Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker promised during his State of the State speech Jan. 15 to deliver a significant income tax cut to the middle class and a renewed focus on putting people back to work.
Speaking to a joint session of the Republican-controlled Legislature, the Republican governor said that creating jobs was his top priority. He also said he was "doubling down" on efforts to meet his 2010 campaign promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs over four years.
The governor remains far from fulfilling that signature campaign promise.
Still, Walker – just seven months past his recall victory – said there are signs that the state's economy is improving.
Depending on the measurement used, the number of private-sector jobs has increased by either 37,000 or 86,500 since Walker took office. Additionally, the new public-private agency he created to head economic development and job creation efforts has been plagued by management problems.
Wisconsin ranked 42nd in private-sector job creation from June 2011 to June 2012, based on the most recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"We are moving Wisconsin forward with bold vision and bright hope for the future," he said.
Two years removed from the bitter partisan battle over his first budget that led to the recall election, Walker has been striving to cast himself in a more moderate light midway through his first term as governor.
His first budget imposed cuts to education funding and infuriated public employee unions by going after their collective bargaining rights. His new budget plan, expected to be released next month, figures to be less divisive – but he revealed few details on Jan. 15.
Democrats were not impressed, saying Walker has shown no willingness to focus on job creation or urgency to act.
A collection of responses to Walker’s speech:
Wisconsin Education Association Council: “Educators are disappointed to hear the governor doesn’t share Wisconsin’s priorities when it comes to reinvestments in neighborhood public schools and higher education. The governor’s call to divert more taxpayer dollars to unaccountable private vouchers is absolutely the wrong way to go. There’s no better return on investment of public dollars than public education.”
United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck: “It has been 2 years since Scott Walker promised the voters of Wisconsin 250,000 new jobs, yet our state’s economy has taken steps backward and now ranks among the worst in the nation for job creation and economic development. Tonight, Scott Walker ignored reality, painting an artificially rosy picture in his 2013 ‘State of the State’ address.”
Rep. John Klenke, R-Green Bay: “Streamlining the mining process illustrates a clear focus on job creation. I had the pleasure of working to craft a responsible mining bill last session and am eager to support thousands of jobs and over a billion dollars of private investment in our state.
“By focusing on our priorities to create jobs, develop the workforce, transform education, reform government, and invest in our infrastructure we can improve our economy and everyone’s way of life.”
Rep. Tom Larson, R-Colfax: “I think Gov. Walker has set out a clear, solid plan. We all agree that a top priority in our state is job creation. The expansion of job training and practical education opportunities is just what we need to get Wisconsin’s hard-working residents moving forward. The tough decisions made last session are paying off, leading to new and innovative solutions to problems facing our state.”
Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh: By any measure, the past two years have been a disaster in Wisconsin. No amount of delusional rhetoric, press releases or self-selected surveys can change the reality facing Wisconsin’s working families. The fact remains that Wisconsin lags behind most of the country in job creation, and has fallen behind every one of its neighboring states under Gov. Walker.
“For all the talk of jobs being a priority, there has been very little urgency on proposals such as a venture capital funding for new start-ups that could help spur job growth. We need leadership and accountability, not excuses and rhetoric.”
Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau: “In order to create jobs and get Wisconsin’s economy back on track, we can’t just talk about working together but we must actually do so. After all, actions speak louder than words. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to truly move Wisconsin forward.”
Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee: “I find it disingenuous when Gov. Walker says our public schools are ‘the same or better,’ when 97 percent of districts had their state aid cut. Slashing $1.6 billion from public schools on top of hundreds of millions taken away from our universities does not make them ‘the same or better.’”
Editor's note: This story will be updated with more reaction.