wisconsin remains dead-last in the Midwest in private-sector job growth over the past four years.  In 2015, layoff notices topped 10,000 – the highest single-year total since Governor Walker took office.

Jorgensen also took issue with Governor Walker’s grandstanding on the ballooning student loan crisis.

“A generous estimate shows the Governor’s ideas might help 32,000 people over five years, but the fact is that more than one million Wisconsinites are crippled by student loan debt,” said Jorgensen.  “The Democratic plan would allow everyone the opportunity to refinance their college loans, just as they might with a home mortgage, and save a lot of money – but, Republicans have refused time and again to consider ideas that come from across the aisle.”

The Governor’s other main message of the night was focused on workforce development.

“If Governor Walker truly cared about workforce development, he’d stop doling out bad loans to his corporate cronies and instead invest in public education,” said Jorgensen.  “Under Republicans, our K-12 schools have lost more than $1 billion, the UW System’s been cut by $795 million, and the tech colleges have lost $203 million.  His Band-Aid approach to preparing people for jobs of the future is simply too little, too late.”

Jorgensen welcomed Edgerton School Superintendent Dennis Pauli and his brother, Doug,  and Milton School Superintendent Tim Schigur and his wife, Joell, to the Capitol as his guests for the State of the State Address.  Also attending as Jorgensen’s invited guests were Doug Rebout, President of the Rock County Farm Bureau Federation, Christine Rebout, Executive Director of the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and small business owners Mark and Lori Warren of American Awards and Promotions in Milton.

Senator Mark Miller (D-Monona):

“For the sixth time, Governor Walker has delivered his State of the State speech filled with promises. We’ve been down this road before.

We are still waiting to see Governor Walker’s laser-like focus on jobs. After five years of Republican control, family incomes are down and our middle class has shrunk faster than any other state. He says he has a plan to ensure that everyone who wants a job can find one this year. As layoff notices topped 10,000 in 2015 and we all wait for the 250,000 jobs he promised 5 years ago, it’s hard to have confidence in that promise.

He says he supports education, a statement totally at odds with the $2 billion cut he has made over the last five years. His rhetoric is purely an attempt to mask the pain our teachers, students, local school districts, community colleges and universities are feeling at the cuts he has inflicted.

Wisconsin’s lack of economic growth and mismanagement of the state’s finances under Governor Walker make it difficult to tackle the real problems that are facing real Wisconsinites.

I understand Governor Walker’s desire to rewrite his agenda. But he can’t rewrite history. Wisconsin deserves better.”

Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee):

“Governor Walker is out of touch with the everyday needs of Wisconsin families. It is no surprise that while he was busy campaigning across the nation, he forgot about the real concerns of families at home. Wisconsin families are facing increased costs in childcare, layoffs from good-paying jobs and the daunting costs of student loans. Our children are suffering from the historic budget cuts to public education, and our parents are facing rising costs of healthcare due to the Governor’s failure to accept the federal funds for Badgercare. Rather than prioritizing the needs of the wealthy, we need to invest in an economic plan that will work for all Wisconsin families.

Senate Democrats drafted the Badger Blueprint because we know a strong Wisconsin starts with a comprehensive plan to strengthen and raise the standard of living for families across our state. From proven solutions to grow our economy as well as new ideas to increase opportunities for workers, the Blueprint shows that Senate Democrats are committed to helping all individuals succeed.”

Senator Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville):

“While he was running for President, Governor Walker focused on the priorities of Republican primary voters and wealthy donors. Now that he has dropped out of the race, it is time to focus on things that affect everyone in Wisconsin.

The Governor has vowed to restore a commitment to public education and the University of Wisconsin. After leaving thousands of students and families behind while pursuing the presidency, it is refreshing that Governor Walker finally recognizes that it is time to focus on what is good for Wisconsin.

Everyone in Wisconsin has been affected by the cuts to public education and the UW-System. We need to make sure that our workforce is prepared to fill the jobs that are currently available and that everyone is trained for the jobs of the future.

I wish we would have heard about are how we are going to fix our transportation budget and repair the crumbling roads and bridges throughout our state. This is a problem that is hurting every business, every community and every family in Wisconsin.

Kicking the can down the road while our highways and bridges are falling apart is a failure of Governor Walker’s leadership. It is time to bring people together and fix this problem for the future of our state. We cannot borrow our way out of this crisis and doing nothing only makes the situation worse.

