Guest Column from Rep. Jim Steineke
State of the State Recap: It’s Working
Word Count: 786

Wisconsin has had one heck of a year. As Governor Walker gave his State of the State address this week, it was clear to everyone listening – Republicans and Democrats alike – that our state is creating more, fostering more, and doing more than we ever have before.

With this past year came a stronger economy, record low unemployment rates, unmatched education funding, and even more opportunities for hard-working Wisconsin families. But most importantly, the accomplishments of 2017 brought with it an expectation to continue to create, foster, and do more for our state in 2018 – a goal that I look forward to meeting.

One of our biggest prerogatives as Republicans is to keep your money in your pocket. Last year, we eliminated three taxes, lowering your tax burden while still propelling Wisconsin forward. I am excited by Governor Walker’s proposal to take our state budget surplus and put those funds back where they belong – with you. I fully support his plan to create a new $100-per child tax credit, as it’s another way we prove that we are good stewards of your hard-earned dollars. 

Last year, we approved and Governor Walker signed a budget that included record investments in K-12 funding. We believe that our students, no matter where they go to school, deserve the best education our communities, school districts, and teachers can give. This year, we’re continuing to make good on that belief by increasing assistance to rural schools and continuing our freeze on UW tuition for the 6th year in a row. Together with Governor Walker, we’re investing in our state’s students, knowing that it’s an investment in our state’s future.

In 2017, we prioritized finding ways to foster growth for Wisconsin businesses and workers. We brought a big opportunity to Wisconsin with Foxconn and retained other big names throughout the state like Kwik Trip and Nestle, all of which will create thousands of family-supporting jobs. On top of the opportunities these large corporations bring, we removed burdensome red tape as an investment in our local businesses.

These conservative initiatives headed by Governor Walker and our Republican-led legislature haven’t gone unnoticed. Almost 60 companies chose Wisconsin as a location to settle or expand in last year, resulting in more than $11.6 billion in capital investments across the state. Our state’s unemployment rate dropped to 3 % in December, matching an all-time low in Wisconsin’s history. Our total labor force is at an all-time high. In short, it’s working.

In 2018, we recognize the need to keep encouraging economic development. We’re going to prioritize legislation that not only removes barriers to growth, but dynamically nurtures it. In his State of the State, Governor Walker laid out plans for a Rural Economic Development Fund, giving $50 million to rural communities to help them meet their potential to be difference-makers in our economy. We’re removing red tape for our locals that just need a helping hand – and a little less unnecessary government interference – to be successful. My bill that streamlines the permitting process for wetlands in Wisconsin will be that hand. We’re finding creative ways to continue to attract workers to Wisconsin. We’re growing family-supporting jobs. Alongside Governor Walker, we’re proving our commitment to fostering an economic climate that supports Wisconsin workers and businesses.

I often hear from constituents that healthcare is a top priority. We heard from you about concerns regarding pre-existing conditions, so we passed a bill that keeps you protected. In 2018, we will be finding solutions that increase access and expand care for Wisconsin families. We’ll continue to look at ways to lower the cost of healthcare for those who get their coverage through Obamacare. Assembly Republican John Nygren will keep leading the fight against the opioid epidemic with new HOPE Agenda bills. The Speaker’s Task Force on Foster Care has exciting bills that will reform and improve our foster care system for foster kids, parents, and young adults who have aged out. We’ll continue to take on homelessness in a way that hasn’t been done in over 20 years. We’ll be investing more time and resources into combatting Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects nearly everyone either directly or indirectly. Our track record has proven that because health care is a top priority for you, it’s a top priority for us.

Last year, I enjoyed working with Governor Walker and my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to keep moving Wisconsin forward. I’m proud to say that our conservative reforms are helping Wisconsin families, businesses, and communities continue to thrive. As we look ahead to all the great things we can accomplish this year, I’m driven to create more opportunities, foster more growth, and do more for our state – because Wisconsinites deserve it.