Legislators React to State of the State

MacIver News Service

[Madison, Wisc…] Governor Jim Doyle did his best to stay optimistic during his eighth and final state of the state address, despite the dismal economic situation facing Wisconsin.

Over the last year Wisconsin has lost 163,000 jobs and the state faces an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent. The state government is facing a $2.71 billion deficit, an 8.4 percent increase over last year’s deficit.

Doyle addressed the budget situation early in his speech. He explained how state agencies have been cut 10 percent, workers have been furloughed, and 3400 state positions have been left vacant. However, that still has not been enough.

“I will have to make another round of difficult cuts,” said Doyle, hinting at an upcoming Budget Adjustment Bill. “But we will make these cuts as we have made them before –protecting education, health care, and public safety, and protecting the middle class against tax increases.”

On the topic of jobs, Doyle pointed to three specific efforts: the Wisconsin CORE Jobs Act, the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority, and the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

After the speech, Joint Finance Committee Co Chairman, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, told the MacIver Institute “

I thought the Governor did a good job, and really showing the successes this legislature has had in trying to create jobs and attract companies here, despite the really terrible federal economy.”

In regard to the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Doyle pointed to several Wisconsin green technology firms that would benefit directly from that legislation. Some of those included Tower Tech, Nature Tech, Energy Performance Specialists, Johnson Controls, and Orion Energy.

“None of these Wisconsin companies would be producing these jobs without good government policy and renewable energy standards,” Doyle said.

The Governor also wants to offer businesses some relief with their energy expenses with a new program called the Wisconsin Green to Gold Fund.

“By streamlining existing state resources, we are creating a new $100 million revolving loan fund for manufacturers to reduce their energy costs,” said Doyle.

At the same time, the governor also suggested eliminating the Uniformity Clause, which mandates that property be assessed the sam, without regard to how it is utilized.

“So tonight, I am calling on the Legislature to begin the process of amending our Constitution … so we can direct property tax relief to where people need it the most – on their homes,” Doyle said.

Finally Doyle addressed education reform, specifically in Milwaukee. He wants Milwaukee’s mayor to have the power to appoint the MPS superintendent, which has been a controversial issue within the Democratic caucuses.

“Only this Legislature can make this change. If you do not act now, you will be picking up the pieces of a broken school system within a few years and failing children who desperately need your help,” said Governor Doyle.

Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) later said, “He’s got a civil war going on with it in his own party. He tried to paint it [The MPS debate] as partisan. It’s not partisan at all.”

After the speech, the MacIver Institute caught up with several state lawmakers to get their reaction to the speech. Click on any of the names below for their thoughts on the Governor’s 2010 State of the State address.

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills)

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) 

Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) 

Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) 

Rep. Michael Huebsch (R-West Salem) 

Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) 

Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan)

Rep. John Murtha (R-Baldwin) 

Rep. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) 

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison)

Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison)

Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale) 

Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) 

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) 

Rep. Robin Vos (R-Racine) 

Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) 

Rep. Leon Young (D-Milwaukee)