On Tuesday, Jan. 10, Gov. Scott Walker delivered the 2017 State of the State Address to the Wisconsin legislature at the state capitol in Madison. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling gave the Democratic response.
Wisconsin Public Television’s Frederica Freyberg and Wisconsin Public Radio’s Shawn Johnson covered the event live. Here is archived video and a full transcript of the 2017 State of the State Address.
– Frederica Freyberg: Welcome to Wisconsin Public Broadcasting’s coverage of Governor Scott Walker’s 2017 State of the State Address. We are live at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. In a few moments, Scott Walker, the 45th governor of Wisconsin, will make his way into the Assembly chambers. He will speak this afternoon before the full legislature, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, his cabinet, and other statewide elected officials.
Good afternoon. I’m Frederica Freyberg from Wisconsin Public Television.
– Shawn Johnson: And I’m Shawn Johnson from Wisconsin Public Radio. This will be Scott Walker’s seventh State of the State gathering before a joint session of the Legislature. It comes in a somewhat unusual afternoon address.
– Frederica Freyberg: The Governor had originally planned to speak this evening, but out of respect to President Obama, Walker moved the start of his speech to 3:00 p.m. when the President announced his farewell speech from Chicago would be tonight.
– Shawn Johnson: This afternoon Governor Walker lays out his plans for 2017. This is what the 103rd Wisconsin Legislature looks like. Republicans right now hold large majorities in both houses. In the Assembly, Democrats have 35 representatives and Republicans control 64 seats. In the Wisconsin Senate, there are 13 Democrats and 20 Republicans. Wisconsin is one of two dozen states where Republicans control the full legislature and the Governor’s office.
– Frederica Freyberg: Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling will provide the Democratic response following the Governor’s State of the State Address this afternoon. And as we sit here, people are still– are starting to make their way into the Assembly chambers and the Governor will follow and be announced and then start his speech.
– Shawn Johnson: You see members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court being announced to the Legislature right now. You know, you always expect some cheerleading from the Governor in his State of the State Address. Spoiler alert, that’s going to happen again. We have a few more specifics than usual, the public does, about the speech, though, before it was even given. The Governor sent out –what did you say – 24 tweets today previewing little excerpts of his speech. And so, you know some of the big takeaways already from what the Governor will talk about this afternoon.
– Frederica Freyberg: One of the things he talks about a lot in his speech that we have been provided ahead of time, we won’t spoil it all as Shawn said, spoiler alert, but he talks about a winning Wisconsin and he talks about not just jobs, but the workforce, the people who do those jobs.
– Shawn Johnson: It was one of the things that he did reveal publicly. He said he’s going to shift his attention to quote workforce, workforce, workforce It’s going to be his top priority for 2017. Also said he went from a focus on jobs, jobs, jobs, to workforce, workforce. So I think you can see somebody maybe make some political hay over that. But that’s one of the things the Governor brings up front and center in this speech.
– Frederica Freyberg: He talks about some of the things that he wants to do to get at that workforce and get people into jobs, perhaps people that heretofore were not able to get into jobs. Also, we should note, and it had been announced ahead of time, that the first lady, Tonette Walker, will speak this evening and that I understand is somewhat out of culture from usual State of the State speeches. But again, having gotten a glance at the speech before the Governor gives it, she has really a rather meaty initiative so you’ll have to listen for that. It’s about three-quarters of the way through the speech. But again, Tonette Walker will be taking the podium to express her initiative in this State of the State Address.
– Shawn Johnson: It’s worth noting too that this isn’t the Governor’s only speech in the next couple of months. He’s expected to give his budget address. Usually gives it in February, and that’s kind of the main event in a budget year. He does sort of hint at that debate to come in this speech on a couple issues. We know he is going to talk about public school funding. He’ll say he is going to include a, quote, significant increase for public schools and wants to specifically help rural schools. So that’s one piece of the budget that he is going to sort of foreshadow tonight. Another one, he wades into the transportation funding debate which is definitely already underway, where you have Republicans at odds. Specifically, Governor Walker at odds with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos when it comes to transportation funding. You will hear the Governor tonight talk about how much he’s invested as Governor, how much the state has under his watch, and he is saying it’s a lot. So not necessarily wading into that debate right now in a contentious way, but kind of reestablishing his position that we’re already spending enough on transportation.
