Text of Wisconsin Gov. Walker's State of the State
Here is the text of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's State of the State speech, as provided by the governor's office:
Speaker Vos, Speaker Pro Tem Kramer, President Ellis, Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Minority Leader Larson, Minority Leader Barca, members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Constitutional Officers, tribal leaders, members of the Cabinet, distinguished guests, members of the Legislature, most importantly, fellow citizens of the great state of Wisconsin, it is an honor to appear before you tonight.
Before we get started, I would like to introduce the First Lady of Wisconsin, my wife, Tonette. Also in the gallery are our sons, Matt and Alex, and my family.
Next to my wife is Major General Don Dunbar, our Adjutant General. I want to thank him and the more than 10,000 members of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are moving Wisconsin forward with bold vision and bright hope for the future.
Two years ago, when I first stood here as your new governor, Wisconsin was facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, 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 $342 million budget surplus, property taxes on a median valued home went down in each of the last two years, and the unemployment rate - well - it's down to 6.7 percent.
We're turning things around. We're heading in the right direction. We're moving Wisconsin forward.
And unlike other states, we avoided significant tax increases, massive layoffs and cuts in programs, like Medicaid. Instead, we put in place long-term structural reforms that helped us balance state and local government budgets for years to come. What we did was think more about the next generation than we did about the next election — and it worked.
For the first time in our state's history, we set money aside in two consecutive years for the rainy day fund. Our bond rating is solid and our pension system is the only one in the country that is fully funded.
We made tough, but prudent, decisions to get our fiscal house in order. Today, unlike the federal government and many of our neighboring states, we have a surplus, which will allow us to invest in our priorities.
With the introduction of my proposed budget next month, I will lay out a clear plan for reducing the burden on hard-working families by lowering income taxes on the middle class. We want to continue to put more money in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers and small business owners in our state.
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.
Helping the people of Wisconsin create more jobs is my number one priority.
During the three years before I took office, our state lost nearly 150,000 jobs. At the low point, unemployment topped 9 percent. Soon after taking office, I called the legislature into a special session on jobs and we enacted some of the most aggressive plans in the country.
Today, the unemployment rate has dropped to 6.7 percent. New business ventures are up nearly 11 percent. And we changed the opinion of our employers — for the better. In 2010, a mere 10 percent of the employers surveyed said that our state was headed in the right direction. In 2012, 93 percent said Wisconsin was heading in the right direction.
Over the past two years, Wisconsin moved up 21 spots on Chief Executive Magazine's ranking of the best and worst states for business. CNBC moved us up to number 17 and Site Selection Magazine ranked our state as high as 13.
Employers feel good about our state. During the past year, Kohl's Department Stores worked with us and announced the creation of 3,000 new jobs. Plexus in Neenah is adding 350 jobs and Alliance Laundry Systems in Ripon is adding another 270 jobs.
While big announcements like that are great, we are just as excited about companies like Nueske's Meat Products in Wittenberg adding 21 jobs, Poclain Hydraulics in Sturtevant adding 50 jobs, and Premium Waters in Chippewa Falls adding 21 jobs. Small business owners, in particular, want certainty and we have dramatically improved the business climate in our state.
We're turning things around. We're heading in the right direction. We're moving Wisconsin forward.
Still, there is much more work to be done in the coming year. Our top priority is helping the people of our state create more jobs. As you know, we have an ambitious goal: 250,000 jobs by 2015.
After all that we've gone through in Wisconsin over the past few years, some have suggested that this goal is too difficult to reach. With the protests and recalls combined with the slow recovery at the national level, the fiscal cliff, and ongoing worries about health care mandates coming out of Washington, they say there are plenty of reasons why it has been hard to create jobs.
But in Wisconsin, we don't make excuses... We get results.
With this in mind, we are going to double down and be even more aggressive with our efforts to improve the jobs climate in this state. That's what I heard during my listening sessions held around Wisconsin. People want us focused on things that will improve the economy and our way of life.
That's why I laid out five very clear priorities for the next two years: create jobs, develop the workforce, transform education, reform government, and invest in our infrastructure. And it's also why I've asked the members of the legislature to stay focused on these same priorities — and not get distracted on other issues.
