READ IT: In address to lawmakers at the Capitol, Governor Scott Walker unveils two-year budget plan

MADISON (WITI) -- Governor Scott Walker delivered his two-year budget address at the Capitol in Madison Tuesday evening, February 3rd.

The address as prepared for delivery is as follows:

Speaker Vos, Speaker Pro Tem August, President Lazich, Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Minority Leader Shilling, Minority Leader Barca, members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Constitutional Officers, tribal leaders, members of the Cabinet, distinguished guests, members of the Legislature, most importantly, fellow citizens of the great state of Wisconsin, it is an honor to appear before you tonight.

Before we get started, I would like to introduce the First Lady of Wisconsin, my wife, Tonette.  Next to my wife is the Adjutant General of the Wisconsin National Guard, Major General Donald Dunbar.  Next to him are Brigadier General Mark Anderson and Command Sergeant Major Bradley Shields.

As a kid growing up in Delavan, I started working as a dishwasher at the Countryside Restaurant.  Later, I went on to flip burgers at McDonald's to save up for school.  My mom was a part-time secretary and she raised my brother and me, while my dad served as a pastor in our small town.

We didn't have much money, but the best thing my parents gave us was an understanding of the value of hard work.  Mom was raised on a farm where they didn't have indoor plumbing until she went to junior high school.  My dad's dad worked as a machinist at a factory for most of his life.

More than anything, my family ingrained in me the idea that anyone who worked hard could go as far as their dreams would take them.  It was through their eyes that I got my first glimpse of the American Dream.

Today, however, I worry that too many of our fellow citizens feel that dream has become out of reach for them and their families.  The budget plan we present tonight will help restore that America Dream right here in Wisconsin.

Our plan is based on growth and opportunity—which leads to freedom and prosperity for all.  Secondly, our plan will use common sense reforms to create a government that is limited in scope and—ultimately—more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the public.  And finally, our plan will ensure a state where people are safe and sound in their homes and throughout their communities.

Our Freedom and Prosperity proposal is built to help working families like the VanDrisses from Pound—a small town in northeastern Wisconsin.  Ken is a truck driver and Kelly works in maintenance.  Like Tonette and me, they have two sons.

Trevor is studying to be a diesel mechanic in the John Deere Ag Tech program at the technical college here in town and he also works for the local dealership in Pound.  Tanner is studying business communications at the University of Wisconsin in Marinette.  The VanDrisses are here with us tonight.

Last year, the VanDrisses were happy to see their property tax bill go down.  In fact, largely because of our reforms and the flexibility we gave to local governments, property taxes on a typical home in Wisconsin are $131 less this year than they were in 2010.

Tonight, I am proud to say that our state budget will continue those reforms, so the property tax bill on a typical home will be even lower during the next two years.  Just as I promised, property taxes by the end of 2016 will be lower than they were in 2014.  That means lower property taxes for 6 years in a row.

Our budget will continue the tuition freeze for undergraduates from Wisconsin at each of the UW system campuses.  And we will add a tuition freeze in our technical colleges for high demand areas.  That's good news for students, like Tanner and Trevor.

In addition to helping working families and students, this budget will assist small businesses and farmers, as well as senior citizens.  That's good news for people, like James Booker from Plymouth.

In December, I received a note from Mr. Booker that read:

“Dear Gov Walker, 

I want to thank you!  I am 68 years old and have owned various homes in Wisconsin since I was 20 years old.  This is the first time that I have ever received a substantial reduction in the Property Tax! I have been very angry at Wisconsin for a number of years due to the huge property tax compared to other States and have been planning on selling our home and moving to a low tax State. We have had our home up for sale for a year and took it off the market for the winter.  Now I plan on not re-listing in the spring and will wait to see what happens with Wisconsin property taxes.”

Well, thank you Mr. Booker for the nice message.  I'm glad to tell you that our budget will continue the property tax relief—which will make it easier for people like you to stay in Wisconsin.

And that's just some of the really good news happening in our state these days.

