MADISON - Gov. Scott Walker declared Wisconsin "historically strong" in a lengthy election-year State of the State address on Wednesday in Madison.
Story By Ben Meyer
His address was heavy on celebrating accomplishments, but also pushed his "Ambitious Agenda for 2018."
Walker compared conditions in the state in 2010, the year before he took office, to those in 2018 a total of 16 times in the speech, trying to highlight progress during his administration.
Walker's to-do list for 2018 kicked off with a request for another tax cut.
He's hoping to give families a tax credit of $100 per child under 18 living at home. Walker has repeatedly drawn attention to his elimination of the state property tax and his lowering of state income taxes during his governorship.
"As promised, when we have a surplus, we will give it back to you, the hardworking taxpayers. You see, this is your reform dividend. You deserve it," he said in the speech.
"When you look at $100, what does that really buy?" Rep. Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield) retorted after the address. "It may not put a child in a complete outfit for a day of school. It may not buy a winter jacket for a child in northern Wisconsin."
Meanwhile, Walker wants people on welfare in Wisconsin and across the state to pass drug tests and comply with work requirements to keep getting their welfare checks.
"It's a way to get this population that has the challenges of drug abuse and drug addiction--get to them, get them healthy, and get them productive and happy," said Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk), a supporter of the plan.
Democrats were quick to criticize the move.
"We don't have to assume that there are so many of them that we have to have a whole program that will address the deadbeats," said Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Delta). "They're not there."
In addition to drug testing and work requirements, Walker added another stipulation.
"We also propose putting asset limits on public assistance, so people with giant mansions and fancy cars don't get welfare checks while hardworking taxpayers like you have to pay the bills," he said.
Republicans claim another Walker proposal, his Health Care Stability Plan, is an outgrowth of instability in the federal government.
"The frustration is that Washington can't get anything done," said Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander). "We are trying to work around what is not being done in Washington, and now, the state of Wisconsin is going to make their own initiative."
Walker's plan would guarantee coverage for people with preexisting conditions, attempt to make SeniorCare more permanent, and help keep premiums low.
"Some of his suggestions were right off of the Democratic playbook," Bewley countered. "Some of the best ideas have been put forward by Democrats, including Obama, with Obamacare, and I think [Walker] is sort of following in that tradition."
In other issues important to northern Wisconsin, Walker called on the legislature to quickly pass his plan to close Lincoln Hills as a youth prison. The state would build new regional youth prisons and convert Lincoln Hills to an adult prison.
Walker also wants approval for a public school funding tweak that would help many local districts get more revenue.
"A good school equals a great life," he said in pushing the plan.
As a final highlight, Walker plans to seek approval for a $50 million Rural Economic Development Fund to help new and small businesses.