Gov. Walker focuses on job creation in third State of the State addressSubmitted: 01/15/2013

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor

MADISON - You get the impression Governor Walker knows exactly what his priority is in 2013: finding ways to get people back to work.

The Governor delivered his third State of the State speech at the Capitol building Tuesday night.

(NOTE: 10pm video coverage: play attached video via 'Play Video' option near photo. For Rep. Mandy Wright's reaction video, please follow link below full story text)

Last year, Walker faced a somewhat disruptive crowd. We saw several noisy protestors get thrown out during his speech.

That wasn't the case this time around. A mainly supportive group of lawmakers, family, friends and observers greeted Walker in the Assembly chambers.

His overall tone was positive too. The Governor didn't waste much time in getting to his main point, that we need to get aggressive in creating jobs.

He says one big way to do that: pass mining legislation that failed last year.

"Start with the legislation that was approved in the Joint Finance Committee last session," Governor Walker said. "Include some reasonable modifications. Send me a bill to sign into law early this year."

The Governor shook up the status quo this year by using props. He brought miners on stage here to hammer home his point about safe and productive mining.

Later, Travel Wisconsin reps joined him on stage to emphasize the Department of Tourism's role. That's an industry that the Governor noted brings in $16 billion a year and is a big draw for the Northwoods.

"Several years ago the previous governor closed Welcome Centers," Walker said. "As a candidate, I highlighted the importance of the tourism industry and pleged to open these centers. Tonight, I'm happy to report there are now eight Travel Wisconsin Welcome Centers staffed with people that direct visitors to all the attractions across our great state."

Walker also pointed to education reforms and new programs like last summer's online degree program as tools that can help the economy grow.

It's jobs where the governor began and where he ended Tuesday, giving his goal of creating 250,000 of them by the end of his term a personal spin.

"Our focus of creating 250,000 jobs by 2015 is much more than just a campaign promise," Walker said. "Simply put, it's about helping improve the lives of 250,000 more families in Wisconsin."

Walker also touched on his plans to lower income tax rates on all middle class families. He'll give his details on how that will work in his next budget, which comes out next month.

Newswatch 12 had a chance to get a response from Democratic state representative Mandy Wright from Wausau after the Governor's speech. Wright was happy with the tone of the night, but is cautiously optimistic about this session.

"I think it's really important, the tone that's set at the beginning of any gathering, especially something like this where we know we will be together long-term," Wright said. "I think it's really important we found a way to compromise on our first bill.

I'm sure we will have our differences, but I hope we find ways to respectfully disagree and really focus on things we can agree on, again, creating jobs, keeping our education system strong, so that we can more forward and do the work of the people that we were hired to do."

Wright touched on mining too, saying, "If [the Governor] is just going to skim over that and not acknowledge the problems with the bill from last session, I think there will be a lot of problems again," Wright said.

"On the other hand, I do think there really are ways that we can find a compromise so that we make sure the environment is clean for future generations and we have clean water and air and clean land. And that we create good, family-supporting jobs that will be sustainable and help our communities into the future."

Related Weblinks:
Democratic Rep. Mandy Wright's reaction to State of the State Address

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PARK FALLS - Many people in the Northwoods go to church on Sunday mornings, and for some of them it may be begrudgingly.

But there are plenty of people, often elderly or sick, who want to go to church but have a hard time doing so.

Peace Lutheran Church in Park Falls wanted to change that. Since May, they've been undergoing some construction. On Sunday, the church had a dedication ceremony for a special new addition—an elevator.

Now people like 100-year-old Ruth Olson can worship with greater ease.

Before the elevator, Olson said she would get to church by literally pulling herself up the stairs using the railing.

Olson's story is like many. As the older population grows, church buildings don't evolve with them. The buildings are often old and sometimes lack accomodating features for the elderly or disabled, and takes money to update the buildings.

"We have churches where the people are getting older and it's very hard for people to get around," said Rev. Dwayne Lueck, the district president for the North Wisconsin District Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Some parishoners couldn't do what Ruth used to do, and so they would have to worship at a service held across the street in the day care center, instead of in the beautiful church.

"Now all the services can be over here," said Rev. Dale Heinlein, the pastor of Peace Lutheran.

The congregation at Peace Lutheran believed in an elevator, so they paid for it.

"We been talking and planning this for...a long time," said Dick Ross, president of the congregation. "Pretty hard for some of the people, and I think you saw them, pretty hard for some of the people to worship here, so it was time."

"You can see it in their eyes more than anything when they know they have access and when they come up here and just enter the building and no steps, it's a great thing," said Buzz Peters, a parishoner who helped design the new elevator and space.

"We can finally have access for everybody to get into the worship facility, free access, that's what this is all about," Heinlein said. 

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This year, you will only have to go as far as your closet to help families living in the Northwoods.

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MADISON - Two Republican legislators have created a bill that would shift federal road dollars from local projects to major state projects. Opponents say the bill is a backdoor attempt to make sure federal prevailing wage requirements don't apply to local projects.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Rob Brooks would transfer $47 million in federal funding from local projects to state projects and move $47 million in state dollars from state projects to local ones.

Stroebel says the swap would save money by removing local projects from burdensome federal regulations.

He has been a vocal advocate for doing away with prevailing wage statutes, which require minimum salaries for workers on government-funded construction projects.

Spokeswomen for GOP legislative leaders didn't respond to inquiries about the bill's chances.

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MADISON - New state data show that nearly 15,000 Wisconsin residents lost access to food stamps in the first three months of a new law that requires some recipients to seek jobs.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1Ple8j5 ) it obtained the data from the Department of Human Services under the state open records law.

The rule took effect in April for participants in the state's food stamp program, FoodShare. It requires able-bodied adults without children living at home to work at least 80 hours a month or look for work to stay in the program.

The DHS data show about 25 percent of the 60,000 recipients eligible to work were dropped from the program between July and September. But about 4,500 found work through a new job training program for FoodShare recipients.

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MINOCQUA - It's that time of year again.

Minocqua kicked off its' Christmas celebrations Saturday.

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WOODRUFF - If they haven't already, people will start bringing out the Christmas decorations.

And it wouldn't be complete without that perfect Christmas tree.

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MAUSTON - Authorities are investigating the death of a person who was found unresponsive in Decorah Lake early Friday.

Kyle Lynch, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden for Juneau County, says he was called to the scene to assist in a boat search about 1:30 a.m. He also says the Mauston Fire Department recovered the body, which was found in the water.

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