– Frederica Freyberg: Right, and on public schools, he talks about and tweeted about making a significant investment in public schools. But in his speech he also talks about what would appear to be private school and private school funding potentially with voucher schools and then, of course, should the cabinet secretary in Washington be approved, he could get some help in that way from Washington with Betsy DeVos, who President-elect Trump has pegged to be his secretary of education.
– Shawn Johnson: Yeah, you look back at the Governor’s first six years in office, every one of his terms so far and every one of his years in office so far, his budgets has included some kind of initiative aimed at growing private voucher schools in Wisconsin. Expect you’re going to see that again from him this year, given the current political makeup. It’s just kind of a matter of how much.
– Frederica Freyberg: That’s right. One of his tweets on education concerning: when it comes to making the right choice for their daughters and sons, I trust parents. So another nod potentially to that idea of private schools and vouchers for those that might be included in his budget, which will be presented same place next month.
– Shawn Johnson: Got some new faces in the legislature this year. We already mentioned the numbers of the Legislature. Republicans grew an already large majority. They had 63 seats last year, they have 64 now. Have a new senate president right now speaking. That’s Roger Roth. He replaces Mary Lazich, who was Senate President presiding over this speech last session.
– Roger Roth: Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. [applause]
– Shawn Johnson: That was Senate President Roger Roth introducing the officers of the State of Wisconsin.
– Roger Roth: Attorney General Brad Schimel. [applause]
Superintendent Tony Evers. [applause]
– Shawn Johnson: Republicans facing Superintendent Tony Evers, who faces reelection this year.
– Roger Roth: Chief Justice Patience Roggensack. [applause]
Justice Shirley Abrahamson. [applause]
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. [applause]
Justice Annette Ziegler. [applause]
Justice Michael Gableman. [applause]
Justice Rebecca Bradley. [applause]
And Justice Daniel Kelly. [applause]
The joint convention shall stand informal awaiting the arrival of the Governor.
– Shawn Johnson: Shouldn’t be too long to wait here. We can tell you from our vantage point here. We’re in the Assembly Parlor. The Governor is waiting to come through those doors. Before he does, he is going to be greeted—
– Roger Roth: The convention shall come to order. The chair recognizes the Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms.
– Sergeant-at-Arms: Mr. President and members, the Governor of the great state of Wisconsin, the honorable Scott Walker! [cheers and applause]
– Roger Roth: At this time, it is my honor to introduce the Governor of the great state of Wisconsin, the honorable Scott Walker. [cheers and applause]
– Scott Walker: Thank you. Thank you. Speaker Vos, Speaker Pro Tem August, President Roth, Assistant Majority Leader Vukmir, Minority Leader Shilling and Minority Leader Barca. Supreme Court Justices, Constitutional Officers, Tribal Leaders, members of the Cabinet, members of the Legislature, distinguished guests, and most importantly, fellow citizens of the state of Wisconsin.
