As 2013 comes to a close, the end of the year provides us with a good time to reflect on the year's happenings. Here is my list of the top ten headlines and events of the year in our state.
Budget Surplus – The tough decisions made in the prior state budget along with economic growth produced a $670 million budget surplus this year, allowing the Legislature to invest in our priorities and tax relief.
St. Croix River Crossing – Work on the long-awaited replacement for the Stillwater Bridge began this year after decades of delays. The St. Croix River Crossing is on pace to be completed on-budget and on-time.
Encouraging Job Creation – Legislation was enacted to boost jobs and the economy, with an emphasis on addressing the skills gap through workforce development initiatives, improving access to investment capital, and reducing unnecessary red tape.
Tax Relief – Due to the state’s improving finances the State Legislature was able to approve over $700 million in tax relief measures. Surplus revenues were returned to taxpayers through property tax relief and permanent income tax cuts.
Enhanced DNA Collection – Recognizing the value that advances in DNA technology has on saving lives, apprehending career criminals and saving taxpayer dollars, enhanced DNA collection was approved by the State Legislature and signed into law. I have championed this effort to collect DNA profiles from those arrested on felony charges to stop career criminals and provide relief to victims and their families.
Rainy Day Fund – Deposits have been made to the state’s rainy day fund for three consecutive years for the first time ever and the fund now has a balance of $280 million.
Tuition Freeze – Tuition at University of Wisconsin campuses was frozen to help students and their families.
Flex Option – The implementation of the Flexible Option degree program was authorized, a competency-based program that is designed to be a convenient way for individuals who have completed some college courses to return to their studies and earn a degree or certificate at their own pace. The UW System will be the first public university system to implement such a program.
Honoring Veterans – The contributions of our veterans was recognized by providing veterans the option to indicate their veteran’s status on their driver’s license and the state budget ensures veterans’ benefits are maintained with additional funding. Additionally, the Legislature commemorated State Road 128 as the 128th Infantry Memorial Highway and designated the Honor and Remember Flag as Wisconsin’s emblem of service and sacrifice to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Improving Economy –Wisconsin is one of 12 states that has a labor force participation rate of 68% or higher and our state’s unemployment rate is below the national average, having dropped over two percentage points from its peak during the recession. Over 11,000 new business filings have been made with the state since 2011.
What do you believe is the top story of 2013 in Wisconsin? You can let me know by visiting my website at www.harsdorfsenate.com or calling my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745.