Will Spur Innovation, Seize Renewable Energy Opportunities,
Make Health Care More Affordable, Invest in Education
MADISON – In his sixth State of the State Address, Governor Jim Doyle unveiled bold plans to grow Wisconsin by fostering innovation, seizing renewable energy opportunities, making health care more affordable and investing in education. The Governor called on lawmakers to work together and invest in long-term economic growth in the midst of a plummeting global market.
“America’s economy is in deep turmoil and this will be a year of great challenge for us,” Governor Doyle said. “Our changing world brings serious economic challenges along with new opportunity to grow this state. Not only must we seize this opportunity, Wisconsin can lead the way.”
America’s economy is facing serious challenges. For nearly a decade, the national government has failed to address major economic problems like loss of manufacturing jobs, spiraling health care costs, the rising price at the pump, the growing trade deficit and a weakening U.S. dollar. States across the country – from Florida to California, Minnesota to Arizona – all are facing budget deficits.
“In Wisconsin, steps have been taken to prepare for a national economic downturn,” Governor Doyle added. “Last year, we cut spending, cut taxes, and deposited $50 million in a rainy day fund. Jobs are up in Wisconsin. Exports are up. And from Uline in Pleasant Prairie to Logistics Health in La Crosse, companies are moving and expanding across the state. But all signs show that America’s economy is slowing, and all of us will be affected in the weeks and months ahead. With the national economy in a downward spiral, Wisconsin must come together again. Democrats, Republicans, Independents will have to take difficult steps and make hard sacrifices.”
Growing Wisconsin’s Economy
In his address, Governor Doyle outlined plans to grow Wisconsin’s economy by boosting investment in research and development, accelerating the growth of new businesses, and providing farmers and manufacturers tools to modernize and capture new markets.
“Global markets will go up and down, but it has never been more important to invest in long term economic growth for Wisconsin,” Governor Doyle said. “For nearly five years we have worked together on a bold agenda to Grow Wisconsin. Tonight, with lawmakers from both parties, let’s embark on the next phase to strengthen our economy and compete around the globe. These are the ingredients for an economy growing in the face of adversity. These are the building blocks for a thriving middle class.”
Governor Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin plan includes:
· A Next Generation Manufacturing Plan to ensure Wisconsin continues to make manufacturers leaner and help them produce and export the highest-quality products made by the most skilled workers.
· A Next Generation Agriculture Plan to modernize meat and dairy processors, invest in cheese cooperatives, fund nutrient management and land conservation programs and enter growing international markets for whey.
· A plan to Innovate Wisconsin and foster research and development by creating new tax credits to reward companies that significantly increase R&D spending and expanding sales and property tax exemptions to cover equipment used in R&D.
· Enhancing efforts to Accelerate Wisconsin by supporting new businesses with more funding for bridge grants and loans, continuing Accelerate Wisconsin tax credits, making tax-creditable investment more flexible and encouraging individuals to re-invest their gains back into new Wisconsin businesses.
· Supporting efforts to maintain a competitive business climate and grow the future economy by improving the state’s regulatory climate, working to provide affordable health care and investing in the bio-economy.
· Strengthening all Wisconsin workers by raising the state’s minimum wage to $7.25, helping 230,000 Wisconsin families. Since raising the minimum wage in Governor Doyle’s first term, Wisconsin’s minimum wage rank has fallen to 40th in the nation.
These efforts will grow Wisconsin by making aggressive investments in the next generation of Wisconsin’s bedrock industries, building an economy based on innovation and by unleashing the entrepreneurial sprit of Wisconsin.
Creating Renewable Energy
To meet the challenges of a changing economy, Governor Doyle presented his plan to make Wisconsin a leader in renewable energy and seize green opportunities for growth.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we should depend more on the Midwest and less on the Mideast, and today we are,” Governor Doyle said. “Our nation’s dependence on foreign oil must end, but drilling our way out of this crisis is not the answer. We must invent and innovate our way to a cleaner, safer energy future. And tonight, from generating wind power in Fond du Lac to harnessing the power of biomass in Rice Lake, Wisconsin is ready to lead the way.”
Governor Doyle announced the following steps to move forward on renewable energy leadership:
· Launching the Wisconsin Energy Independence fund to invest $150 million over the next 10 years to help Wisconsin businesses, foresters and manufacturers produce and promote renewable energy.
· Launching a new campaign to increase the availability of renewable fuel by 1 billion gallons by providing new tax credits for biodiesel fuel producers, adding 400 new renewable fuel pumps on Wisconsin’s roads and passing a renewable fuel standard to require oil companies to provide renewable fuel.
· Making the state government a leader by purchasing 180,000 megawatts of renewable electricity, adding more flexible fuel vehicles to the state fleet and approving new buildings that meet LEED standards for energy efficiency.
· Providing a historic statewide investment — $95 million over the next 18 months – to launch energy efficiency projects to help families and businesses save over a half billion dollars over the next decade.
Making Health Care Affordable
Governor Doyle’s address highlighted the progress the state has made recently to make Wisconsin America’s health care leader. Today, 90 percent of the state’s citizens have health insurance. On February 1, 2008 every Wisconsin family, regardless of income, to buy affordable, comprehensive health care coverage for their kids starting at just $10 per month through the Governor’s BadgerCare Plus program. Last year, Speaker Huebsch and lawmakers from both parties came together to pass BadgerCare Plus.