Last week, the federal government reported November was the best month for private sector job creation that we've had in Wisconsin since 1990.  For that month, we rank 5th in the country and 1st in the Midwest for private sector job growth.  We want that trend to continue as we grow the economy.

To help, our budget will merge two of our state entities that work on economic and housing issues into one highly effective organization called the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.   And the budget will add further investments into the successful Wisconsin Fast Forward program that helps people get the skills they need to succeed through technical college courses, apprenticeships, and training programs—as well as working on ways to help our military veterans find employment or even start a business of their own.

These effective worker training programs are actually economic development efforts.  So many of our employers are looking for qualified workers.  Increasing the ability to fill these positions will encourage employers to add more work—which obviously will lead to more jobs.

Maintaining a strong infrastructure system is another positive way to grow the economy—not only for the people who design, build, and maintain it—but because it is key to commerce in this state.

Under our Freedom and Prosperity proposal, we are investing in our transportation system, expanding broadband access, and continuing to improve the quality of health care throughout the state.

We want to grow the economy in cities, towns, and villages across Wisconsin—while not growing the size of state government.

To do more with less, we found more ways to reform government.

As I mentioned in our State of the State address, we propose that several agencies be merged and various programs be consolidated to provide better service to the customer, as well as better value to the taxpayers.

Here's a good example: for years, supporters of the University of Wisconsin system said freeing them of being directly under the state government bureaucracy would help reduce costs in multiple areas for the system.  This budget includes a bold proposal to provide new governance through an authority, similar to the one used for the UW Hospital and Clinics.

Recently, some have raised concerns about this proposed reform.  These are some of the same claims we heard four years ago when our Act 10 reforms were enacted.  Today, our graduation rates are higher, third grade reading scores are better, and Wisconsin ACT scores are second best in the country.

With this in mind, I ask the legislature to give our bold reform idea a serious look.  As the father of a UW student, I have a real interest in the success of our state system and I believe this will make the University of Wisconsin stronger in the years to come.

And speaking of education, our budget will increase state support for schools by providing more than $100 million annually for the school levy tax credit and more than $100 million in the second year of the budget for equalization aids—while maintaining revenue limits to ensure continuing property tax relief.

To help the needs of rural schools, we will provide additional aid for transportation and other costs.  Thanks to Representative Rob Swearingen and other members of the Speaker’s Task Force on Rural Schools for their leadership on this issue.

Overall, we want to provide the best education possible for every child in this state. For many, like my sons and me, it will be a traditional public school.  For other families, it will be in a successful charter, private, virtual, or home school environment.

One of those families involves a wonderful mom named Dina Lein.  Last year, I had an opportunity to meet Dina and her family in Appleton.  She told me about how her son was in a local public school a few years ago, but it just wasn't working for him.

Back then, his grades were low, he was being bullied, and he didn't like school very much.  Thankfully, Dina's family was one of the first to sign up for the school choice expansion after the last budget.

Dina introduced me to her family and I was thrilled to hear that her son Trace is now loving 6th grade.  He's in the band and plays football.  And his school scores have improved—dramatically.  Dina and her husband, Michael, are here tonight along with their children—Coleton, Trace, and Alexxis.

Today, I am excited to announce our plans to lift the cap on vouchers so more families, like Dina's, can have the choice to find the best school for their children.  Every child deserves the chance to succeed.

And every parent deserves the ability to see objective and comparable data about their child's school.   Our budget includes the tools to provide that information to every parent for any school that receives public funds.  You see, I trust parents.  Give them the facts and they will act in the best interest of their children.

In addition, our budget removes funding for the Smarter Balanced test, which is connected to Common Core.  We also include legal language making it clear that no school district in the state has to use these standards, which are set by people from outside the state.

I want high standards—and those decisions should be made by school board members and parents and others at the local level.

Our reforms will also improve programs that provide assistance to people in times of need.  Here in Wisconsin, we help folks facing financial challenges.  For those who are able, however, these programs should be a temporary safety net—not a hammock.

With this in mind, our budget expands the requirement for able-bodied adults to be enrolled in an employment and training program in order to receive food stamps.  Now, some might claim that we're making it harder to get government assistance.  We're not.  We're making it easier to get a job.