It is my honor to appear before you today to report on the state of our great state. First, I would like to introduce the first lady of Wisconsin, my wife, Tonette. [applause]
Thank you for all that you do for the people of the state of Wisconsin. And next to her are our sons, Matt and Alex. We’re proud to have both of them here today. [applause]
And next to our family is the Adjutant General of the Wisconsin National Guard, Major General Donald Dunbar. [applause]
On behalf of the citizens of this great state, I want to thank you and the more than 10,000-strong members of the Wisconsin National Guard. [applause]
At the start of December, I had the opportunity to travel overseas to visit Wisconsin troops in the National Guard, Reserves, and on Active Duty in places like Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Germany. Then, at the end of last month, General Dunbar and I traveled to Guantanamo Bay to visit members of the 32nd Military Police Company from the Wisconsin Army National Guard. I am so proud of the men and women from Wisconsin. Please remember all – all of our service members in your prayers now and in the future. [applause]
I also want to thank the members of our National Guard for all that they do within our state. Last summer, parts of northern Wisconsin were paralyzed by severe storms and floods. Roads and bridges washed out. Lives devastated by loss. We sent in the National Guard, and acting quickly, they were on the ground, working together with state and local agencies to help in the recovery. It was an amazing team effort. I joined the local residents from that area in thanking everyone who responded and helped in their time of need. To all—
– [whistle from crowd]
– Scott Walker: Sure. [applause]
To all of our men and women in uniform, we appreciate all that you do here and abroad on behalf of all of us. I want to say thank you to each and every one of you and to your families. [applause]
Tonight, I’m happy to report that the state of our state is strong. [applause]
More people are employed in Wisconsin last year than at any point in the history of our great state. Unemployment levels 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. [applause]
We are working and winning for Wisconsin. [applause]
In the Kenosha-area, Joshua, a former Marine staff sergeant, was hired as a maintenance technician at Colbert Packaging. The company just announced in October it was relocating from Illinois to Kenosha and plans to hire 100 employees this year. Over the past three years, 7,900 jobs have been created in this county alone that borders the state of Illinois. In addition to the $1 billion in capital investment and more than 9 1/2 million square feet of development. In the Fox Valley, Amy was hired in the HR department at Amerequip in Kiel. She joins us here today, along with Amerequip CEO Mike Vanderzanden. Thank you for joining us. [applause]
Now Amy specializes in recruitment, and works with our technical colleges on youth apprenticeships. Since 2011, Amerequip has invested more than $20 million into improvements for its facilities and the company recently doubled its welding capacity. These stories show the faces of record employment in the state which begs the question, are we, you, me, us, are we better off than we were six years ago? The answer is a resounding yes.
[cheers and applause]
It may seem hard to believe now, but during the four years before we took office, Wisconsin had lost 133,000 jobs and the unemployment rate peaked at 9.2%. When we first took office, the biggest challenge in our state was helping to create more jobs. Today we have more than recovered the jobs that departed during the recession. Wages are up. More than 50,000 new businesses have been created, and our unemployment rate, well, it’s down to 4.1%. [applause]
In fact, our biggest challenge is not creating jobs, but finding people to fill them. We went from a focus on jobs, jobs, jobs to talking about workforce, workforce, workforce. That will be my top priority for 2017 and beyond. [applause]
During the past four years, we invested millions into workforce development. This helps people like Gary, Ryan, and Jeff who are part of our Wisconsin Fast Forward program. Today, they work at Catalyst producing mechanical printing paper. These are just a few of the many people who were trained through the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant program and they are here with us today. [applause]
Gavin, Matthew, Kaitlyn, and Brianna are just a few of the students who got a head start on their career through youth apprenticeships offered while they were in high school. This program has more than doubled since we took office. Thanks to all of you for being here this afternoon. [applause]
And Madeleine and Jordan graduated from our Project Search program here in Wisconsin. Each of them is working and each of them are part of a program for people with disabilities that has a success rate of 88%. [applause]
I’m proud that the number of Project Search sites has grown from two when we first took office to 18 today. And by this next school year, we will have 27 sites across the state. Maddy and Jordan, thank you for joining us here today and for being a great inspiration. [applause]
As you can see and hear, we are working and winning for Wisconsin. In addition to a growing economy, I’m happy to note that our finances are stable. We finished the fiscal year yet again with a surplus. Our rainy day fund is 165 times bigger now than it was when we took office. Wisconsin had the fourth lowest overall long-term debt obligation of any state in the country. [applause]
Getting our finances under control allows us to reduce the burden on the hard-working taxpayers. I’m proud to report that since taking office, we’ve cut taxes by more than $4.7 billion. [applause]
