During his seventh State of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. Walker said the state of Wisconsin is as strong as it has ever been.
Walker vowed to prioritize K12 and college education, transportation and broadband expansion in his upcoming budget.
He said it’s clear that his policies are having a positive effect on the state. “More people were employed in Wisconsin last year, than at any point in the history of our great state. Unemployment rates are the lowest in more than 15 years, and the percentage of people working in Wisconsin is one of the highest of any state in the country,” Walker said.
Throughout his 40 minute speech, Walker referred back to the refrain, “We are working and winning for Wisconsin.”
Going forward, Walker said he wants to expand broadband capacity, especially in northern Wisconsin.
And when it comes to the state’s huge transportation deficit, Walker said he still plans to prioritize roads and bridges, and without raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.
“Safety and maintenance of our existing system is a priority. Last year, there were more than 300 road construction projects going on in the state. You probably drove through one of them. Looking ahead, we’ll provide local governments with the largest increase in transportation aid since the 1990s,” he said.
Walker also wants to increase funding for public education and cut tuition for Wisconsin undergraduates. “College affordability was also a major issue at our listening sessions. And it wasn’t just students who raised it as a concern, as they’re concerned about the cost of higher education, it was parents, grandparents, educators and many others. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that our 2017 through 2019 state budget will do more than just freeze tuition. We will actually cut, that’s right, cut tuition for all Wisconsin undergraduates throughout the UW System,” he said.
Democratic Senator LaTonya Johnson, who represents Milwaukee, asked, "How do we fund the education deficits that we had from the previous session?"
She said the governor’s past tuition freezes and cuts to K12 schools have hurt education in this state. But Johnson said, his new proposals sound good, but the devil will be in the details.
Fellow Democrats echoed similar comments in a press conference they held shortly after Walker finished his address. Peter Barca, the Assembly Democratic leader, said listening to Walker, you’d think the state has been headed in the right direction.
“We’ve had 20 quarters in a row where we’ve had below average growth,” he said.
Barca said Walker used to insist that the gold standard is how many jobs Wisconsin creates, compared to its neighbors.
“Well those statistics are glaring. We’ve been basically in the bottom third in the five years that he’s been leading this state. But even worse, we have the most diminished middle class in the entire country,” he said.
Barca said the governor still has not created the 250,000 jobs he promised while campaigning in 2010.
Democrats also point out that the governor has yet to address the ongoing investigations at Lincoln Hills where there have been allegations of staff abusing juveniles, and at King Veterans Home, where there have been accusations of neglect.