The next step is to require able-bodied adults without children to pass a drug test in order to get a welfare check.  For those who fail, we will provide treatment, so we can help them get off of drugs.

Why are we doing this?  Well, because we know that we can get people jobs.  Each week, employers tell me that they have positions available—they just need individuals who can show up for work and who can pass a drug test.

Think about it, as of this afternoon, there were more than 72,000 job openings posted on our state website.  We need more people to fill these jobs.

We want to help transition people from government dependence to true independence through the dignity of work.  This will bring security to both taxpayers and—more importantly—to those who ultimately are able to take charge of their lives.

Overall, our Freedom and Prosperity proposal provides greater security for people all across Wisconsin.

This budget provides renewed financial security as it is balanced and the rainy day fund is the largest in state history—165 times bigger than when I first took office.  Our retirement system is the only one fully funded in the country and our bond rating is strong.

In my predecessor’s last budget, the total bonding level was $3.6 billion.  In this budget, the total level of bonding is down to less than $1.6 billion.  This is the lowest it has been in a decade.

Security for our citizens is just as important.  In this budget, we put more than $600 million into Medicaid to provide health care for needy families, children, and seniors.   Through our bold reforms, among the states that did not take the Obamacare expansion, we are the only state in the nation without a gap in coverage, according to the respected Kaiser Family Foundation.

Beyond Medicaid, we provide additional funds for programs that help victims of domestic violence and their families.  Some of our partners in the fight against Domestic Violence are here with us tonight:

Patti Seger is the executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.  Teri Jendusa Nicolai is a domestic violence survivor, from Waterford.  Roseanne Barber of Hayward is a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, a survivor, and a longtime advocate for victims.  Melissa Torres is a survivor of domestic violence from Madison.  And Jessica Honish is an experienced domestic violence victim advocate who works at the Rainbow House in Marinette.  Places like Rainbow House benefit from our investments in the fight against domestic violence.

In this budget, we also continue to improve mental health services in the state, provide more funds to help the victims of child sex trafficking, and maintain support for successful crime fighting programs, like ShotSpotter, to fight gun violence.

Earlier tonight, I introduced you to the VanDrisses.  Our Freedom and Prosperity proposal is designed to help families like theirs.  Our budget helps keep their property taxes down and their son's tuition frozen.  Our budget reforms government, so we operate in a way that is more effective, more efficient, and more accountable.

And our budget provides more security to people like them all over the state.

Thank you.  May God bless you.  May God bless and protect our brave men and women in uniform.  And may God continue to bless the great State of Wisconsin.

Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin State Director David Fladeboe released the following statement in response to the Governor's budget address"

"We applaud Governor Walker for standing with families and proposing state-wide uncapped school choice. By cutting taxes once again, the Governor shows that he understands the budget is funded by the taxpayers not the government. However, our members are disappointed that the budget still plans to use public funds on the Milwaukee arena."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released the following statement in regards to Governor Walker’s budget address to a joint session of the Wisconsin State Legislature:

“I would like to thank Governor Walker for giving the Legislature a solid conservative budget that we can now review and work to make even better.  We have many shared priorities for the state including growing our economy, improving education, increasing worker training and reforming government.  While there are some initial concerns from our caucus, especially with the level of bonding, I’m confident that by using input from Wisconsin residents and their legislators we will arrive at the best possible spending plan for the hard-working taxpayers of Wisconsin.”

The following is a statement from Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) on Walker’s budget address:

“What we heard from Governor Walker tonight confirmed what we expected to hear: simply put, this is a Groundhog Day budget – a repeat of two years ago. Once again, the governor lacks any long-term vision for Wisconsin – he is ignoring Wisconsin’s middle class families and students, in favor of special interest giveaways and unsustainable tax cuts for the wealthy. He is once again dividing our state into winners and losers by gutting $300 million from our UW System, while at the same time increasing spending on big highway and interstate projects. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, he does nothing to address the more than $500 million values deficit he created when he made the largest cuts to public education in our state’s history just a few years ago. At the same time he continues to allow more private, for-profit voucher schools to operate by expanding the voucher system statewide. To make matters worse, he directly attacks hardworking families, who are already struggling to get by in the Walker economy, by throwing up illegal road blocks for families in need of access to BadgerCare or FoodShare until they can get back on their feet.