That means a cumulative income tax reduction of $1,159 for a typical family. We also cut property taxes. Since December of 2010, the cumulative reduction is $426 for a medium-valued home. Remember this: in the decade before we took office, property taxes went up 27%. If that trend had continued, the difference is a savings of $1,700. Now, folks, that’s real money we’re talking about. [applause]
And property taxes, as a percentage of our personal income in this state, are the lowest that they’ve been since the end of World War II. Think about that. Since the end of World War II. [applause]
Plus, here is another piece of really good news. From 2010 to 2014, Wisconsin outperformed 43 other states in reducing the overall tax burden, 43 other states. [applause]
Remember, since taking office, we’ve cut the tax burden by $4.7 billion and we’re not done yet. [applause]
Just as I promised when running for reelection, property and income taxes will be lower in 2018 than they were in 2010. [applause]
That’s great news for families like Jeff’s and Patricia’s, who told me how surprised they were to see their property tax bills going down. Yes, we are working and winning for Wisconsin. [applause]
In addition to providing more tax relief, getting our finances in order allows us to focus on other priorities. For example, we invested more than $18 billion into transportation over the past six years. Put that in perspective. That’s about $2 billion more than my predecessor put into transportation during the previous six years. We also invested more than $14 billion into programs to help needy families, children, and seniors over the past six years. Our reforms allowed us to cover everyone living in poverty under Medicaid. No other Wisconsin governor has been able to make that claim. In fact, we rank as one of the best states in the nation for health insurance coverage. Even though we did not take the ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion, we actually outrank 21 of the states that did and every one of the 22 other states that did not. [cheers and applause]
A few years ago, some argued we should take the ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion money. In turn, I warned that it would come back to hurt Wisconsin taxpayers. What happened in Minnesota this past year suggests we were right. Late last year, health insurance premiums there increased by as much as 67%. The governor of Minnesota declared the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable. And just last week, he actually called on the legislature to spend $313 million to buy down health insurance premiums, putting Minnesota taxpayers on the hook. In contrast, we have a modest surplus in Medicaid, while covering everyone living in poverty, all without putting the taxpayers at risk through a state exchange or by taking the ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion. We are working and winning for Wisconsin. [applause]
Our improving financial situation also allows us to do more to help our students prepare for college and careers. You see, it is a moral imperative that every child have access to a great education. But it is also an economic imperative, as we need to grow the workforce here in Wisconsin. We invested more resources this past year into college- and career-readiness initiatives including dual-enrollment, FAB labs, and youth apprenticeships. The State started providing funding for school districts to do academic and career plans, as early as sixth grade. We want every child to prepare a path to a career that is right for them. Across the state, our students are doing well. We just started including everyone in the ACT test and Wisconsin is one of the best states in the country in that category. Students here also have some of the best graduation rates in the nation. On top of that, more than 90% of the school districts in the state meet or exceed expectations according to the report cards. One of those districts is Neenah. Today, we are joined by students and teachers from Neenah. [applause]
And families, particularly low-income families, all across the state, now have more quality choices in education. For many, like my family, it will be a traditional public school. For others, it will be a choice or a charter school. Some will choose a virtual school, while others prefer to homeschool their children. Whatever the option, when it comes to making the right choice for their daughters and sons, I trust parents. [applause]
Many of the areas of new investment in our schools are giving students a jump start in their careers. Our initiatives are helping many students get through college sooner and into the workforce. Earning college credits in high school also helps reduce the cost of higher education. In addition to reducing the time needed to receive a degree we need to focus on the price of going to college in the first place. For the past four years, we froze undergraduate in-state tuition for students at all– at all University of Wisconsin campuses. [applause]
A typical student saves more than $6,300 over four years when compared to the trend before the freeze. Tonette and I still have a son at the University of Wisconsin and we appreciate the freeze just like families do all across the state. Now during the decade before our freeze, tuition went up 118%. Ironically, some of the people who were around when the UW tuition went up by more than 8% on average each year, now want the state to create a new government bureaucracy to refinance student loans. But here is the good news. We found a better way to help people with high debt. Our administration worked with Wisconsin’s very own financial institutions to promote refinancing options available to those with student loan debt. Wisconsin credit unions and banks offer refinancing at rates that are the same or better than what is offered by many government-supported programs in other states. I encourage anyone, anyone who’s dealing with student loan debt to visit LookForwardWI.gov– That’s Look Forward W-I dot g-o-v to find out what re-financing options are available in your area. We also provided the greatest amount of need-based financial aid in Wisconsin history. [applause]
