Confident Governor Walker Delivers State of State Address, Focuses on Reforms

A confident, perhaps a bit defiant, Governor Scott Walker on Wednesday delivered his annual State of the State address as a threat of a recall looms.

[Madison, Wisc…] Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker delivered his annual State of the State address Wednesday night before a polarized state legislature and with a potential recall looming.

“When I addressed you in the chamber last January, Wisconsin had suffered through three years of 150,000 of our fellow citizens losing their jobs,” Walker said. “The unemployment rate was 7.5%. And after years of tax increases and budget tricks, Wisconsin faced one of the largest budget deficits in the country.”

Walker boasted about the progress made in the last year.

“Tonight I’m happy to report that after three years of losing 150,000 jobs Wisconsin actually added thousands of new jobs in 2011,” said Walker. “New business formations are up by over two percent and our unemployment rate is down from a year ago. In fact, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is much better than our neighbors to the south in Illinois.”

The governor outlined three priorities for his Administration:

  • Helping the people of Wisconsin create more jobs
  • Keeping a balanced budget
  • Improving education for our kids by working together

“Last year, we passed some of the most aggressive pro-jobs legislation in the country,” Walker said. “And we did it with the help from lawmakers in both parties because these aren’t Republican or Democrat jobs, they’re Wisconsin jobs.”

Walker used the occasion to again push for passage of a bill to modernize Wisconsin’s mining laws and regulations.

“There is another tremendous opportunity for job growth,” he said. “We can pass legislation that will streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining. The proposed project in northwestern Wisconsin could provide at least 700 jobs at the mine and thousands across the state.”

Walker’s optimistic tone was belied by the fact that Big Labor and the Democratic party attempted to recall six Republican senators in 2011. They failed to gain the senate majority, defeating only two of them.

In 2012, four GOP Senators, the Lt. Governor and the Governor himself may be facing recall elections, depending on the certification of signatures pending before the Government Accountability Board.

Walker’s speech ignored the pending elections, although his speech highlighted past success as much as it laid out a vision of the future.

“[F]rugality in government leads to freedom and prosperity for our people,” Walker said, quoting from the Wisconsin Constitution. “I believe our founders had it right.”

Walker went on to promote his ‘brown bag’ frugality.

“Think about it, when I spoke here last January, Wiscosnin faced a $3.6 billion deficit,” Walker said. “In the past, state government took more than a billion dollars away from building safe roads and bridges, illegally raided the fund to support malpractice victims and ignored a payment to Minnesota for tax reciprocity. And one-time federal stimulus money was used for ongoing costs–all of thse practices left us with a more than $3 billion hole to fill last year.”

Walker then drew distinctions between the approach Wisconsin took with those of other states who also faced budget crunches.

“Some, like Illinois, raised taxes, but that only made matters worse,” Walekr said. “Other states used massive layoffs to balance their budgets; we avoided that in Wisconsin.”

He continued, “Some states cut core services like Medicaid. But in Wisconsin, we added some $1.2 billion to Medicaid and our reforms allow us to expand FamilyCare (our long-term care program for seniors) all across the state.

Walker did not ignore the controversial changes to public labor union bargaining that has spurred and financed the recall efforts…

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