Happy Green and Gold Day! Click here to read Governor Scott Walker's official proclamation of today, January 20th, as Green and Gold Day in advance of the Packers' championship playoff game this Sunday. GO PACK GO!!!
The legislature learned this week that the people of Wisconsin have two billion new reasons to be excited about the direction we're heading. Yesterday, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (the nonpartisan agency that keeps track of Wisconsin's budget) announced the good news that we're poised to enter Fiscal Year 2017 with $2 billion in increased revenues! The reforms of the past several years are working; with this news, the legislature now has even more options to keep reducing people's tax burden and direct more money toward meeting our transportation needs and educating our children.
As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions. I hope to see many of you at my public listening session on Monday at 2:00 PM at Sheboygan's Mead Public Library. Best wishes on your weekend!
Fixing Our Roads, Part 2: Controlling Costs Before Raising Taxes
In last week's newsletter, I shared some helpful data and a few important statistics about Wisconsin's transportation funding challenge. Although different ideas such as raising the gas tax, increasing registration fees, cutting/delaying projects or relying more heavily on borrowing may all prove to be useful components of a long-term solution, it is pretty clear that none of these ideas can solely provide the sustainable answer we need. There is more than one reason why there is already a big (and growing) gap between the amount of money Wisconsin collects to pay for our roads and the amount we spend... so it stands to reason that any good long-term plan is probably going to require more than one change to what we're doing today.
I believe that it is the legislature's job to force our government agencies to answer tough questions and make difficult choices before we consider forcing taxpayers to bear even more of the load. Over the past several years, that's exactly what we've been doing. Here are some of the highlights:
Since 2011, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has already documented more than $1.5 billion in one-time and ongoing savings, nearly $100 million of which occurred in 2016. To put that in perspective, $1.5 billion is nearly equal to the amount of gas tax revenue raised in one year.
If you haven't seen it already, part of the WisDOT reports I shared with you last week is an efficiency report that details some of the many specific ways that the agency has already changed its planning and construction processes. Although I think there may be more changes to be found, these are real steps in the right direction.
These steps have had a meaningful impact and moved us closer to a sustainable long-term plan. A substantial amount of excessive spending has already been cut as a result of a lot of folks asking the hard questions, and I think there is probably more to be found. My colleagues and I are eager to keep looking at new ways to root out waste and prevent costs where possible, but we also acknowledge that any real long-term plan will probably require more than one type of change from our current path.
Highlighting Wisconsin's Economy
The latest federal data shows that Wisconsin's economy is performing better than at any time in recent history. Our businesses have added more than 200,000 private-sector jobs since 2010. Manufacturing jobs have led this increase, and our growth in GDP per capita now ranks 11th in the nation. Perhaps the best news is that initial claims for unemployment benefits are at their lowest levels in more than 20 years. Wisconsin is a beautiful place to call home, and the hard work of our people keeps making our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.