Scott Walker 'very optimistic' about chances of broad agenda passing Legislature

By Jessie Opoien, The Capital Times

Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday he is "very optimistic" the agenda he proposed in his State of the State address will make it through the Legislature and to his desk by the end of the current session.

His comments come the day after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said it would be a "heavy lift" to pass an overhaul of the state's juvenile corrections system within that timeline. 

Walker told reporters he met with Fitzgerald Wednesday morning and will meet with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, later in the day. He said he is communicating to both of them that it's "imperative" the legislation pass by the end of the session.

Assembly lawmakers introduced a bipartisan juvenile corrections bill on Tuesday, with some changes to a proposal offered by Walker earlier this year. The bill would send most youth offenders to secured facilities overseen at the county level while leaving the most serious offenders within the state Department of Corrections' oversight. 

Walker said he is open to the plan, adding that he is "very interested" in counties playing a larger role, as long as all 72 of them are on board. 

"We laid out a specific plan but we said along the way we’re willing to work with the Legislature, members of both parties," Walker said. "As long as the counties are supportive of that, that’s something I'm interested in."

The Assembly proposal is scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday.

Walker also noted that the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee earlier this week approved his proposals to offer reinsurance to bring down premiums under the Affordable Care Act marketplace and to create a $50 million rural economic development fund. The proposal for rural communities was passed unanimously, and Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, joined Republicans in supporting the reinsurance proposal.

Walker was also optimistic about a proposal he and Assembly Republicans support, which would offer a one-time tax credit of $100 per child and a one-time sales tax holiday for purchases of $100 or less.

Fitzgerald said after it was introduced that he was unsure whether Senate Republicans would support it, and Democrats panned it as an election-year gimmick.

Walked said "at a minimum" he expects the child tax credit will pass.