Gov. Scott Walker gave his budget address tonight at the state capitol, which focused on job creation, workforce development, transforming education, government reform and investing in infrastructure.
Here are some of the highlights from Walker's speech:
"Bottom line—I want more freedom and prosperity for all. Improving the economy is my number one priority. Over the past two years, we lowered our overall tax burden, we streamlined the regulatory process—so what we do enforce is about common sense and not government red tape—and we put limits on lawsuit abuse that was a hurdle for small businesses and farmers."
"Think about it—more money in the hands of taxpayers will likely drive greater demand for goods and services, which will likely lead to greater production and eventually more hiring of employees. Overall, this would lead to more jobs for the people of Wisconsin."
"As we work to create more jobs, we need people with the skills to fill the jobs. Our budget includes nearly $100 million in new state support for workforce development."
Some state Democrats have already started criticizing Walker's biennial budget because of cuts to Medicaid and wanting to expand the school voucher program, according to a story in the Green Bay Press Gazette.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, issued a statement at the conclusion of Walker's address, praising the past budget as providing a road map to recovery and this budget as fulfilling promises made.
"Our last budget allowed us to make deposits into the rainy day fund, eliminate a structural deficit and finish with a surplus; all without raising taxes," he wrote. "We want to do more to help the people of Wisconsin, which is why our 2013-2015 budget will include an income tax cut for the average state resident. I believe that our constituents know best how to use their money, and have said repeatedly that any surpluses should stay in the taxpayers’ pockets."
But, Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, was deeply disappointed in the governor's proposed budget, saying the tax cut for those making $200,000 doesn't fit most people's definition of middle class and criticizing the expansion of education vouchers.
"I don't know what color the sky is in Gov. Walker's world, but here in Racine, $200,000 is well above middle class," he told Patch after the address. "After gutting education two years ago, that line item remains rather flat, which is good, but expanding vouchers just puts more public education dollars into private education and shows the governor does not support our public schools."
Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, was also in favor of the governor's ideas.
"I am encouraged by the Governor’s budget because it will promote job creation across the state by funding economic development and workforce training initiatives," he said in a written statement after the address. "I am especially interested in the income tax plan that will help by providing much needed tax relief for many families in my district.”
Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, sided with fellow Democrats, deriding Walker's support for school voucher programs and pushing for better ideas on how to create more jobs across the state. He also released a written statement.
"The Governor’s education message was heard loud and clear – up to $1,400 more taxpayer dollars per student for unaccountable, underperforming voucher schools and $0 for public school students," he said. "The Governor is pushing the same policies that keep Wisconsin dead last in job creation. We can do better, instead of making new empty promises to cut taxes, Governor Walker should focus more on improving his dismal job creation numbers to fulfill his 250,000 job promise."
What did you think of Walker's speech?