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Sunday, June 16, 2024
Gov. Scott Walker outlined his legislative accomplishments and unveiled a new and surprising agenda in his State of the State address Wednesday.

Gov. Scott Walker outlined his legislative accomplishments and unveiled a new and surprising agenda in his State of the State address Wednesday.

The state of the state is up for debate, as Walker unveils a new agenda

As Gov. Scott Walker prepares for what could be his toughest reelection campaign yet, he used the annual State of the State address to emphasize legislative accomplishments under his tenure and outline an “ambitious agenda” for the future.

“More people working than ever before, unemployment is at a historic low, record investment in our kids’ education, more help for our colleges and universities, lower taxes, quality healthcare, growing agriculture and industry, and taking care of our veterans,” Walker said in the speech. “Yeah, we’re getting things done.”

Beyond discussing past achievements, the governor also unveiled what he dubbed the “Ambitious Agenda,” a plan to tackle a number of issues across the state.

Walker touted six years of tuition freezes at the state’s public colleges and universities, as well as student loan reform under his administration. But he encouraged the state Legislature to push for further investment in K-12 education, as well as funding for the unique needs of rural counties and schools.

He acknowledged the widespread flight of state university graduates from Wisconsin upon the completion of higher education, and said retaining grads should be a priority, achievable by expanding training programs and career opportunities.

Welfare reform is also a significant legislative priority, according to the governor, as he hopes to fulfill a career-long desire to implement further work requirements and drug tests to social programs in the state.

“For those who are able, we will enable them to find meaningful work. We want to help people pursue careers to support themselves and their families,” Walker said. “Public assistance should be more like a trampoline and less like a hammock.”

The governor also proposed the creation of a $58 million annual rural economic development fund to aid small and newer businesses in lower-populated areas.

In addition, Walker said he plans to push the state to create a new tax credit to Wisconsin families, in which funds from the budget surplus would be used to provide $100 annually to families for each child living at home.

“We promised that when we have a surplus, we will give it back to you, the hardworking taxpayers,” Walker stated. “A couple hundred dollars more in the family budget could really make a difference.”

The governor’s last priority was the stabilization of healthcare costs around the state, shoring up the Obamacare markets he once sought to destroy. He recently announced support for a bill to make it illegal to deny or limit coverage based on preexisting medical conditions, a key reform of the Affordable Care Act. He also suggested the creation of a reinsurance program, in which the state would step in to cover higher cost insurance claims.

Not all elected officials, unsurprisingly, are as optimistic about the state of the state.

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“People are flocking from Wisconsin at a record pace, and it’s because Governor Walker hasn’t made the necessary public investments so that individuals and families have the opportunity to thrive," state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said in a press release.

Many Democrats, like state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, have voiced skepticism to many of the governor’s initiatives, arguing that he has adopted Democratic positions to appear more desirable to voters.

“Access to high-quality, affordable health care has always been a priority for Democrats in the Legislature,” Erpenbach said. “I am hoping for the people of this state that the Governor’s turnabout is actually supported with policies that maintain the protections in the Affordable Care Act, not weakens them, and brings our much needed revenue back to Wisconsin.”

As Walker prepares to meet any of his nine serious Democratic challengers in a midterm expected to be historically difficult for Republicans, he will have to move quickly to show Wisconsinites the benefits of his agenda.

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