The Governor unveiled bold plans to help make insurance more affordable for the nearly 800,000 citizens in this state who are insured through small businesses. The plan, called BadgerChoice, will help small businesses to afford to provide insurance to their employees – half of the uninsured people in this country. Small businesses and their employees pay 18 percent more for health insurance than big companies. Almost 25 percent of their costs pay for administrative bureaucracy.
“Rising insurance costs are killing our small businesses,” Governor Doyle said. “The time for ambitious action is now. It’s going to take courage and cooperation but we can reduce the cost of health insurance for small businesses, their employees, and their families.”
“We’ve made Wisconsin America’s health care leader. Let’s keep leading the way,” Governor Doyle added. “We all care about small businesses and we all care about Wisconsin families. Right now they are locked in a battle with special interests. It’s time to come down on the side of Wisconsin businesses and families.”
Governor Doyle’s BadgerChoice plan will:
· Create a consumer-driven marketplace for nearly 800,000 people, modeled off the most innovative solutions in the country. Serve as a one-stop shop for small businesses where there’s real competition among insurance companies and real choice for consumers.
· Harness the purchasing power of Wisconsin’s small businesses, driving down costs and providing real savings for families.
· Be easily accessible through a simple, straightforward web-site and a 1-800 number that will reduce administrative costs and make it easy for families and businesses to understand their options.
· Eliminate the “one size fits all” health plan and allow employees to choose from a dozen private plans – applying their employer contribution to the one that works best for them.
· Inject real stability into health care through a new community rating system, ensuring that all of us share the risk.
The Administration is collaborating with Dr. Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the plan. Dr. Gruber received the American Society of Health Economists Inaugural Medal for the best health economist in the nation aged 40 and under in 2006.
Governor Doyle called on the Legislature to side with Wisconsin families not big insurance companies and pass legislation requiring insurance companies to cover treatment for autistic children. Autism treatment services are already covered in 18 states. In Wisconsin, about 1 in 192 children have autism.
“Autism can happen to any one of our families or anyone we know and love,” Governor Doyle said. “A year ago I asked lawmakers to help families who struggle with autism. Enough is enough. It’s time for both houses to take a vote so that no child and no family are forced to go without care.”
Building on his health care effort, Governor Doyle called on the Legislature to do what’s right and make all public places completely smokefree. Current efforts to fight smoking in Wisconsin have worked. Since the price of cigarettes went up on January 1, 2008 over 20,000 people have called the state Quit Line ready for help kicking the habit.
“From Appleton to Ashland, more than 30 communities across Wisconsin have gone smokefree,” Governor Doyle said. “The patchwork approach to public health is bad for business and the time for action is now. Wisconsin should not become the ashtray of the Midwest. It’s time for lawmakers to do what’s right and make all public places completely smokefree.”
Investing in Quality Education
Healthy families and a healthy economy begin with a commitment to education. In order to prepare our kids for the jobs of tomorrow, Governor Doyle has proposed a comprehensive education agenda that focuses on small class sizes, good teachers, and high standards. No other state in the country has done more to make higher education affordable.
In his address, Governor Doyle called on Legislators to make a third year of math and a third year of science mandatory for high school graduation. Wisconsin in now one of only five states that require only two years of math and two years of science for high school graduation.
The Governor also announced, in the next budget, he will propose a plan to invest in a compensation system that rewards teachers who take on the hardest assignments, advance their skills, and help their students achieve success. Starting teachers in 48 other states, including neighboring Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan, make more than Wisconsin teachers and nearly one third of Wisconsin teachers leave the profession within five years.
“From the health of our families to the health of our economy, we have work to do together, but it all begins with a commitment to education,” Governor Doyle said. “For me it’s pretty basic. It comes down to what every parent wants for their child – small class sizes, good teachers, and high standards.”
Governor Doyle’s address also highlighted the Wisconsin Covenant. Under the Wisconsin Covenant, eighth graders pledge to stay in school, be a good citizen, and maintain a B average. In return, the state guarantees them a spot in higher education and a financial package based on their families needs. More than 17,000 eighth graders from all 72 counties signed the Wisconsin Covenant pledge this past spring.
No other state in the country has done more to make higher education affordable. Over the last four months:
· Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to let our veterans go to college tuition free.
· The Governor and the Legislature are committing nearly $190 million to financial aid.
· The Governor and Legislature supported the University of Wisconsin Growth Agenda, a plan to create more college graduates and train the next generation of teachers, nurses, and engineers.
· The Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation dedicated $40 million toward establishing the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation.
· John and Tashia Morgridge announced $175 million to establish the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars, helping public school students go to public colleges and universities.
Protecting the Great Lakes
To meet the challenges of a changing environment, Governor Doyle announced bipartisan plans to approve the Great Lakes Compact. Two years ago, Governor Doyle as Chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, along with his fellow Great Lakes Governors, signed the Great Lakes Compact to preserve and protect our fresh water for generations.
“Regions of the country that have overbuilt look at our freshwater with an envious eye,” Governor Doyle said. “In the coming weeks, leaders in the Legislature will introduce a bipartisan plan to approve the Great Lakes Compact. Let’s continue to work together to ratify and implement this historic agreement and ensure that our Great Lakes remain protected forever.”
To view Governor Doyle’s 2007 State of the State Address, visit: http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=12937.