Governor Walker made it clear that he is more distracted by his own ambitions of appealing to Tea Party voters in other states than articulating a long-term hope for Wisconsin, starting by cleaning up the mess he already made.

Walker’s Groundhog Day budget once again doubles down on failed schemes and perpetuates a values deficit by choosing campaigns over classrooms, highways over high schools, and borrowing over Bucky. This budget does not reflect the priorities and values of the people of Wisconsin, period.”

Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee) released the following statement after Governor Walker’s budget address:

“Wisconsin families need a state budget that will work for them.  Rather than focusing on cutting educational opportunities for our children, our budget should be investing in solutions that we know will make our communities successful.

We know that our community succeeds when we offer quality education to our children and provide them with the resources they need in the classroom to succeed in life. I firmly believe that an investment in our public schools is an investment in the future of our state.

We also know that our young adults succeed when they have access to great institutions like UW-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Area Technical College. These institutions provide much-needed training for Milwaukee’s workers and match them with jobs that fit their unique skills.  They foster growth through continuing adult education programs and community seminars.

Our Wisconsin families are healthier and stronger when they can visit the doctor even if they are not ill and when they can enjoy the natural wonders of our state free from pollution and harmful intrusion.

Wisconsin families need a budget that is committed to restoring economic opportunity for all.  They need a budget that takes into account the growing costs of child care and healthcare, and one that is not afraid to face the problems of everyday Wisconsin families and provide real solutions. I stand ready, with my Democratic colleagues, to fight against Governor Walker’s budget and instead fight for the success of our Wisconsin families.”

State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Milton) released this statement, following Governor Scott Walker’s budget address:

“Governor Scott Walker’s budget is a bull in a china shop.  He calls it ‘bold,’ but we know it’s just plain destructive.

To hide his economic failures and ballooning deficit, Governor Walker is dealing another blow to public education on every level from kindergarten to college, and we will feel the impact of these new cuts now and for generations to come.

In the years ahead, our children will also face the brunt of Governor Walker’s poor financial planning.  Yet again, he’s putting our infrastructure investments on the state credit card – this time, to the tune of $1.6 billion.

We can do better than school funding cuts and bonding – and a better budget is what Wisconsin deserves.”

State Representative Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) released the following statement regarding Governor Walker’s 2015 biennial budget address:

“Tonight, Governor Walker outlined a roadmap of his major values and priorities for the next two years. Unfortunately for Wisconsin families, he has our values and priorities in his rear view mirror – his roadmap bypasses Wisconsin and the job he was elected to do in our state and charts a course for his own presidential campaign.

Wisconsin can and must do better – and in order to do so, we need a state budget that prioritizes real opportunity and security for Wisconsin communities.  Instead, we’re seeing more of the same trickle-down policies that rig the rules for the mega-rich and prevent our neighbors and families from getting ahead and achieving the American Dream.

I look forward to reviewing the specifics of the budget and working with my colleagues to ensure that we are making smart investments in our communities and allowing everyday Wisconsinites to earn more for their pocketbooks and families. This means standing strong for our shared Wisconsin values and fighting for safe neighborhoods, strong public schools, healthy children and families, and a prosperous workforce.”

The Wisconsin AFL-CIO issued this statement on Walker's budget address:

“Hard-working Wisconsinites want to see a budget that supports good job creation, higher wages for all workers and expands BadgerCare for the sick. This budget misses the mark. We have deep concerns about the impact of Gov. Walker’s plans to cut education and further disenfranchise the unemployed.

Working people can see clearly that this budget is a checklist for Gov. Walker’s presidential ambitions and will only further hurt the hard-working men and women of Wisconsin. Our families and our communities will take the brunt of this budget full of shortsighted and backwards priorities. We need to focus on creating good jobs with fair pay and improving the educational opportunities for the people that live here in Wisconsin.”

