Gov. Scott Walker gives his State of the State address last year in the State Capitol in Madison.
Tonight the citizens of the state of Wisconsin will hear about Gov. Scott Walker's plans for the second half of his term as well as get a glimpse of his ideas for the next two-year budget.
Walker's State of the State address has been much anticipated for several reasons. Since the November general election, he's been dropping hints and sending up trial balloons on what he wants to see (jobs focus, mining bill, income tax cut) as well as what he doesn't want to see (right-to-work and voter registration legislation) in the next session of the Legislature.
The difference is, those early conversations were with out-of-state organizations, special interests groups, and the Talk with Walker tour audiences.
Tonight, Walker will address all Wisconsinites.
The State of the State is usually big on ideas but short on details. For example, in the 2011 address, Walker said state government employees would have to start paying more for health care and pensions, but he did not say he would propose in his budget repair bill to end collective bargaining for the majority of state workers.
Those types of details will be made clear when the governor unveils his biennial budget proposal in February.
What we know from Walker's speeches and interviews is that he's promising a more moderate agenda than two years ago when tens of thousands of protesters swarmed the State Capitol in opposition to the budget repair bill.
His priorities focus on job creation, work force development, tax cuts, education reform and transportation infrastructure. On the surface, those concerns are hard to disagree with.
Below the surface, though, is where controversy lurks. For example, one of the more controversial pieces of legislation will be a mining bill. Republicans in the Senate and Assembly continue to push for a northern Wisconsin mine. Proponents say it will stimulate the economy and provide jobs. Opponents decry the environmental impact.
What we also know is that the state is in better fiscal shape than two years ago. In the 2011 address, Walker called attention to a $3 billion deficit and $200 million shortfall for the rest of that fiscal year. Walker administration projections show the 2012-13 budget will result in a $282 million surplus.
Addresses like the State of the State are important in that the leader of Wisconsin offers a road map for the next two years. We recommend state residents watch or listen tonight so they are better informed as the Legislature navigates that road map.