We’re making college more affordable and at the same time, the University of Wisconsin is thriving. The UW System had the largest overall budget in history this year. “U.S. News and World Report” moved the ranking of UW-Madison up on their list of the best public colleges in the country. They also gave positive mention to 10 other UW colleges. In addition, we invested more into the Wisconsin Technical College System. Our Blueprint for Prosperity plan opened 5,000 more slots for students in high-demand areas. And this past spring, we expanded the Wisconsin grant program. Our technical colleges continue to be a super option for so many students looking for a rewarding career. We are working and winning for Wisconsin. [applause]
Now, last year, I spoke about plans to travel the state as part of a long-term planning process called 2020 Vision. Throughout the past year, I held listening sessions in every county to hear about where we would like the state to be in the next 20 years. From students to retirees, I heard from a diverse mix of people. Teachers, small business owners, farmers, factory workers, law enforcement, veterans, technical college staff, local officials, community activists, healthcare professionals, non-profit leaders, clergy, parents, union leaders, loggers, tourism directors. You’ve got a cross-section of different ages, backgrounds, professions, and, yes, political beliefs. On top of that, we’re connecting in other ways, too. For example, we’ll host another Facebook live session next Tuesday, January 17th at 4:00 p.m. Feel free to join us at Facebook.com/GovernorScottWalker or follow us on Twitter @GovWalker. Several major issues came out of our listening sessions across the state. Student success, accountable government, and rewarding work were consistent themes. These are the areas we’ll talk about today, and these will be the focus of our next state budget. As promised, we will increase funding for public education. I love public schools. [applause]
Both of my sons graduated from public schools in the city of Wauwatosa. I graduated from a public school in the small town of Delavan. And my nieces are attending public school today. Well, it’s about time they’re out, so they’re probably out of public school right now. But I want strong public schools. In fact, I want great schools for every student in the state. Our budget will include a significant increase for public schools. We will also help rural schools that have unique challenges such as transportation costs, broadband access and declining enrollment. [applause]
College affordability was also a major issue at our listening sessions. It wasn’t just students who raised it as a concern, as they are 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 – 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. [applause]
That’s right, we’re working and winning for Wisconsin. In addition to student success, we heard people say they want a government that is accountable to the taxpayers. Overall many of our listening sessions – many of the people at our listening sessions – took pride in the fact that we’re self-reliant here in Wisconsin. With this in mind, we’ll continue our efforts to streamline government, to make it more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the people. Access to high speed and reliable internet service is something we heard about at nearly every listening session. Therefore, I’m proposing the state invest $35 1/2 million more to expand our broadband access grant program and for our efforts to help upgrade technology and train teachers from small and rural school districts. [applause]
This will bring our total investment to $52 million. You know, the great thing about the broadband expansion grant program is that once the high-speed network is in, the rest is up to the local telecommunication provider. There’s no need for a permanent government program. Now, my mother was born and raised on the farm. For her parents’ generation, electricity changed the way we farm in America. Access to broadband is like that today in rural parts of our state. This afternoon, I call on you, the members of the Wisconsin Legislature, to pass our plan as soon as possible to help connect everyone – everyone in the state. [applause]
Good internet and cellular connections are important for a strong economy, quality of life. So is a solid transportation system. As I stated earlier, we invested more than $18 billion into our state transportation system over the past six years. That’s about $2 billion more than the previous administration did during the same time period. In fact, the previous administration and legislature actually raided $1.4 billion from the state transportation fund. We reversed that trend and restored a commitment to a strong transportation system in the state. [applause]
Safety and maintenance of our existing system is a priority. Last year alone, 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 aids since the 1990s. [applause]
