Wisconsin Will Rebound
Times are tough, but our state is in a good position to rebound.
Back in 2010, our unemployment rate was more than nine-percent, taxes were rising, and businesses were leaving.
Thanks to our reforms and common-sense budgeting by Governor Walker and Republicans, Wisconsin is back! We balanced the budget and reformed state government without layoffs, shutdowns, or tax hikes.
Today, we have a growing surplus, the largest rainy day fund in state history, and we made the largest real dollar investment in K-12 education. Many states like Illinois, find themselves in deep debt because of their pension system. Not Wisconsin. According to a report from Pew Charitable Trusts, Wisconsin has the best-funded retirement system in the nation.
With our record investments in education, we’ve delivered more than $8 billion in tax relief since 2011.
Strong families create a strong Wisconsin. From helping foster kids find their permanent homes faster to making sure the cost of your childcare is affordable, I have worked to gather bipartisan support for bills that help Wisconsin’s children and families.
In the budget, we invested more than $7 million for mental health services for kids in our schools. We also delivered a $7 million increase in children and family aids to counties to help kids who have been neglected and abused. As the budget co-chair, I made sure Wisconsin ended the waiting list for long-term supports for disabled children ($39.5 million investment)
I authored several bills to help foster children and the families who take care of them.
• One bill allows foster parents to access mental health information so that they can lead trauma informed lives. (Act 252)
• One bill makes sure foster kids have equal access to dental care. (Act 259)
• Another bill removes regulatory burdens for foster families. (Act 258)
• I also authored a new law to make sure kids can get mental health treatment when their parents or guardians can't be found. (Act 256)
Just eight years ago, Democrats ran up a $3.6 billion projected budget deficit. Now we have a surplus, our pension system is fully funded, and we have the largest rainy day fund in state history.
Wisconsin’s tax burden is the lowest in 50 years because we’ve worked hard to cut your taxes. So far, we’ve delivered more than $8 billion in tax relief since 2010, and we’re not done yet.
The latest state budget does not raise sales, income, or property taxes. It also:
- Makes sure the average property tax bill on the median home will once again be lower than they were in 2010 ($2,963) when Gov. Walker took office. It is estimated that the average property tax bill on the median home will be $2,851 in the first year and $2,830 in the second year.
- Eliminates three burdensome taxes
- Forestry Mill Tax: Sunset the tax beginning with January 1, 2017.
- Alternative Minimum Tax: Sunset the tax beginning tax year 2019.
- Soda Water Tax: Repeals provision that permits government to grant and assess fees to sellers of soda water beverages.
I’m a former teacher. I understand the importance of education. Regardless of background or zip code, every child must have access to a quality education. I’ve heard from education leaders that we need more quality teachers in our state. I’ve worked with them to attract qualified teachers to their classrooms.
In the last budget, state funding for K-12 education reached an all-time high in actual dollars at $12.2 billion!
As a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, I’m continuing to look for ways to make sure every school has the resources they need to create a successful environment for learning.
Protecting Your Health Care
Wisconsin is ranked #1 in the nation for health care quality. I am fighting to keep us there.
I believe every citizen should have access to our high-quality health care without breaking the bank. That’s why I have fought hard in the Legislature to ensure that our insurance market stays competitive so that your premiums stay low. I will continue to work hard for you to have a sustainable, healthy Wisconsin.
I believe we also need to ensure our seniors have access to a high quality of life. That means funding programs like Medicare, SeniorCare, and other long-term care services for the elderly of our state. In my time in the legislature, I have continually worked to ensure quality care for seniors.
I also authored a Breast Density Notification law that provides women with density information and empowers them to take control of their healthcare.
Serving Our Veterans
Those who are serving or have served deserve our utmost appreciation for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their family. I believe we must honor those sacrifices. One way to honor them is by ensuring our veterans are taken care of when they return home. We have worked hard to make sure there are opportunities right here at home when veterans come back. In fact, Wisconsin has one of the lowest veteran unemployment rates in the country at 1.2%!
We passed several laws that benefit our veterans.
- Wisconsin is now the first state in the nation to create a “green alert” system. Like amber or silver alerts, the public will be notified to be on the lookout if a vulnerable veteran goes missing. (Act 175)
- In the budget, we helped make it easier for veterans to get credit for their military experience and make sure those credits to transfer to college. (Act 59)
- We required the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide outreach, mental health services, and support to current and former service members who have a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder. (Act 295)
- We created the Hire Heroes program, which provides subsidized work opportunities for veterans. (Act 195)
Keeping You and Your Family Safe
Governments need to provide a safe environment for its citizens. I have worked to make sure that here in Wisconsin, we have the highest quality of life.
My commitment to public safety has led to authoring legislation such as the state’s Sexual Predator Law, Sex Offender Registry, Internet Predator Law, and drunk-driving legislation. All of these initiatives had one thing in mind: keeping you and your family safe.
I also voted to protect our schools, and Governor Walker signed my bill to help keep firearms out of the hands of violent repeat offenders. It creates criminal penalties for “straw purchasers,” individuals who purchase a firearm for someone who cannot legally own one, and “human holsters,” individuals who hold a gun for an individual who cannot legally have one. The bill also creates a four-year mandatory minimum sentence for habitual criminals who commit a crime using a firearm. (Act 145)
As the co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), I have the privilege and tremendous responsibility of playing an integral role in Wisconsin’s biennial budget process. After the release of the Governor’s budget, the JFC travels the state to listen to the concerns and priorities of taxpayers. From those important listening sessions, we craft a budget that addresses the needs of our constituents.
I am proud that the 2017-19 budget will continue to move Wisconsin in the right direction. From day one, it was important to us to take the Governor's proposed budget and improve on it. Together, we have crafted a budget that puts Wisconsin working families first.
Being careful with your money is paying off.
Wisconsin's bond rating was upgraded three times last year by three different agencies. Fitch Ratings improved our rating from "AA" to "AA+," their second highest possible ranking. The Kroll Bond Rating Agency also improved our ranking in two separate categories to their second-highest rating. In August, Moody's upgraded our rating to just below AAA.
In August, Moody's Investor Service upgraded the state's credit rating, noting that, "The stable outlook reflects the expectation that the state will experience moderate economic growth and will continue its prudent fiscal management practices."
Under my leadership, the Wisconsin job market is booming! While it is fantastic to see such growth, I know that we are facing a skilled labor shortage. I hear time and time again from employers in my district they have family-sporting job openings but are unable to find the labor to fill those jobs. In fact, there are thousands of opportunities available on the state’s job site!
Wisconsin is Working!
Are we better off than we were eight years ago? There’s no question we are. Jobs are up, and taxes are down. When I talk to people, there’s more optimism than ever before. It’s a great time to live in Wisconsin.