I hope that Governor Walker can provide the leadership needed to focus on the issues that affect everyone in Wisconsin and not just the fringe group of primary voters and special interests.”

Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee):

“Today, Representative Mandela Barnes and I again rose to demand an apology from the Republicans for their complete refusal to apologize for or reprimand their colleague.  Again, none was forthcoming.  I believe that the thousands of words spoken by the Governor today were drowned out by the deafening silence from him and his Republican colleagues as people of color once again join women and members of the LGBT community as the favorite targets of their offensive statements and policies.”

Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma):

“Governor Walker and his GOP leaders are trying to fix what they broke over the last several years.

While the Governor talks about helping make college affordable and the importance of education, his feel good proposals do not undo the damage to higher education and our public schools.

According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, in the last three budgets, Walker and legislative Republicans made over $1 billion in cumulative cuts to public schools and over $400 million in cumulative cuts to University of Wisconsin.

I am glad they are at least talking about fixing what’s broken. But it would have been much better not to break it in the first place.”

Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee):

“While Gov. Walker and Wisconsin Republicans claim there’s a Wisconsin ‘comeback,’ more and more Wisconsinites are falling further behind under their willful ignorance and neglectful watch.

The governor himself said that ‘we need to think more about the next generation than just about the next election.’ If that were true, we would have heard about the tragic epidemic of gun violence ravaging our communities. We would have heard how deep cuts have devastated our local public schools, and how too many students are drowning in debt due to our crushing student loan debt crisis. We would have heard about how families have been shattered by the lack of access to good paying jobs, so that they can put food on their tables and provide basic necessities for their loved ones.

We have serious problems to solve, and we need people serious about doing their jobs and serious solutions to fix them. I will continue to fight for a brighter future and better opportunities for families in Milwaukee and across the state.  This means standing strong for our values and fighting for safe neighborhoods, healthy children, strong local public schools, real student loan debt relief, and opportunities for workers to provide for their families.”

Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee):

“Just like he failed Milwaukee County as the Milwaukee County Executive, Governor Scott Walker has failed to lead Wisconsin. Last year, Governor Walker was so focused on trying to get elected to his next job that he failed to do the job he was elected to. Tonight, Governor Walker should’ve just said two simple words to the entire state; ‘I’m sorry.’

In tonight’s State of the State address, Governor Walker should've apologized for saying Wisconsin is open for business while ushering in a 5-year high of private sector layoffs. Governor Walker should've also apologized for saying we should transform education, yet making the largest cuts to public education in the history of Wisconsin that led to poor literacy rates and a drastic drop in ACT scores. Finally, Governor Walker should've apologized for failing to focus on running Wisconsin’s government, which led to financial abuse at WEDC and physical abuse at Lincoln Hills.

Tonight, the state of our state can be summed up in one word; neglected.”

Reaction to Governor Scott Walker's State of the State address from Republican lawmakers:

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester):

“It should come as no surprise that the state of our state is outstanding. By working together, we’ve reformed government and lowered taxes.  The results are undeniably good. Wisconsin has record unemployment, a solid housing market and more jobs.  I thank Governor Walker for his leadership and commitment to keep Wisconsin headed in the right direction.

I look forward to working with Governor Walker and my legislative colleagues on the critical issues facing Wisconsin residents:  making college more affordable, fighting heroin and opiate addiction, addressing mental health concerns, and providing solutions for families coping with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  We’ll continue to focus on improving our economy and giving a great education to every student.

Our state has come a long way in the last five years under GOP leadership and it’s only going to get better from here.”

Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills):

"Governor Walker is right.  As the Governor said, 'Wisconsin's comeback is real' and we continue to move forward.

As a state, we've bucked President Obama's lackluster economy and turned the state around. Business leaders in 2016 see a very different Wisconsin than they saw in 2010.  We've moved from 41st to 12th among the Best States for Business list.

I'm pleased the Governor continues to focus on connecting students with the real world of work.  Our state has a significantly higher workforce participation rate than the national average.  However, we need to do more to prepare students and retrain workers so they qualify for the many available family-supporting jobs.

Wisconsin has reason to be optimistic and Republicans are the reason why.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to build on the success of the last six years. On Wisconsin!"

Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh):

“Wisconsin’s economy continues to grow, our state unemployment rate is at a 14-year low, and jobs are being created. We have moved our state forward by reducing the tax burden and making needed reforms to government. I am pleased with the progress, but there is still more work to do.

As the session winds down, I look forward to continuing our work with Governor Walker on important legislation addressing the fight against heroin and opiate abuse, the rising cost of higher education, and the increasing needs of those battling Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

I am honored to be serving the constituents of the 53rd Assembly District, and I hope they had the chance to listen to tonight’s address. We will continue working every day to improve Wisconsin, and make sure we continue moving in the right direction."

Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield):

“Governor Walker made it clear that growing jobs and continuing to improve our state’s economy remains a top priority.  It is crucial that we continue to be mindful that Wisconsin taxpayers appreciate the fiscal responsibility we've demonstrated, and I pledge to continue those efforts.

Moving forward, we will continue our job creating efforts, by initially focusing on addressing the skills gap.  It is imperative that Wisconsinites who want work are able to locate employment and employers wanting to hire are able to locate qualified talent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8.2% when Governor Walker took office in late 2010 to 4.2% in late 2015. Initial weekly unemployment claims averaged the lowest level since 1989.

As the governor said, the state of our state is, indeed, strong. Wisconsin has made great strides turning around our economy in the last five years. Our labor force participation rate is 67.8% — one of the top 10 in America. I am eager to work with Governor Walker and my colleagues in the legislature to foster a friendly business climate and build a strong 21st century workforce in Wisconsin."

Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna):

“The Governor’s State of the State address is an opportunity to evaluate the accomplishments of the past year and look ahead to future goals. There are many accomplishments from 2015 – we passed a state budget with no tax increases, invested more money in public schools, froze tuition for in-state college students, preserved long-term care programs and SeniorCare, held the line on property taxes, eliminated fraud, waste and abuse in public benefit programs and passed laws to combat heroin and opiate addiction. These are just some of the many highlights that are positively impacting families all across our state.

In 2016, Assembly Republicans will continue the work that the people of Wisconsin elected us to do. Top on our priority list is the HOPE agenda, a bi-partisan effort to combat Wisconsin’s heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic. The Speaker’s Task force on Alzheimer and Dementia will be introducing measures to help fight these diseases. Members of the Taskforce have held public hearings throughout the state and have compiled some good solutions to the problems caused by Alzheimer's and Dementia.

Most importantly, Assembly Republicans will work tirelessly to meet all of the expectations that the people of Wisconsin have for their state government. Based on the feedback I hear from my constituents, I know that Wisconsinites want to see more of their hard-earned money stay in their pocket; and they want to know that their tax dollars are being spent in common-sense ways – like protecting SeniorCare, improving education, and strengthening workforce training.

The State of Wisconsin is strong. Our unemployment rate is at a 14-year low. The rate of our labor force is growing well above the national average and was ninth highest nationally in 2014. Our per capita income growth since 2007 has exceeded the nation's and the region's growth.

I’m proud of the work that we’ve been able to accomplish with Governor Walker, and I’m optimistic about the direction our state is headed as we keep Wisconsin a state of abundant opportunity and prosperity for all.”

Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg):

"The governor was clear: Wisconsin’s Comeback is document. Wisconsin has seen impressive gains in our economy, education, and the tax relief.

Throughout his address, Governor Walker focused on the future generations. The reason I am in elected office is to improve Wisconsin for our next generation. I am not here to focus on the next election. I will always focus on the future.

The Governor highlighted the pathway to success for all. Wisconsin has seen enhanced results while containing costs in all levels of education. From K-12 through college, Wisconsinites are being prepared for the future.

Our tax burden has improved during Governor Walker’s terms. As he mentioned there is more work to do. Together, we can ensure Wisconsinites continue to pay less in taxes while receiving greater value for hard earned taxpayer resources.

Lastly, I am proud Wisconsin has made great gains in providing success for our veterans. Wisconsin’s veterans’ unemployment is one of the lowest in the nation.

I look forward to working with Governor Walker and my Republican colleagues to advance Wisconsin and ensure the triumph of future generations."

2 comments

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  • grunt

    The cuts in education the Democrats are crying about resulted in cuts to the teachers’ union, not in education.
    The WEA Trust cheated the taxpayers.

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