MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker was set to deliver his State of the State speech Wednesday night in the face of a massive effort to recall him from office and continued uneasiness about the condition of Wisconsin's economy.
A preview of Walker's State of the State address:
Walker planned to use the speech before a joint meeting of the Legislature to talk about his successes and how he believes they have positioned the state for prosperity in the future. He also plans to make a plea for small businesses to add at least one new worker this year.
Walker finds himself in a political maelstrom a year after he shook up the state by proposing eliminating nearly all collective bargaining rights for most state workers as part of his plan for balancing a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
He argued those steps, which also included forcing state workers to pay more for pension and health care benefits, put the state on firmer financial ground and positioned it for growth in the future. Critics said the real motive was to cripple the unions, which historically backed Democrats.
The union proposal, along with other policies he pushed like requiring photo identification at the polls and cutting state aid to schools by $800 million, helped spark the recall drive. Last week organizers said they submitted 1 million signatures, nearly twice what was needed.
But it could be months before any election is held, and Walker is not sitting idly by. He's already raised $12.1 million, more than any other candidate for state office in Wisconsin history, and has been advertising on television for months in defense of his agenda.
The speech Wednesday night will provide Walker with another chance to lay out the case as to why the changes he made are working and why he should be allowed to keep his job. A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows that slightly more Wisconsin voters approve than disapprove of the job he's doing. It also showed a slight lead or a lead when compared to four potential Democratic opponents. The telephone poll was conducted Jan. 19 through Jan. 22, just days after recall organizers turned in the signatures.
Walker campaigned in 2010 on the promise that given four years in charge, 250,000 more people would be put to work in the private sector. But after one year on the job the state has added just 13,500 jobs and losses have been reported each of the past six months. Still, Walker will use the speech to argue that the state's business climate is improving. "Now job creators are optimistic about the future and many are planning to add jobs for the first time in years because of the fiscal certainty the governor created,'' Werwie said.
Walker plans to ask small businesses that are poised to grow to add at least one more person this year, Werwie said. He also plans to ask state agencies to work with a small business board to eliminate old and unnecessary regulations that hinder state job growth.
The governor will also use his speech to ask citizens to share ideas about how to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in government and encourage people to take time to help a third-grader learn how to read. Improving reading among third graders is one of the governor's top education initiatives.
He also plans to announce a new task force to eliminate waste and fraud in state government. A commission the governor appointed last year identified more than $400 million in potential savings. Walker wants the new task force to follow up.
Democrats say Gov. Scott Walker is in denial after he said in his State of the State speech Wednesday that Wisconsin is in better shape under his leadership than before. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller says Walker didn't lay out a vision for the future but instead recounted his failures of the past.
Democratic state Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee says he was disappointed with the speech and he hoped to hear Walker talk about bills that Democrats support that could create jobs. But Republican lawmakers say Walker gave a good speech that made a strong case that Wisconsin is in better shape now than a year ago.
Hundreds of protesters shouted and booed during Gov. Scott Walker's State of the State speech as it was played over speakers in the Capitol rotunda. A large crowd chanted and whistled Wednesday night outside the Assembly chambers amid a heightened police presence. They yelled continuously through Walker's speech.
A pair of protesters inside the Assembly chamber interrupted Walker early in his speech before police escorted them out.
Walker's speech comes about a week after more than 1 million signatures were submitted to recall him from office.
Protesters converged on the Capitol in Madison Wednesday, rallying on the day Governor Walker will deliver his State of the State address. All day long, people against Walker's policies showed up to the Capitol, hoping to have their voices heard.
It was sing-a-long number 271 for the group that comes to the Capitol every day with protest songs. Wednesday, it was a bit different. The governor's State of the State address scheduled for Wednesday night brought a few more protesters, with perhaps, a bit more passion. That moved the sing-a-long outside.
Inside the Capitol, the Department of Administration says the building was open to the public Wednesday, and that security was alert, but not overbearing.
In a hearing room, those against Walker's policies spoke at an open microphone throughout the day, saying they were giving the people's state of the state address. "The reason why this event has been organized, is because Scott Walker's State of the State event is not open to the public, nor does it address the public's concerns," one protester said Wednesday afternoon.
The Assembly room where Walker will speak Wednesday night is by invitation only, however, the speech will be televised and put up on the internet.
One speaker opposed to Walker's policies was Wisconsin's Secretary of State, Doug LaFollette. "I have to sadly say this afternoon that the state of our state is not god. What was, until recently, a progressive state that cared about the state of Wisconsin, has now been taken over by the Koch brothers," LaFollette said.
Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) says they are used to protesters at the Capitol, but Walker's message needs to be heard. "Although many of the critics say the state is failing, we look at a year, and things are heading in the right direction," Fitzgerald said.
Some showed up to the Capitol Wednesday to protest a proposed mining bill that Republicans support for northern Wisconsin. There was also a drum circle planned for when Walker takes the stage, and protesters said they hope it'll drown him out.