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A Wisconsin state of mind



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February 09, 2011 | 08:10 AM
Gov. Scott Walker has now delivered his first State of the State address to the people of Wisconsin, sending a message that fundamental changes in government are underway. With a new majority party in control of both houses of the legislature and the mandate delivered by the electorate, the governor is poised to set a new tone of governance as the chief executive officer of the state. It is a new way of thinking, with the goal of creating a new state of mind for our great state.

In the last month alone, the way of doing business here at the State Capitol has certainly changed. The legislature has heard the call from the governor to focus and move expeditiously on a series of bills to help businesses grow and create jobs. To date, 10 special session bills have been introduced, with half of them already adopted and signed into law, and others on the way to being enacted.

The work will continue, as the priority for this legislative session for both the governor and legislature is recharging the private sector and rebranding Wisconsin's image to attract companies and keep companies here.

The State of the State speech is generally considered a pep rally, of sorts, but is also an opportunity for the governor to lay out his vision and agenda for the next two years. The message was focused on putting our fiscal house back in order and creating jobs. While it is important to tune in to what the governor did say, it is also important to consider what he did not say. In years past, governors have laid out broad plans and grandiose ideas to create or expand a multitude of government programs, which of course generally comes with a very large price tag. But this State of the State speech did not provide the usual laundry list of such items, which in and of itself is unique.

Without providing all of the specifics, the speech did provide a glimpse of what may come in the state budget, which we all agree will be our greatest challenge. There was mention of changes to state employees benefits, state entitlement programs, and the relationship between state and local units of government.

He also touched on the manner by which previous state budgets have been crafted, and moving away from maneuvers that may solve a short-term fiscal issue, but ultimately create long-term budget problems. In short, the need to implement more honest budgeting practices.

We must admit past mistakes and pledge not to repeat them. Wisconsin's multibillion dollar budget deficit has plagued us for years and corrective and decisive action must be taken so it does not continue on. The decisions we must make this session will be difficult, and at times, unpopular. But it will also serve as an opportunity to effectively reshape and reform state government.

If that is achieved, the private sector will be allowed to flourish, create much-needed jobs, and provide the necessary revenue to state government. At the same time, those jobs will reduce the number of unemployed individuals, and thus, alleviate the pressure on related taxpayer-funded programs. A new Wisconsin government is before us, and a new Wisconsin state of mind has begun.

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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