On Politics: Gov. Scott Walker unveils plan on jobs, benefits and education
Republican Gov. Scott Walker, left, and his Democratic gubernatorial opponent Mary Burke.
Gov. Scott Walker has unveiled his vision for a second term should he win re-election in November — a broad plan covering job training, tax cuts, education and public assistance restrictions.
The first-term Republican governor’s plan includes initiatives he has previously backed, such as furthering property tax cuts, fighting ObamaCare, establishing state education standards as an alternative to the controversial Common Core State Standards, and continuing the freeze on University of Wisconsin System tuition.
But Walker’s plan also includes new proposals, including requiring drug tests for those seeking unemployment assistance and “able-bodied, working-age adults” applying for food stamps, reducing income taxes so they would be lower in 2018 than they are now, and freezing technical college tuition.
“The larger sense is we view this as part of the overall Wisconsin comeback,” Walker said of the package of proposals in an interview.
Walker released copies of his plan, “Continuing Wisconsin’s Comeback: Scott Walker’s Plan for Greater Prosperity for All,” to the State Journal and other media on Friday on the condition it not be made public until Sunday.
Many provisions lack detail, such as the amount of money a proposal would save or cost the state.
Democratic opponent Mary Burke has criticized Walker and his jobs record, pointing to federal jobs numbers showing Wisconsin lagging other Midwestern states when it comes to private-sector job growth.
On Friday, Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki slammed Walker and the plan after learning details about it.
“Rather than learn from the wrong choices he has made and change course, he instead chooses to roll out a political document in the closing weeks of an election in hopes of doing one, and one thing only: help him keep his job,” Zepecki said. “The people of Wisconsin deserved a real, detailed, thought-out plan from this governor four years ago.”
Walker made jobs a centerpiece of his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, pledging to help Wisconsin businesses create 250,000 private-sector jobs by 2015.
About 103,000 private-sector jobs have been created in Wisconsin since Walker took office in January 2011, and it appears unlikely he will meet his 250,000 jobs pledge.
New federal jobs numbers, known as the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), are set to be released Thursday.
Walker noted his 250,000 jobs pledge in his new plan, but did not put a number to his job creation goals for a possible second term.
“Exceptional accomplishments don’t come without setting bold and aggressive goals. I set a goal of creating 250,000 jobs in my first term,” Walker wrote in ‘A Letter to Wisconsin’ released with his plan. “I wanted my administration to know that every day they should fight to get Wisconsin working again.”
Walker’s proposal also took aim at Burke, a Madison School Board member and former Trek Bicycle executive who previously served as Commerce secretary under Gov. Jim Doyle.
Burke unveiled her jobs plan in March. In it, she laid out her vision for the state in a five-point proposal, which included plans to boost Wisconsin’s economy by investing in entrepreneurs, help make higher education more accessible and fuel economic development by targeting clusters of businesses rather than independent companies.
“Almost all of Mary Burke’s plan is a warmed-over version of what we’ve been doing over the last three years,” Walker said in the interview. “Our plan is really a plan of action. I’m the guy that gets things done.”
Walker also pointed to job losses under Doyle — including during Burke’s time as Commerce secretary.
Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, has said that the state lost about 175,000 jobs during the recession, but added that it’s hard to specifically blame Doyle because larger economic forces were at work, such as the national recession.
“I’m struck by how much of this we’ve heard before,” Franklin said when given a general overview of Walker’s jobs plan.
Franklin said Walker could make a plausible argument that a broad range of proposals could lead to getting people back to work. But he added that some provisions, like tightening regulations for those seeking public assistance, could also be seen as attempting to cut state spending.
Walker said his proposals for tighter rules on public assistance — such as limiting the time able-bodied, working-age childless adults can be on public assistance to 48 months and requiring drug testing — are about moving people from government dependence to “true independence.”
Other states have faced lawsuits over attempts to link welfare to drug testing. Late last year, for example, a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional a Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo mandatory drug testing.
Walker called the move “common sense.”
“If you want our help, we want to do it, but we want to get you employed,” Walker said.
He added that finding a job “should take less time than to get a college degree.”
Walker’s plan calls for:
Cutting property taxes so that the levy on a typical home in 2018 would be lower than it was in 2010.
Reducing income tax rates so they would be lower in 2018 than current rates.
Expanding the UW Flexible Option.
Increasing higher education grants targeting high-demand fields for students who pledge to stay in Wisconsin, and encouraging those who have left to return here.
Extending the UW tuition freeze two additional years, and freezing technical college tuition.
Removing barriers to starting new companies and expanding small businesses.
Establishing state and local standards as alternatives to Common Core educational standards.
Expanding school choice.
Expanding the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to provide more customized worker training in partnership with private-sector employers.
Targeting resources in technical colleges to meet industry job demands.
Expanding the number of youth and other apprenticeships.
Increasing dual enrollment programs between high schools and technical colleges.
Putting new limits on the amount of time people can be on public assistance, and requiring drug tests for people seeking unemployment benefits and food stamps.
Requiring working-age childless adults receiving food stamps or unemployment benefits to participate in employment training or part-time work.