Governor Walker's State-of-the-State Address
Posted: January 18, 2013
Even though Governor Scott Walker will not unveil his biennial budget proposal until mid-February, Wisconsinites received a glimpse of what our state's chief executive wishes to accomplish during his next two years in office. In Walker's State-of-the-State address this week, the governor highlighted some of his accomplishments and outlined some of his priorities.
Probably the biggest feather in Governor Walker's cap this past two years was that his most recent budget eliminated the $3.6 billion deficit. Although some would argue that his cuts to education circumvented any progress made on his pledge to create 250,000 jobs by 2015, Walker can stand tall knowing that Wisconsin is now the only state in the country that has a fully-funded pension system.
Governor Walker's number one initiative in his upcoming budget plan is to reduce the state income tax. This is not something new to states that are led by Republican governors. In fact, there is a groundswell of Republican governors who are proposing lower income tax rates in states such as North Carolina, Nebraska, Ohio and Kansas. Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana wants to eliminate that state's income tax altogether.
One of Governor Walker's other accomplishments over his first two years in office includes the opening of tourism centers throughout the state. The $16 billion tourism industry supports one of every 13 jobs in Wisconsin and reopening tourism centers will have a positive impact on the state economy.
Other initiatives proposed by Governor Walker include improving the state's transportation infrastructure and improving high-speed Internet connections. Both are admirable goals.
However, the Democratic response to the governor's speech the other night demonstrated the lack of bipartisanship that is still apparent. Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson of Milwaukee said he is concerned that the income tax reduction will only help those earning $200,000 per year; the state's job creation is the lowest in the Midwest and ranked 42nd nationally; and that cuts to education led to the large number of available jobs in the state for skilled workers.
Larson and his colleagues have some good points. Walker is nowhere close to delivering on his promise to create a quarter-million jobs in two years. Although there is likely considerable waste throughout the state's educational system, now does not seem to be the right time to cut back on funding for education, which includes Wisconsin's effective technical college and university systems.