That includes an investment of 25% more over the last budget alone in the local road improvement program. $65 million more in local road aids and the largest increase in the local bridge improvement program in over 20 years. Local governments can use these funds to fix roads and bridges and potholes all throughout their communities. We also provide more money for state highway rehabilitation than ever before. To meet our commitment to safety and maintenance of the existing system. Altogether, the budget we’ll propose represents a 39% increase in maintenance and safety over my predecessor’s last transportation budget. We can do all this and more without raising the gas tax or the vehicle registration fee. [applause]
I will keep my promise that I made to the voters in the last election. Whether you agree with me or not, I hope you can respect that I’ll keep my word. I just believe firmly that we were not sent here by the people of Wisconsin to raise taxes. Those at our listening sessions told us they want us to keep the tax burden down while finding unique ways to improve education, train our workers, and make investments in our infrastructure. We are working and winning for Wisconsin. [applause]
Another way to provide more accountable government is to change the way we operate. That in mind I’ve asked my wife, Tonette, to come to the podium and join me as she talks about an issue that’s close to her heart. [applause]
– Tonette Walker: Good afternoon. As Scott mentioned, I want to share with you a new way of delivering service to children and their families. Several years ago, I put together a group of leaders and experts to explore innovative ways to work with Wisconsin families. We call our initiative Fostering Futures. Fostering Futures is about creating hope by advancing principles of trauma-informed care across Wisconsin. Let me give you an example. If a child is belligerent and angry as he meets with his child welfare worker, we used to say what’s wrong with that child? But with trauma-informed care we teach people to ask the question, what happened to that young person? Instead of labeling the child as “good” or “bad,” this approach moves us to better understand what could be causing the behavior. Just so we’re clear, we know there still has to be consequences for their actions. But shifting to trauma-informed perspective gives us access to more tools for success and better outcomes. [applause]
Sadly, too many children and adults, too, struggle because they have experienced some form of trauma and early adversity. Maybe it was drug abuse in the home, maybe they saw domestic violence, or maybe they were a victim of child abuse. Trauma-informed care offers strategies for understanding what is at the root of their struggle and can help identify more effective solutions. I’m proud that Scott is supporting Fostering Futures as we train county workers and state government staff to use trauma-informed care. We know that this approach will not only support government employees in their work but will also improve the lives of Wisconsin’s children and families. Thank you. [applause]
– Scott Walker: A good way to get upstaged, right? Thank you, Tonette. Thank you for your commitment to changing the way we help children and families here in our state. In addition to student success and accountable government, people told us over and over again that we need to be rewarding work. Today, I’m proud to report that more than 21,000 people have gone through our FoodShare Employment Training program and are working here in the state of Wisconsin. [applause]
There are people like Sandy in northern Wisconsin. She was struggling as a single mother of four when she signed up for the program. Within weeks, Sandy had multiple job offers and is now employed full-time. Sandy’s story is a model of success and now she gives back as a speaker and mentor in the Eagle River area. People like Leon, who now works in Wisconsin Rapids. Our program staff helped him get the skills he needed to be employed and now he has a dream of starting his own business. These are just a few of the great stories of people who turned their lives around through our programs and reforms. You see, it’s good for the taxpayers, it’s good for employers, but most of all, it’s good for people like Leon and Sandy, as we give them a chance to head towards prosperity in their lives going forward. You see, without a doubt, Wisconsin is working. The number of people on the state’s W-2 welfare program dropped 27% to near-historic lows. [applause]
Continuing unemployment insurance claims are at a 40-year low. And our unemployment rate, well, it’s the lowest it’s been since February of 2001. Think about that. My sons up there, Alex and Matt, are 21 and 22 years old. The last time the unemployment rate was that low, they were 5 and 6 years old. Seems like an eternity ago for them. [applause]
All this points to an obvious fact. We need more people in the workforce. This week alone, there are nearly 80,000 job openings listed on JobCenterOfWisconsin.com. Now earlier, I mentioned many of the things we’re doing to improve education and training in the state to prepare and grow our workforce. Still, we need to do more to get people into jobs. Specifically, I’m proud of the work we’re doing to help veterans get into the workforce. A year ago the unemployment rate for vets in our state were among the lowest– meaning the best– of any state in the country. Having visited so many of our service men and women who are deployed, I want to ensure that every one of them, every one of them has a job when they return home. [applause]
We can also do more to help people with disabilities. The state Department of Workforce Development has helped a record 9,507 individuals with disabilities reach their employment goals this past year. [applause]
