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Home / Government / Reality check on Wisconsin governor’s initiatives (8:49 a.m. 1/27/10)

Reality check on Wisconsin governor’s initiatives (8:49 a.m. 1/27/10)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Jim Doyle outlined a number of his initiatives and proposals during his State of the State speech on Tuesday. Here are some of the details:

MILWAUKEE SCHOOLS: Doyle used some of his strongest language to urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would cede control of the state’s largest school district to the mayor. But Democrats in Milwaukee can’t agree on the plan, and there appears to be little momentum in the Legislature to do what Doyle wants. He has repeatedly said he believes there are enough votes to pass it, but with no deal in sight, and lawmakers extra sensitive in an election year, its chances of passage appear to be low. What’s more, the school board has named a new superintendent this week.

CLIMATE CHANGE: The governor called for action on a bill that would require 25 percent of Wisconsin’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025, lift Wisconsin’s ban on nuclear power plants and tighten vehicle emission standards. Business leaders are split on the plan, with some warning it will kill jobs, but Doyle went out of his way to praise companies that are already creating jobs in renewable energy. Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, has said he believes a bill will pass sometime this spring, but it could prove difficult. The nuclear power issue has also divided environmentalists.

BUDGET: Doyle acknowledged he will have to make additional cuts to balance the state budget. He was not specific, but any cuts would likely hit an already demoralized state work force. The governor noted that 3,400 jobs have been left vacant and state workers are being furloughed for 16 days over two years.

HEALTH INSURANCE: Doyle called on lawmakers to approve his plan to create a new state health insurance program for 22,000 low-income adults without children who are on a waiting list for the BadgerCare Core Plan. The governor wants lawmakers to act swiftly so the program, known as BadgerCare Basic, can begin as early as April. He said the plan would cost enrollees $130 per month, which would be enough to pay for it without additional tax money. Critics, such as Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, have complained the program is unnecessary because basic private plans are already available at a similar cost. Doyle accused critics of trying to protect insurance companies.

REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY: Doyle called on the Legislature to approve a plan that would create a commuter-rail service linking Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine in the southeastern corner of the state and improve bus service in the area. Supporters of the legislation say investing in public transportation will reduce residents’ transportation costs and allow companies to recruit workers from a wider area. But previous versions of the plan have run into opposition over how to pay for the services. Part of the current plan would be funded by a 0.5 percent sales tax hike in Milwaukee that was approved by voters in September. Doyle said other sources could include property tax increases, vehicle-registration fees and a sales tax increase if voters approve.

JOBS PROPOSAL: Doyle called on the Assembly to approve a plan supported by Senate Democrats to expand tax credits for angel and venture capital investors, expand grant money for business expansion and start-ups and increase partnerships between businesses and the University of Wisconsin. The plan also would expand programs for worker retraining and retooling companies for green energy production of manufacturing. The plan has wide support, but Republicans say it will do little in the big scheme of things.

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