State of the State: Wisconsin
The state of Wisconsin has more to be proud of than the Green Bay Packers and the best cheese in the world.
Governor Scott Walker delivered his 7th State of the State address this week in Madison, highlighting the state’s low unemployment rate, healthy tax and business climate, strong education system and balanced budget. Since assuming office, Walker has cut personal income and property taxes by more than $4.7 billion, and has reduced the overall tax burden by a larger amount than 43 other states in the same time period. The Wisconsin rainy day fund is 165 times bigger now than it was when Walker took office, and the fiscal year ended with a budgetary surplus. For the first time in its history, Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index ranked Wisconsin in the top ten states with the strongest economic outlook. In 2011, the state ranked 23rd in terms of current economic competitiveness, having climbed 14 places in just a few years.
During the speech, Walker took a shot at Wisconsin’s high-tax neighbor, Illinois, by acknowledging a packaging company that relocated to Kenosha, Wisconsin. The company cited “the state’s favorable business climate” as a primary motive behind the decision. Walker also noted nearly 8,000 jobs have been created in Kenosha County, which borders Illinois, over the past three years. This movement of jobs out of Illinois is not surprising, as Illinois ranks 42nd in terms of current economic competitiveness in Rich States, Poor States, and has one of the highest tax burdens in the country.
Governor Walker discussed how another high-tax neighbor, Minnesota, witnessed health insurance premiums increase as much as 67 percent. On the other hand, Wisconsin maintains a modest surplus in Medicaid and ranks as “one of the best states in the nation for health insurance coverage” despite turning down Obamacare Medicaid expansion money, which Minnesota accepted.
In regards to spending, Governor Walker promised a “significant increase for public schools,” billions of additional dollars for the state transportation system and an extra $35.5 million to expand access to high speed and reliable internet service. Walker emphasized installation of the high speed network, no need for a continuing government presence will exist since local telecommunication providers would then deliver the actual service. Additionally, he noted no gas tax or vehicle registration fee increase is needed to cover the growth of infrastructure spending.
Governor Walker vowed to continue fighting for a state government that is “more effective, efficient and accountable to the people.” While he plans to increase spending for certain large budgetary items such as education and infrastructure, he is committed to keeping the tax burden low and making the Badger State as economically competitive as possible.