State of the State recap

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State of the State recap

Premiere Date: 
January 17, 2013

WPR's Shawn Johnson joins Zac Schultz to review Gov. Walker's State of the State speech.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Zac Schultz:

Governor Walker's State of the State address presented his vision for Wisconsin, but a lot of the details of that vision won't be known until next month when the governor gives his Budget address in which he unveils his plan for state spending for the next two years. The help us break some of that down we head to the Capitol where we're joined via Skype with Wisconsin Public Radio’s reporter, Shawn Johnson. Shawn, thanks for joining us.

Shawn Johnson:

Thanks for having me.

Zac Schultz:

Since he got into office Governor Walker has promised to cut red tape for businesses and reduce government regulations. Here’s what he told us Tuesday night in his State of the State address.

Scott Walker:

Tonight I am pleased to release this report which identifies over 300 rule modifications in 218 administrative code chapters. Making these changes will make it easier to do business in the state while maintaining the safety and health of our citizens.

Zac Schultz:

What's the first big issue to come out of this report?

Shawn Johnson:

Well, you know, there are a lot of questions yet in that report because it references a lot of administrative codes. But we don't exactly know which ones are set for, you know, complete removal, which ones will be tweaked, and what the tweaks might be on a lot of them. We do know that there are a number of specific changes that the governor wants when it comes to unemployment insurance. And one of the ones that has gotten a lot of attention so far is the requirement that people who are receiving unemployment insurance, instead of doing two work searches a week, they do four. There are a number of others in there that, broadly speaking, tilt the balance a little bit from labor to business when it comes to unemployment insurance decisions. And, broadly speaking, they make it a little harder for people to receive unemployment insurance. You know, labor feels like it is tilting the balance, and business feels like it will help them correct what they perceive as fraud.

Zac Schultz:

Labor and business actually work together to set unemployment rules. That's why there is an unemployment commission, right? You were at one of their meetings?

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah, this is kind of an obscure government body. The way it works is you have five representatives from management or business on, you know, one side of the table, five representatives from labor on the other side, and generally that's how Wisconsin's unemployment insurance decisions have been made. Believe it or not they come up with consensus decisions, and that has guided us forward over the decades. What would be different or unique about what the governor is proposing, if it turns out this way, is that the governor is saying this commission needs to act quickly or the legislature might just do all this stuff for them. So some of the more contentious stuff this panel couldn't agree on when they met this week, for example, if the legislature and governor want it strongly enough, they could move ahead with it anyway.

Zac Schultz:

The biggest news heading into this speech was we expected Governor Walker to tell us about his proposed income tax cuts. Here’s what he said about that.

Scott Walker:

In the introduction of my proposed budget next month, I'll lay out a clear plan for reducing the burden on hard-working families by lowering income taxes on the middle class.

Zac Schultz:

Well, there not a whole lot of detail in that statement, Shawn.

Shawn Johnson:

No, I think everything, Zac, you and I talked before the speech– I think everything that we said then sort of stands now. We know the governor wants some kind of an income tax cut. He’s hinted to reporters that it would be something that could be phased in over time. But if you're looking for details in this speech you really didn't get any. And this is an issue that the legislature has, in some ways, provided more specifics than the governor on this. And I know you've talked to speaker Robin Vos about what he wants to see in the form of an income tax cut.

Zac Schultz:

That’s right. Representative Vos, who is now Speaker Vos in the assembly, told me that he wants to make sure this is phased in for people who pay state income taxes which would exclude some of the lower income people who may pay in, but actually get more money back through the earned income credit and homestead tax. Those are some of the areas the Dems want to pursue if there’s any tax cuts, right?

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah, Speaker Vos even puts numbers on it. He says, if you make less than $20,000 or more than $200,000 you might not be getting this particular income tax cut. And as you mentioned, those people that make less than $20,000, Democrats say, you’re looking at the working poor here. If anybody needs tax relief it's them. So they want that to be a focus of an income tax cut.

Zac Schultz:

One more topic, in the last session Governor Walker and the Republicans expanded the school voucher program, which gives parents taxpayer money to send their kid to a private school. Now they removed the cap in the city of Milwaukee, 24,000 kids left public schools last year, and expanded the program in Racine for the first time, where 500 kids left the schools. Here’s what he said during his speech.

Scott Walker:

We continue to expand the number of choices for families in Wisconsin. Be it at a traditional, a charter, a voucher, a virtual or a homeschool environment.

Zac Schultz:

We know Republicans want to expand the program to other parts of the state but they're getting some pushback in the senate, aren't they?

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah, not all Republicans are on board with this idea. The Associated Press reported that senate president, Mike Ellis, wants–  if you’re going to have a choice expansion, a voucher expansion, he wants to have a vote in any community where it's going forward before it moves ahead. And so, you know, you have this huge majority in the assembly for Republicans that’s very voucher friendly. You have a governor that wants to expand vouchers. You have three former Republican assembly speakers lobbying on behalf of vouchers, and so in a way, this is all set for a big expansion. But you have kind of a critical mass of Republican skeptics in the senate who have enough numbers to block an expansion given the margin that Republicans have over there.

Zac Schultz:

Well, that's something we'll definitely be watching. Thanks for your time, and we'll check in with you later, Shawn.

Shawn Johnson:

All right, thanks Zac.


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