Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Donít go wobbly, donít go back

by Neal Kedzie - State Senator

August 11, 2011

Earlier this year, I offered a number of columns which focused on new initiatives and ideas to rebuild Wisconsin's economy and create jobs, as well as the Republican majority's desire to bring finality to a number of important statewide issues.

We pledged to hit the ground running in January and tackle the difficult issues as the voters asked us to do. Even in the face of one of the most tumultuous times in state history, we remained focused on getting the job done and making good on our word to the people of Wisconsin to significantly reform state government.

First, and most importantly, we produced a balanced state budget. For more than a decade, Wisconsin has been plagued with multi-billion dollar deficits with virtually no end in sight. The previous administration used a myriad of budget gimmicks to deal with those deficits — such as massive tax increases, excessive borrowing, and raids of protected funds — but none of those produced any long-term stability for the state.

The new administration and legislature, however, recognized that real budget reform was necessary through spending reductions and much-needed austerity measures, which are now in place. The decisions we made were difficult to be sure, but will lead to not only a balanced budget, but a budget surplus of more than $300 million.

Second, we paid off old debts. As I noted, the previous administration raided hundreds of millions of dollars from various protected state accounts in order to balance its budgets. One of the more infamous raids was taking $200 million from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, which is used to assist health care providers with medical malpractice claims. Physicians pay into the fund, but the former governor used it as slush fund.

Eventually, the courts found that action was illegal and directed the state to pay it back. Recently, we did just that and made the fund whole again; in addition, we made good on our obligation of $60 million to the state of Minnesota for tuition reciprocity, another debt left over from the previous Governor.

Next, we advanced a number of pro-jobs initiatives to help businesses of all sizes to grow and expand in Wisconsin, while at the same time, offered incentives for companies looking to open up shop in Wisconsin. These bold ideas recognize the value and need for our state to remain competitive in a regional, national and even international economy by helping the private sector do what it does best: create jobs. Already there are signs of such growth, as Wisconsin's unemployment rate has dropped about two points lower than the national average, and nearly 40,000 new jobs have been created.

In fact, Wisconsin had a net job creation of 9,500 in June while the other 49 states — in total — created only 18,000 jobs. In the last six months alone, Wisconsin has restored more than a quarter of the jobs lost during the recent three-year recession.

While job creation and the economy were and continue to be centerpiece items, we also addressed two long-standing and hotly-debated issues which most citizens of all political stripes generally support: Voter ID and concealed carry legislation. The Voter ID bill has been around for many years, and now finally, Wisconsin will join 29 other states which require some type of identification in order to vote. Other states are looking to do likewise, as there is a growing concern of protecting the sanctity and integrity of a person's right to vote. The concealed carry bill is now law, and after numerous attempts, Wisconsin becomes the 49th state to allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves from harm and carry a firearm in whichever manner they prefer.

The last six months have been nothing short of extraordinary, regardless of how you may view it. But through it all, we stayed true to our commitment to carry out the will of the electorate and forged ahead with the policies we believe will bring economic stability back to the state, create good paying jobs for those who need them most, ensure elections are not diminished by incidents of voter fraud, and reaffirm an individual's constitutional rights and personal freedom.

During these tough and uncertain times, the people of Wisconsin demanded leadership and results from us, and our efforts to date have led to the many positive results we see today. This is certainly no time to go wobbly — as the famous line goes — and definitely no time to go back.

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 on-line at