One of the best ways we can show the people of Wisconsin that their state government is focused on jobs is to pass a bill that streamlines the process for safe and environmentally sound mining. Start with the legislation that was approved in the Joint Finance Committee last session, include some reasonable modifications, and send me a bill to sign into law early this year.
A mine would be a lifeline to people in northwestern Wisconsin, where the unemployment rate in Iron County is the 2nd highest in the state at nearly 12 percent. But the benefits will be felt all across Wisconsin.
We have the potential for a billion and a half dollar investment here in our state that could lead to as many as 3,000 construction-related jobs and 2,800 long-term jobs. It's no wonder that I've heard from people in places like Clinton and Wausau, Green Bay and Prairie du Chien, Superior and Chippewa Falls, all who want us to pass this bill.
We need to get started on this project as soon as possible. Tonight, please join me in welcoming a number of people who really want to get to work.
Joining me are Josh Dennis, Larry Youngs, Cindy Lafortune, Karl Krall, Richard Galarno, Curt Lusua, Adam Kaseno, Steve Anderson, Harold Wickman, and Ryan Haffenbredl. These operating engineers are members of Local 139, who are looking for work.
Also joining us tonight are carpenters and millwrights from northern Wisconsin locals of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, welcome Dana Tonnelli, Bob Polencheck, Charlie Steed, Al Ida, Dan Gillespie, Pete Langreck, David Grottke, and Jim Berrens.
Together, these folks are holding up the flag of the great State of Wisconsin. On the right side of the seal is the image of a miner. In the upper right corner are the tools of a miner. And on the top of the seal is a badger, which comes from the nickname given to early settlers who were miners. If any state can move forward with a way to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining, shouldn't it be the Badger State?
From the mining bill to mining for jobs. earlier this year, I spoke with Kerry Frank, CEO of Comply365. Her business was located in Illinois, but she was looking for a new headquarters, where they could expand and grow. Kerry told me she liked how we are running things here in Wisconsin and it was one of the big factors in her choice to move her company to Beloit. Even more exciting, since moving here in September, Kerry has hired seven more employees. Kerry, thanks for being here tonight, and thank you for being a partner in job creation.
Now, while recruiting employers from Illinois is almost as exciting as beating the Bears, most new jobs are going to come from new businesses created here or from small businesses growing in our state. We need to help them tap into the capital they need to make investments that will lead to more jobs.
During the coming year, I look forward to working with lawmakers in both parties on ways to improve the amount of investment capital available to help start-ups and other small businesses grow new jobs in our state.
In addition to access to capital, we want to help small businesses grow by lowering the cost of doing business in our state. In particular, we want to streamline the process, so what we do enforce is about common sense and not about bureaucratic red tape.
You may remember, last year, I called for state agencies to work with the reformed Small Business Regulatory Review Board to identify unnecessary, obsolete, and burdensome regulations.
In a survey, we asked employers what we can do to help them create jobs in the upcoming year and the most common answer was decrease the amount of state regulations. And they gave us plenty of feedback on rules to review.
Tonight, I am pleased to release this report, which identifies over 300 rule modifications in 218 administrative code chapters. Making these changes will make it easier to do business in the state, while maintaining the safety and health of our citizens.
Speaker Vos has also made this a priority and my administration looks forward to working with him and other members of the legislature to improve our state's regulatory climate.
While our number one priority is helping people create jobs, our next priority is filling those jobs with qualified workers. One of the strengths of doing business in Wisconsin is the work ethic of our people.
Moving forward, we need enough skilled workers ready to fill jobs open today — as well as those that will be open tomorrow and in the days to come.
Survey after survey shows a tremendous need for skilled workers in key clusters, like manufacturing, health care, information technology — even in accounting and finance. My frequent visits to employers across the state affirm these reports.
Our state needs a way to accurately measure employment on a real-time basis. We need a better way to quickly measure trends and identify workforce needs by region, so we are working with members of the Legislature to enact a system to help us connect workers to jobs in areas of great need from current and future employers.