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2011 state of the district



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Neal Kedzie (click for larger version)
January 26, 2011 | 07:59 AM
On Feb. 1, Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his first "State of the State" speech, an annual occasion of reflection on where the state has been, where it is now, and where it may be headed over the next two years. The speech generally remains focused on the positive, but also touches on the challenges facing Wisconsin. The last few years have been difficult for many, and the citizens of the state expect the new governor and legislature to respond proactively.

The majority of people I represent in the 11th Senate District are encouraged by the recent changes in state government and what lies in store for the new session. The voters called for a new direction in government, and we intend to deliver on their mandate to create jobs, lower taxes, reduce government inefficiencies, and pave a new road to economic recovery. Meanwhile, the communities in the 11th Senate District remain poised to help re-energize Wisconsin's new economy.

Waukesha County continues as one of our fastest growing regions and undoubtedly is a primary economic engine of the state and is home to several national and internationally-known companies. But with a slow down in the economy, Waukesha County businesses are feeling the brunt of national and global economic pressures and doing all they can to keep pace in a changing world market. An expanding population is creating local road, highway, and other infrastructure concerns as well.

In Walworth County, with its agricultural heritage and smaller communities, the area continues to see steady growth. The median household income is up over the last several years, as is owner-occupied housing. Major manufacturing is a mainstay in parts of the county, but downturns in the state and national sector are also harming our local industries and keeping unemployment rates at a higher than normal average. Fortunately, tourist activity remains relatively high in Walworth County and our well-known local attractions and accommodations help keep the economy buoyant. Still, many families struggle to make ends meet, while others are looking for new opportunities.

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Jefferson County finds itself between two major metropolitan areas, with a mix of corporate, industrial, agricultural, and retail concerns comprising the job market. Like Walworth County, the unemployment rate remains consistent with the statewide rate, which is slightly more than 7 percent. But with more than 25 percent of its workforce engaged in manufacturing, it too feels the ripple effect of state and national trends. Per capita income is just slightly below the state average, but the median household income is higher than the national average. Jefferson County is also one of the fastest growing counties in Wisconsin, outpacing even Waukesha and Walworth County.

In order to keep the state and district moving in the right direction, we need to utilize our collective energy to reestablish confidence in the private sector to invigorate economic growth. The economy can and will recover when the entrepreneurial spirit is allowed to flourish, when businesses can grow and expand, and when consumers have additional resources to spend and save.

To that end, the Legislature is taking swift action on a series of bills to improve the way business is done in Wisconsin. The governor requested the bills be crafted as a part of his primary goal to change state government and make it more responsive and cost-effective to the people it serves. The focus of the legislation is geared towards enticing companies to move to Wisconsin, while preserving the ones already here. It is a dramatic shift from the previous legislative session, and is certainly long overdue.

For 2011, the State of the District remains steady and positive, yet a certain level of trepidation remains for many. But with the start of a new legislative session, comes new opportunity. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans — as well as the governor — to seize those opportunities and achieve a common goal of getting Wisconsin's economy back on track and moving forward.

Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882, or by calling toll-free (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com.

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