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Gov. Walker turns attention toward budget fix

By James Briggs

Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday signaled a change in focus from job creation to managing Wisconsin’s budget.

In excerpts of Walker’s State of the State speech, which were released before he was scheduled to speak late Tuesday, Walker warned the state has “an economic and fiscal crisis” that “demands our immediate attention.”

“The solutions we offer must be designed to address both job creation and our budget problems,” according to the excerpts.

While touting the special session he called for to create jobs, Walker said the “budget and budget repair bills we will introduce in the coming weeks will be even more important.”

But some of the 700 unemployed Wisconsin residents who rallied last month on the Capitol steps for Walker’s inauguration returned Tuesday to say Walker already failed at his first priority.

“We want him to stand up and give us good-paying jobs for our families,” said Brenda Giles, an unemployed resident from Milwaukee who at the Capitol on Tuesday.

The unemployed workers, as well as several nonprofit groups organizing the effort, said they returned to Madison — albeit in much smaller numbers — because Walker’s special session failed to live up to its billing.

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Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a community activist organization, said when the high-speed rail issue was debated, “there were a lot of controversies over whether it was 4,000 jobs, 5,000 jobs or 13,000 jobs – but they were real economic analyses.”

Now, Kraig said, “You don’t even have those. You just have ideology.”

Walker already has signed about half of his special session legislation into law. But neither Walker nor Republican lawmakers have estimated the numbers of jobs created by bills passed during the session.

When Walker on Monday signed his third and fourth bills into law — giving tax breaks to companies that move to Wisconsin and hire new workers — the governor said the legislation would “lay the foundation” of his promise to create 250,000 new jobs in four years.

Kraig countered that Walker owes Wisconsin a better explanation for how that foundation will grow.

“There ought to be some burden of proof, some sort of standard you have to meet in order to call something a jobs bill,” Kraig said. “Just having a general theory about what might lead to jobs, that’s not a jobs initiative. You need, I think, specific evaluations of how many jobs are created.”

Democratic lawmakers have made the same argument almost daily. But as the minority party in both chambers of the Legislature, Democrats have had no success in slowing Walker’s agenda.

Republicans, meanwhile, have argued each bill that passes is part of a bigger picture meant to change Wisconsin’s culture.

“No one said these bills are going to change the world,” Sen. Michael Ellis, R-Neenah, said on the Senate floor last week.

Walker has signed bills that offer tax credits to businesses and make it harder for people to sue companies. But Democrats have complained that even the tax credits won’t lure businesses or add jobs.

“The tax credit that is going to go to companies that move from out of state is $2,700 a year,” Kraig said. “That’s frankly not enough to incentivize an individual to move from one state to another. It’s impossible to see how that’s going to cause a new business to move to Wisconsin.”

Whether people like Walker’s direction or not, though, the governor’s State of the State comments Tuesday indicated he intends to keep up his torrid pace. As the special session winds down, the governor plans to quickly unveil his budget plans.

“Failure to act,” according to the governor’s speech excerpts, “only makes the problems worse in the future.”

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