Gov. Scott Walker gave his sixth State of the State address Tuesday, using the speech as an opportunity to tout workforce development in Wisconsin and roll out several policy plans, including a series of bills to reduce student loan debt.
In his address, Walker lauded the improvements to the state economy, including a budget surplus and an increased labor force participation rate. He also touted the progress of the Lean Government Initiative, launched in 2012 with the goal of eliminating waste, improving government services and saving time and money.
“There are more people working in Wisconsin than at nearly any other point in our history,” Walker said in the speech. “State finances are stable; our school students are doing well overall; college tuition is frozen; and property and income taxes are down from 2010.”
Walker emphasized the importance of work, both to the state economy and to an individual’s sense of pride and well-being. He referenced the 8,334 people who he says were transferred out of the government food stamp program as another indication of an improving economy.
“The state of Wisconsin now requires able-bodied adults without children in the home to be enrolled in a job training program before they can get food stamps,” Walker said. “We believe in helping people get the training necessary to find rewarding careers.”
Walker announced his plan to revitalize state education systems by limiting student debt and promoting students toward all occupations, from “welders and nursing assistants” to “doctors and lawyers.”
As a part of his plan to make higher education more affordable, Walker promoted making student loan interest payments tax deductible, increasing internships for young people and increasing funding for tech schools.
“Student loan debt has increasingly become a burden for young professionals,” Walker said, calling on the Legislature to quickly pass the package of bills.
State Senate and Assembly Democrats convened after the address to to respond to Walker’s agenda and expressed concerns with his view of Wisconsin.
Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, called the governor’s proposals “underwhelming” as well as contrary to the needs of the Wisconsin people.
“The governor says the state of the state is strong. Tell that to the workers laid off from Oscar Mayer,” Shilling said. “The state of the state is not working for them.”