State of the State: Doyle says tough times face state
By Brady Bautch, RiverTown Staff
The state is facing some rough fiscal times ahead is how Gov. Jim Doyle led off his annual State of the State Address to the Legislature.
"Make no mistake; challenging days are ahead," said Doyle.
One of the reasons for the challenges ahead is a slowdown in state revenues.
While official revenue forecasts are not yet out, the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee said that they are expected to be down.
"There are rumblings that they (revenues) are significantly down from what we forecast," said Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson.
In his speech Doyle acknowledged the lower revenues and said that some of the items passed in the last biennial budget may have to be delayed.
"We will have to make deep cuts and hard sacrifices," Doyle said.
The Assembly Speaker agreed with the governor's assessment.
"We have to look at some of the new programs we passed in the last budget and maybe delay them," said Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem.
Neither Doyle or Huebsch specified which programs would have to be delayed.
Rhoades said she was pleased to hear that Doyle wasn't going to increase taxes to fix the problem.
"I was glad to hear the governor say we have to do some reining in of government," Rhoades said after the speech.
Doyle outlined a number of tax credits which he said will help improve the state's economy and make the state more attractive to businesses.
Among these were Angel tax credits for individuals investing in start-up businesses, credits for businesses reinvesting in technology and efficiency; and in research and development along with worker training.
"We are ready to stand with the governor on some of the economic objectives," said Huebsch.
Because of the slowing revenues Doyle introduced few other new programs. However, he did use the speech to introduce a new healthcare initiative called BadgerCare Plus.
Doyle said the program is aimed at small business and would eliminate a one-size-fits-all health care plan.
He said it would create a consumer-driven marketplace for nearly 800,000 people which he says would be modeled off the most innovative solutions in the country.
He added that it would be market-driven and would be accessible through a Web site and 800-number.
"We'll wait and see what the details are," said Huebsch in response to the proposal.
Another new program Doyle announced was a renewable energy investment plan.
"Over the next 10 years Wisconsin will invest $150 million to help our businesses, our farmers, our foresters, and our manufacturers produce and promote renewable energy," Doyle said.
Doyle also said that he wants to increase the availability of renewable fuels in the state by 1 billion gallons and add 400 new renewable fuel pumps.
He called on the Legislature to pass a renewable fuel standard that requires oil companies to provide renewable fuel.
On the new spending proposals Rhoades wants specifics.
"We'll have to wait and see the details to see how we are going to pay for it," Rhoades said.
Doyle used the address to again call for a statewide smoking ban.
"From Appleton to Ashland, more than 30 communities across Wisconsin have gone smoke free. The patchwork approach to public health is bad for business and the time for action is now," Doyle told legislators.
He also called for the passage of the Great Lakes Compact which is an international agreement to limit who can take water from the Great Lakes.
Doyle also touched on education by saying that in his next budget he will be calling for a new initiative that provides merit pay for teachers.
"In the next budget I will present a plan to invest in a compensation system that rewards teachers who take on the hardest assignments, who advance their skills, and who help their students achieve success," Doyle said.
The governor also called again for the Legislature to pass a requirement that insurance companies provide coverage for autism treatment and to raise the minimum pay in the state.
Contact Brady Bautch at firstname.lastname@example.org