The following is a statement from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate in response to Scott Walker's budget address:

"Tonight's budget address didn't offer any solutions for middle class families suffering the effects of Scott Walker's fiscal mismanagement and inattention to Wisconsin as he campaigns for president, but then again, Wisconsin families weren't the intended audience for this address.

This is not a serious plan to address Wisconsin's stagnant wages, grow family-supporting jobs, fix our $2.2 billion deficit, or make investments in programs that expand opportunity for everyone.

A proposal to gut our world-class University of Wisconsin system with $300 million in cuts, for a total of $565 million in cuts since Walker took office, doesn't promote growth or opportunity -- it stifles growth and opportunity.

Putting needed infrastructure investments on the credit card instead of coming up with real solutions isn't big or bold --  it kicks the can down the road and increases the state's debt by more than $2 billion with $1.3 billion in new borrowing to offset the transportation fund shortfall and nearly $900 million in approved borrowing for new buildings.

And spending taxpayer dollars on a costly, and likely unconstitutional, plan to drug test hard-working Wisconsinites who have fallen on tough times won't help anyone live the American Dream -- it will just waste state money and time, like similar plans in places like Florida.

Scott Walker says the next president needs to be a leader with fresh ideas. With tonight's budget address Walker has shown that he not only doesn't know how to craft a budget that puts middle class families first, but by his own standards isn't fit to be president."

Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) issued the following statement:

“Tonight, Governor Walker laid out his state budget proposal to members of the Legislature and the citizens of Wisconsin. During the next few months, we will hear ideas and input from stakeholders and state agencies. We will also travel across the state to hear directly from Wisconsin citizens. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Joint Finance Committee to review and mold the Governor’s bill into the best possible budget for our state.

As we start the budget process here in the Legislature, we will work hard to continue down the same path of fiscal responsibility and common sense reform that has helped move our state forward.”

State Representative Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) issued the following statement after Governor Walker’s budget address Tuesday night:

“The Governor has laid out a concrete strategy for taxpayers, business owners and our workforce that will keep our state moving along a successful path.

In his budget plan, it is clear we must focus on items that will continue to lower taxes, reduce government waste, invest in infrastructure and create new business incentives that will continue to produce a better economic climate in our state."

State Senator Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) joined his Assembly and Senate colleagues for the speech and released the following statement in reaction to the Governor’s address:

“Governor Walker just gave the legislature and the entire state an outline of his fiscal priorities for the next two years.  Much like in years past, this budget proposal is the first step in a long and deliberate process.  Over the next several months, I welcome comments and opinions from Waukesha County residents on the Governor’s plan and look forward to working with my legislative colleagues on crafting a two-year spending plan that is balanced, does not increase the burden on Wisconsin’s hardworking taxpayers, and sets our state on a sustainable fiscal path .”

The co-chairs of the state's budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance, State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), issued the following statement:

"Governor Walker gave us a framework to build upon to help close the skills gap, improve educational opportunities for students, and protect taxpayers.

So far, Republicans have returned $2 billion to Wisconsin's hardworking taxpayers. We will continue to prioritize our state's taxpayers by holding the line on property taxes and making government work more efficiently.

Governor Walker unveiled a plan to help the citizens of Wisconsin get the training they need to obtain family-supporting jobs. His innovative plan of working with technical colleges to lower the cost of training for needed jobs will help put more people on the path to success. That plan and funding for Wisconsin Fast Forward will help address the skills gap in our state.

We are proud that the governor's budget proposal allocates more funds to combat domestic violence. These funds will help victims of domestic abuse and their families.

We are continuing to move Wisconsin in the right direction. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the legislature to deliver a budget that will secure our future and foster economic growth."

Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) says our state’s education is a top priority for the immediate future:

“Through bold reforms like School Choice and Open Enrollment, we have given parents the tools to chart bright futures for their children. I will continue to support educational initiatives that create better options for parents and their children. We must empower parents to choose the best education available for their kids. Our goal is to continue the work of creating world-class educational standards for Wisconsin.”

