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Jobs, Tax Cuts Top Gov. Scott Walker's Agenda in 2013

Republican governor doubles down on goal to create 250,000 jobs by 2015 in his State of the State address, but Democrats remain skeptical.

Vowing to "put more money in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers," Gov. Scott Walker Tuesday night promised to push for middle-class tax cuts and double downed on his pledge to create 250,000 jobs by 2015.

Addressing the state Legislature in his annual State of the State message, Walker acknowledged that Wisconsin is still a long way off meeting the jobs goal that he campaigned on in 2010. He noted that others have pointed out "plenty of reasons" why job creation in the state has been difficult, including the slow recovery at the national level and well as ongoing concerns about the impact of the Affordable Care Act.

"But in Wisconsin, we don't make excuses... We get results," the governor said.

To move in that direction, Walker urged the Legislature to pass the a bill that would allow mining in northwestern Wisconsin. Such legislation was defeated in 2012, but state GOP leaders say it is one of their top priorities in this session.

"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," Walker said, adding that a mine would be a "lifeline" to residents in Iron County, which has a nearly 12 percent unemployment rate. A mine would generate 3,000 construction jobs and 2,800 long-term jobs, the governor said.

More State Investment in Small Businesses

Walker's other proposals to create more jobs include providing more investment capital to start-ups and other small businesses, and cutting red tape for businesses by modifying hundreds of state administration rules and regulations.

The governor also touted the importance of education when it comes to building a strong workforce. Along those lines, Walker said in next month's budget he would introduce a proposal to provide financial incentives to public schools that are performing at a high level or making significant progress in academic achievement.

Walker also said he would propose lowering income taxes on middle-class families in his budget, but provided no details Tuesday. 

He did note, however, that state is in better financial shape now than it was when he took office in 2011.

"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," Walker said.

GOP Touts Walker's 'Steady Plan'

Republicans came out in strong support of the governor's address.

"In just two years, Gov. Walker has returned fiscal sanity to Wisconsin with reforms that have put the Badger state on solid financial ground," said Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Brad Courtney in a statement. "Tonight, he outlined a steady plan that will continue to provide relief to taxpayers and middle class families while giving job creators the tools they need to succeed."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, praised the speech to the Journal Sentinel, and noted Walker's decision to have workers from the International Union of Operating Engineers at the event.

"It's a clear signal of the importance that all Republicans have been placing on this jobs bill," Vos told the Journal Sentinel.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said Walker and the Legislature's "battle-tested leadership" turned a $3.6 billion deficit into a $342 million surplus, and that the state is poised to move forward.

"Last year we made tough decisions that addressed the root of our problems. Our hard work last session paid off, and now we can invest in priorities," she said in a statement. "Unlike the federal government and many other neighboring states, our fiscal house is in order and we have surplus. … Taxpayers in Wisconsin are breathing a little easier tonight knowing Gov. Walker and the 2013-14 state Legislature will work together to lessen the financial burden on Wisconsinites."

Democrats Rip Walker on Jobs

But Democrats aren't feeling the same way.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, took aim at the governor, posting this on Facebook: "Walker calls for more skilled workers. Too bad he cut state aid to technical colleges by 30 percent in his last budget."

And Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, had nothing better to say in her statement following the address, saying she disagrees sharply with the "unrealistically rosy picture" Walker painted about the state of the state. 

"Especially at a time when Wisconsin lags behind most of the country in job creation, Gov. Walker remains a far cry from his 250,000 jobs pledge, and his own staff admits 'we're bad' when it comes to critical economic indicators, we need bold and immediate action on economic recovery and putting people back to work in family-sustaining jobs."

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, also took shots at the job numbers.

"Wisconsin is 42nd in the nation in job creation and at the bottom in the Midwest,"  he said in a statement. "Forbes Magazine predicts we will continue to lag behind much of the country for years to come.
 
"That is devastating for Wisconsin working families. Here in Wisconsin, we should never be content with being number 42," Barca added. "Yet, stunningly, our governor and legislative Republicans have not shown any sense of urgency on jobs."

Brian Carlson March 14, 2013 at 12:39 AM
BD, you dont know me but feel that your best strategy is to begin with an insult and then expand on it. Why should I respond to that? You are a walker fundamentalist...this is not an insult its just an ID, and are not discussing anything...you are spouting dogma. Fine. Glad you are happy with a man who evidently needs no defense given a sterling record as governor. Everyone is happy, teachers love him, education in Wisconsin is exemplary...the guy walks on water and we have a model state. The fact that millions of Wisconsonites disagree withthis is a testament to the level of ignorance in the state....no doubt to be resolved over time by education. When you get into conversation, discussion, i may be there. The dogma seems to be something you enjoupy paddling around in. Have fun.
Brian Dey March 15, 2013 at 11:18 AM
Brian Carlson- And yet you still can't discard one thing I stated. BTW- Millions more like what Walker is doing. So much that they voted him twice in the same term and by greater numbers the second time around. Also, the sky didn't fall in education. I stand by my claim that almost every district sans Milwaukee and Madison, fared better under Act 10 and are now on better finacial stability. As for healthcare, Wisconsin is in the top 10 states for number of people who have health insurance. His new budget allows for more to join Badgercare. Hardly a record of ignoring healthcare. As for mining, there is nothing in the recently signed bill other than that a date for an answer is set. In 2012, over 35,000 businesses started up in Wisconsin, the unemployment rate dropped to 6.6% and since 2010, 39,000 more people moved to Wisconsin. Those are healthy and robust numbers compared to the abysmal federal record. It's like Jack Nicholson said in a Few Good Men, "The truth? You can't handle the truth." I stand by every statement made and since you can't refute them, you hide behind that I insulted you. If the truth is insulting, you have some serious issues.
Randy1949 March 15, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Liberals want the poor to remain poor, to use them politically. Conservatives want to eliminate the poor by having them move up to the middle class.
Randy1949 March 15, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Oh, good lord -- not again. Would you please grow up, whoever you are? FYI, the above comment was not me.
Dirk Gutzmiller March 15, 2013 at 05:50 PM
The iron mine in the North Woods is the Republicans', i.e. Tea Party's, signature piece of legislation to create jobs. No surprise that they pulled that one out out of the 19th Century, and the lead miners picutured on the state flag.. A 21st Century approach would have been to concentrate on industries already in place and nation-leading, such as medical devices, stem cell research, the water-related industry, and value-added agriculture, to name a few. Several years ago, Fierce Biotech, a leading life science industry bulletin, had named Wisconsin one of the five places in the world best-positioned to be a hotbed of biotech innovation. Quality of life is one of the major drivers for technical start-ups. These are highly intelligent and progressive people owning, running, and working in such industires. Yet at the top of the state government is a 19th century divisive tinpot and his underlings advocating scarring the land forever so some Illinois coal mining billionaire based in Palm Beach can make billions more, if he does not go bankrupt first in the recently greatly depressed coal industry. And what is the Tea Party's real stance on stem cell research, etc. Better not take any chances, start-up in California, Washington, or Massachusetts. Already, we sense the Republicans wondering if they really could ultimately blow their reputations on this cyclical, high risk, and controversial venture. It is going to be interesting watching them squirm now.

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