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**Editor’s Note: This op-ed was submitted by the office of Gov. Scott Walker.
Wisconsin’s future is bright. Since taking office more than four years ago, our reforms and investments have made Wisconsin a more free and prosperous state. Unemployment is down to 4.6 percent and lower than the national rate, we reduced the tax burden by $2 billion, and employer confidence is higher than it has been in years.
The rainy day fund is now 165 times bigger than when we first took office. Our pension system is the only one fully funded in the country. Our economy is growing and we are creating jobs—2014 was Wisconsin’s best year for private sector job creation in a decade.
The budget I am signing builds on these accomplishments. Our reforms have put you, the hardworking taxpayers and citizens of this great state, back in control. This budget focuses on growth and opportunity for all, while implementing common sense reforms to ensure state government is more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the public.
In this budget, the taxpayer comes first. We reduced the marriage penalty by expanding the standard deduction for married couples and are lowering property taxes for an unprecedented six years in a row for the typical homeowner. That’s a big deal. Property taxes will be lower in 2016 than they were in 2010—no other state can say that.
At the same time, Wisconsin’s fiscal house is in great shape. Because of our responsible budgeting, new bonding will be at the lowest level in 20 years. Moody’s moved our outlook for the state’s credit rating from “stable” to “positive.” And our total outstanding state debt level has gone down.
On top of that, this budget lowers construction costs for local governments by repealing Wisconsin’s prevailing wage mandate. By taking this step, we are helping local governments, schools, and technical colleges save millions of dollars. This is good news for our taxpayers.
Our budget makes important investments in Wisconsin’s future, especially for our children. We are increasing state aid for public schools and expanding education options for students and parents across the state by lifting the cap on school choice enrollment. We believe every child, regardless of his or her zip code, should have access to a great education. Providing our children with a quality education ensures they have the necessary skills to thrive later in life.
We are helping to make college more affordable for our state’s working families. For the first time in University of Wisconsin System history, tuition will be frozen for four years straight. It was important to us to double down on our historic two-year tuition freeze from our last budget for our students and their families.
Our workforce is among the best in the country and supporting our workers is key to spurring our economic growth. Our budget invests millions in worker training and workforce development programs in order to equip Wisconsinites with the skills they need to find good-paying, family-supporting jobs in our modern workforce.
We want people to know the dignity that comes from work. By helping individuals move from government dependence to true independence, we are helping our people become workforce ready.
There are available jobs across the state in high-demand fields, like manufacturing, but many require workers who can pass a drug test. That’s why our budget requires able-bodied adults on certain public assistance programs to be drug-free and to enroll in basic employment training. We also offer treatment if they need it to give people a hand up, so they can get back on their feet.
We prioritize protecting our most vulnerable by preserving essential services and programs for our seniors and needy families through increased support for Medicaid. The budget implements reforms ensuring
Our budget also recognizes and supports the bravest among us—our veterans. We focus on matching veterans with family-supporting jobs by making significant investments in training programs and providing additional tools and services to ensure they are taken care of when they return from serving our country.
With this budget, we continue our work together to build a more prosperous and free state for future generations. We are moving Wisconsin forward.