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) released the following statement after Governor Walker delivered his state budget address:

“Instead of putting forward a budget that puts Wisconsin first and creates economic opportunity that focuses on job creation and our world-class education system, Governor Walker has introduced a budget aimed more at Republican primary voters in Iowa than the needs of the people of Wisconsin.

In a time of relative prosperity nationwide, Wisconsin is lagging behind in job growth and facing one of the worst budget deficits in the country because of Republicans’ failed policies. But rather than focusing on rebuilding our middle class and investing in our citizens’ top priorities, the governor’s budget doubles down on a trickle-down agenda that has hurt families across the state.

Once again, the governor is making short-sighted choices that will put Wisconsin’s future at risk. Among other proposals, making massive cuts to our world-class university system, putting more of our state’s transportation needs on the credit card, and providing seemingly unlimited funds for school vouchers while giving crumbs to public schools that educate the overwhelming majority of our students will undermine opportunities for hardworking Wisconsinites and put our state farther behind in a knowledge-based world economy.

The people of Wisconsin deserve a budget that invests in their top priorities – access to a good-paying job and training for the jobs of tomorrow, stronger schools for their kids and better opportunities now and in the future. Throughout the budget process, Democrats will continue to stand up for these important issues and fight for our shared Wisconsin values.”

Senator Mark Miller (D-Monona) issue this statement:

“In yet another version of Governor Walker’s presidential campaign kickoff speeches, we heard again how truly out of touch with Wisconsin he is and how little he cares about his constituency.

Governor Walker continues to send Wisconsin in the wrong direction. His budget is not in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin, but rather in the best interest of his political future. The people of Wisconsin should not suffer because he is trying out for another job.

Minnesota invested in their communities, invested in quality jobs and they have a $1.2 billion surplus. Governor Walker cut education funds, failed to create jobs, wants to put our transportation budget on the credit card and we have a $2.2 billion deficit. Something is wrong with this picture.

Governor Walker needs to focus less on what the Iowa Caucus voters want to hear and more on what working families in Wisconsin need.”

State Superintendent Tony Evers issued this statement:

“It is hard to see or understand how the governor’s budget can be portrayed as school reform or a positive transformation for most of our children. It is a budget that advances a political agenda based on an ideological checklist while leaving our 870,000 public school students behind.

It does not increase investments in local public schools. This budget sets Wisconsin on the path to delivering a legacy of less for hundreds of thousands of public school kids in local revenue limit authority and state aid. This budget freezes revenue caps and actually cuts state aid to local schools in the first year. This biennial budget means that five years after historic cuts our public schools will still be educating students with less funding and lower revenue caps. And, it continues a long-time freeze on aid for students with special education needs and aid for English language learners. This is wrong. This is not reform.

It expands taxpayer funded vouchers to private schools and allows independent charter schools across the state. To pay for this, state aid to local schools will be cut with local property taxes likely picking up the new expense.

This budget once again diminishes local control of public education by imposing another set of school accountability regulations and setting up an unelected state charter school authorizing board.

This budget proposes lower expectations for becoming a teacher. That’s not the way to go. Teaching is more than just knowing stuff. It is an extraordinarily complex skill, and you need to learn about the abilities of students and how to differentiate instruction. Moreover, we already have alternative pathways to teaching that ensure quality and work for our schools and citizens.

The rural school sparsity and transportation aid proposals, based on my funding requests, are positive. However, rural schools, like all public schools, really need increased revenue authority and school aids that this budget does not deliver.

We have another state budget out of Madison that pushes the pain back onto our public schools and universities and once again does not fix our broken school funding system. We need to focus on the ways that we can work together to support our local classrooms and renew the professions of school leaders, support staff, and teachers in our classrooms.

With this biennial budget, we now see a legacy built on six years of divisive mandates, and multiple funding cuts. It really is a legacy of less for our kids. We must insist on a robust public dialogue about our constitutional guarantees to our children. We cannot afford to fail.

I call on our Legislature to invest in public education. I stand ready to provide any support so our public school students don’t face a fifth and sixth year of trying to learn with less.”