By Larry Lee, WSAU Radio
MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- There were several reactions from attendents at the Governor's State of the State address Tuesday.
Representative Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point is the Assistant Minority Leader in the Assembly. She and her Democratic colleagues remain critical of Walker and the Republicans, especially on the jobs and student debt issues. Shankland says Walker's student loan debt proposal isn't enough. "His student loan debt plan would only cover 6,500 people a year over the next five years. Now given that there are over one million student loan borrowers in Wisconsin, it's clear to me that his plan doesn't even scratch the surface of the real crisis."
Shankland says Republicans not only won't solve the student debt problem, they helped cause it in the first place with their policies. "They really contributed to the student loan debt crisis, especially when you factor in the fact that our state financial aid that's need-based has kept at the same level from 2016 down to 2011, and so that says a lot about how if we want to be serious about student loan debt, we need to invest in financial aid at our universities, and Republicans haven't been doing that."
She also says the state should do more to fund need-based financial aid.
The Stevens Point representative is also critical of Walker and the Republicans on job creation, citing the 10,000 layoffs in 2015 and no consideration of fifteen job bills proposed by Democrats during that time. She says Democrats want to see a real plan. "We really haven't seen a real jobs plan from the Republicans this whole legislative session. Now, I've talked about this a lot of times. Assembly Democrats have led on jobs."
Republican Representative John Spiros from Marshfield says the State of the State speech gave Governor Walker an opportunity to highlight the Wisconsin successes. He spoke with WAOW television after the speech, saying "I think what the Governor had to say was what we're doing in the state is actually working."
Spiros says there are more jobs available now and the challenge remains fitting available workers into those jobs. "I think it's huge, because I know with a lot of employers, the issue is the skills gap, and even though we've done... we've worked hard on Fast Forward, and Blueprint for Prosperity, others still, we can get more people into the workforce."
Spiros does not agree with Democrats statements about gutting education funding. "I think if you look at what we've done, and towards the end of session, we talked about making this a priority, really, with the last part of the budget. We talked about putting money back into education and we did do that."
University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross and Board of Regents President Regina Millner commended the strong focus on college affordability and three-year-Degree proposals Governor Scott Walker included in his 2016 State of the State address. President Cross said the educational priorities identified by the Governor and the legislature align with priorities shared by Wisconsin citizens, business owners, community leaders and other stakeholders.