Gov. Walker, in State of State address, proposes new $100-per child tax credit rebate
MADISON — Republican Gov. Scott Walker will use his State of the State speech Wednesday to propose a new $100-per child tax credit and outline an election-year set of priorities built on some long-held Democratic priorities, including guaranteeing insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Walker's eighth State of the State to be delivered to a joint meeting of the state Assembly and Senate comes as Wisconsin's unemployment level is at a record low, and as more than a dozen Democrats vie for a chance to knock off the two-term Republican incumbent in November.
The child credit Walker is proposing would equal $100 for every kid under age 18 payable in cash this year, just months before he's on the ballot. There are about 1.2 million children in the state in 671,000 households. The $122 million cost would come from a state budget surplus.
Starting in 2019, it would be a refundable $100 per child tax credit included in state income tax returns.
Other initiatives Walker planned to tout include overhauling the state's welfare system, bolstering the private insurance market to lower rates and investing more in rural schools and in rural economic development.
Walker also planned to speak about the Foxconn Technology Group's plans for a massive manufacturing complex, which could result in a $10 billion investment and the creation of 13,000 jobs, in what he's calling an "amazing" and "historic" year.
"We are getting positive things done for the people of Wisconsin," Walker said in the excerpts.
But Democrats were focused on what Walker wasn't saying.
"It shouldn't have to take an election for Governor Walker to talk about the issues Democrats have been focused on for the past seven years," Democratic Assembly Leader Gordon Hintz said Wednesday.
Hintz faulted Walker for the Foxconn project, which could cost state and local taxpayers $4.5 billion, and the failure to enact a long-term plan for road funding and prior cuts to K-12 education.
Democrats have long called on Walker to close the troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile prison north of Wausau in Irma that's been the subject of federal lawsuits alleging inmate abuse by guards and an ongoing federal investigation.
Walker is proposing replacing juvenile inmates with adults and moving all male juveniles into five new regional prisons. He initially called for the Legislature to take up the idea in 2019, but under pressure from Democrats he's now calling for action this year. Walker has said he will announce more details Wednesday.
Walker on Sunday announced his plan to seek a federal waiver to allow Wisconsin to offer a reinsurance program to the roughly 200,000 people in Wisconsin who purchase health insurance on the private marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. Reinsurance, which has bipartisan support, basically sets up a pool of money for the government to cover the cost of insurers' most expensive cases.
The governor estimates that the program would cost the state $50 million if the federal government pays for $150 million.
Walker is also calling on the Legislature to pass a law guaranteeing that no one with pre-existing conditions is denied coverage.
On welfare, Walker is asking the Republican-controlled Legislature to force parents on food stamps with school-aged children to work or be in job training, and to increase the work requirement already in place for childless adults. He's also calling for mandating photo identification for food stamp recipients, a move long opposed by Democrats and others who say it's an impediment to poor people getting food.
Walker is also calling for passage of a proposal in the Legislature to boost aid for rural schools and allow low-spending districts to raise their property taxes without a vote, similar to a change he vetoed from the state budget.
Hours before his speech Walker proposed spending $50 million more each year on programs targeting rural economic development.