Stevens Point Journal: Local officials respond to State of State speech

Written by Nathan Vine, Stevens Point Journal Media

Local representatives fell on two different sides after Gov. Scott Walker’s State of the State address given Tuesday night in Madison.
Republicans lauded the governor for his work in making tough choices during the last two years, which have turned a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a $342 million surplus. Democrats, meanwhile, challenge that Walker has done little to increase employment, with the state ranked 42nd in job creation and having created just 37,000 jobs since he took office.
State Rep. Scott Krug, R-Rome, said a budget surplus will finally give the state the ability to fund its priorities.
“We’re not fighting behind the eight ball like a lot of other states are,” said Krug, who represents the 72nd Assembly District. “All of the tough choices we have had to make I think have paid off, and we can now really look at putting some of that money towards projects and programs that will make a difference.”
At the same time, Krug said that a surplus doesn’t automatically mean that money will be flowing out of Madison.
“Now is when people will call looking for help with their programs, and we have to be realistic about what we can do,” Krug said. “We don’t want to turn around and go right back to a structural deficit.”
Both Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, who represents the 70th State Assembly District, and Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said while Walker continued to talk about creating jobs as a priority, his record showed a different story. They called for the governor to focus on bipartisanship to create legislation to improve job creation.
“It’s really important in this legislative session that we reverse this job slump the state is in,” said Lassa, who serves the 24th Senate District. “Being able to focus (on) working together to do that, rather than policies that are going to divide us, should be our top priority.”
Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, the new 71st Assembly District representative, said Walker gave an overly optimistic view of Wisconsin’s economy. She also criticized his focus on passing a mining bill as a main point of job creation.
“This is a bill that is going to be held up in court, and the 700 jobs it could create will be years from now,” Shankland said. “Wisconsin needs bipartisan action on a long-term jobs bill that will start creating jobs now and won’t affect our natural resources.”
Dennis Riley, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said he was surprised with the amount of showmanship Walker showed in the speech — that included more than a dozen operating engineers, carpenters and millwrights who joined him at the podium and held up a Wisconsin state flag.
“It was Reagan-lite,” said Riley, referring to former President Ronald Reagan. “He did a lot of pointing at people in the gallery, he was winking, and he brought people up on stage. It was over the top, and it brought some excitement to the evening.”
Riley said he wasn’t surprised by themes of job creation, tax cuts and reform Walker spoke about, but he did note the tone of the speech seemed to be more calm than in years past.
“The themes are a very traditional Republican vision of how to make things happen, but there wasn’t really anything that was in your face,” Riley said. “It seems like he wants to set the tone that the two parties will have a more traditional argument about the way things should be done rather than what we have seen in the past few years.”