Still, we need to do more to get even more people into the workforce. That means transitioning – helping people transition from government dependence to true independence through the dignity that comes from work. Here is Wisconsin, we’re willing to help people who are down and out. But public assistance should be a trampoline, not a hammock. [applause]
Today I’m happy to report that we now require adults on public assistance who are able to work and who do not have children at home to be employed or enrolled in our job training programs, looking for work at least five times a week, and being able to pass a drug test. Someone fails the test, we help them with rehabilitation so they can get healthy again and be ready to enter the workforce. [applause]
Over and over again, employers are telling us of their dramatic needs for people who are ready to work and able to pass a drug test. We can find a job for everyone. In 2017, we’re going to push the federal government to allow Wisconsin to go even further, to be a leader once again on welfare reform. In the past, Governor Tommy Thompson, our good friend, led the charge across the nation. We can do it again. Rewarding work will be our top priority going forward. [applause]
We are working and winning for Wisconsin. [applause]
As I mentioned at the onset, more people are working than ever before in this state. Our schools continue to be some of the best in country. The University of Wisconsin just moved up in another ranking. “Chief Executive” magazine raised Wisconsin up again on the best places to do business. You know what? We’re up 30 states higher than we were before we took office. [applause]
Our improvement in the tax climate is one of the best in the nation. The economic impact of tourism went up 30% since we took office. Healthcare systems in our state are ranked in the top three in the country. And our farmers– our farmers continue to grow and produce some of the best food on the planet. Heck, we just won the gold medal for the best cheese in the world. [applause]
All you need to say is “cheese” and “Here comes the next first lady of the state of Wisconsin” and you guys all applaud for that. That’s pretty good. I’ll give you one more in a moment. Let’s face it, there is plenty to celebrate in Wisconsin and don’t even get me started about the Green Bay Packers. [cheers and applause]
In moments like that there is not red or blue, just green and gold. We all stand together on that one. Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our state is strong. Wisconsin’s future is bright. But there is more work to be done. We aren’t done yet. I’m optimistic the federal government will finally heed the call to provide even more opportunities for us to lead the way on student success, on accountable government, and rewarding work. Together, we can move Wisconsin forward. [applause]
Thank you all very much, all of you here and those at home. May God bless each and every one of you, may God bless our men and women in uniform and their families, may God bless the state of Wisconsin, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. [applause]
– Frederica Freyberg: And so Governor Scott Walker concludes his seventh State of the State Address before the joint session of the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate. – Shawn Johnson: You heard the Governor talk about a number of themes in this speech. The one he repeated over and over again “Wisconsin is working.” “Wisconsin is winning,” he was throwing in there. He did talk quite a bit about the budget coming up. The transportation– he definitely waded into that one. He said pretty clearly we don’t need a gas tax increase or vehicle registration fee increase. Talked about welfare reform and wanting to go farther there with the federal government. The word “reform” can mean different things to different people. But we know he would like to drug test more public benefit recipients. And the thing that caught our attention most probably, Frederica, was when Governor Walker talked about not a continued tuition freeze at the university, but a tuition cut.
– Frederica Freyberg: A tuition cut for colleges in the UW System and it wasn’t that long ago when the University submitted its budget that people were talking about how the tuition freeze the Governor might be open to only making that one year of the two-year budget. And now we have this kind of what we might call doubling down of this idea of making college more affordable under the Scott Walker plan, and that is a tuition cut. So it will be interesting to see how the administrators at the University of Wisconsin think and feel about that, because they had suggested that even the tuition freeze was making it difficult for them to run their operation.
– Shawn Johnson: Yeah, I mean, if you look at just the mix of where the university gets its funding, they were asking for a $42 million increase in state funding over the next couple of years, as opposed to five of the last six budgets which have seen cuts to the UW’s funding. That tuition freeze is something that they were hoping maybe one of these days, we could start to lift that so… The Governor taking a definite populist tone on that one, along with the tax cuts, the need for further tax cuts. Wanting no tax increases in the transportation fund. He is sounding like somebody who is planning to maybe run for this job again in a couple of years.
– Frederica Freyberg: Sure sounds like it. At this time, we would like to go to the minority response with the Senate Minority Leader, Jennifer Shilling.
– Shawn Johnson: Shilling represents the 32nd State Senate District in western Wisconsin. She has this year’s minority response.
– Jennifer Shilling: Hi, I’m State Senator Jennifer Shilling and I’m proud to serve as the Democratic leader in the Wisconsin State Senate. I want to thank you for tuning in and joining this discussion about the future of our state.
While we just heard Governor Walker deliver a rosy picture of our current situation, the majority of residents in Wisconsin have said our state is heading in the wrong direction. State cuts to local schools have driven up property taxes and shifted a greater burden onto homeowners. Healthcare costs continue to rise and women, in particular, are finding it more difficult to access preventive care and family planning services. Our roads are ranked as some of the worst in the nation and in too many communities drinking water contaminated by lead pipes and manure runoff is more dangerous than in Flint, Michigan.
We have our work cut out for us. While Governor Walker has pledged to work closely with President-elect Trump, we can’t lose sight of the important issues here at home that require our immediate attention. Families I hear from are tired of being asked to sacrifice year after year, without any noticeable improvement in their economic situation. For years wages have declined. Our middle class has shrunk and poverty in Wisconsin recently hit a 30-year high. We’ve trailed the national job creation average for 20 consecutive quarters.
Meanwhile, the wealthiest one percent in our state continue to reap record profits at our expense. We shouldn’t aim to be like Russia or china where workers rights are ignored, where cheap labor is the norm and families have no hope to get ahead. We don’t measure success by how many hours of overtime you’re forced to work or how many years you’ve made ends meet without a raise. Here we believe that if you work hard and you play by the rules, the sky is the limit. For too long, we’ve seen rules and legislation that favor the wealthy and well-connected. This year Republicans are planning to hand out $21 million in tax breaks to 11 individuals who each make more than $35 million a year. That’s right. 11 individuals each making over $35 million a year will get a $21 million tax credit with no strings attached. With special interest giveaways like that, it’s no wonder hard-working families increasingly feel like Governor Walker and Republicans are putting the interests of wealthy special donors ahead of their own.
As a pro-growth Democrat, I believe in a brighter future where everyone plays by the same rules and where working families are our top priority. Not big corporations or wealthy special interests. After years of struggles, I hope we can work to lower property taxes, strengthen local schools, and give Wisconsin children the best possible education by restoring the $1 billion in state aid cut by Republicans.
Democrats want to grow our economy from the ground up by raising wages, expanding access to paid sick leave, making childcare more affordable for working families. Democrats want to jump start small business development and invest in 21st-century infrastructure. By fixing our crumbling roads and bridges, and targeting $100 million to expand and improve high-speed broadband internet access.
Living along the Wisconsin border, I’ve watched as our neighboring states invested in their communities and lured our businesses and workers over to their states. While Governor Walker has experimented with tax breaks for the rich, deep cuts to schools, and costly borrowing for roads and bridges, other states have been investing in families and communities to encourage job growth. In Minnesota, they’re helping families refinance student loan debt, they’re increasing access to affordable healthcare, and they’re raising their minimum wage to expand economic opportunities. As a result, Minnesota is drastically outperforming Wisconsin in terms of job creation, business climate and family income. And because of their growth, Minnesota is looking at a $1.4 billion budget surplus while Wisconsin faces a $700 million deficit.
Despite our challenges, Wisconsin remains a unique, vibrant, and hardworking state, full of amazing people with unparalleled potential. We all want strong schools, a thriving economy, and the security of knowing we can give our children a brighter future. These goals are all within our reach, but we need to find new ways to work together, to invest in our communities, and expand opportunities for everyone– Not just the wealthiest one percent.
In Wisconsin, we know that our state does better when we all do better. Together, let’s find common ground and work to move our state onward, upward and forward. Thank you.
– Shawn Johnson: That was Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader, Jennifer Shilling.
– Frederica Freyberg: Now, if you’d like to see today’s speech and the Democratic response again, Wisconsin Public Television has posted the speech on our website. It will be up there later this evening at wpt.org. Also, this Friday we’ll have continuing coverage and reaction to Governor Scott Walker’s 2017 State of the State Address on “Here and Now” at 7:30.
– Shawn Johnson: Wisconsin Public Radio will also continue to follow developments from the Capitol on both the Ideas Network and the NPR News and Classical Music Network. You can hear more coming up next on “Central Time” and “All Things Considered” and tomorrow morning on the “Joy Cardin Show” and “Morning Edition.” I’m Shawn Johnson with Wisconsin Public Radio.
– Frederica Freyberg: And I’m Frederica Freyberg from Wisconsin Public Television. That concludes our broadcast of the 2017 State of the State Address.