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Walker to mix bad news, good in Tuesday’s State of State (UPDATE)

By ?SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Unemployed people from Milwaukee urged Gov. Scott Walker to do more to create jobs on Tuesday, just hours before he is to deliver his first State of the State speech.

Walker was expected to partially revel in his legislative successes, which include new laws he said will spur job creation, as well as address how he will tackle a budget shortfall that could be as large as $3.2 billion by mid-2013.

Walker has already signed into law measures passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature that will eliminate income taxes on contributions made to health savings accounts and provide a tax break for companies that relocate to Wisconsin. He’s also signed bills increasing economic development tax incentives and sweeping lawsuit reforms.

Other Walker-backed proposals are moving quickly through the Legislature, including a tax break tied to each new job created and reorganizing the Commerce Department into a public-private hybrid focused exclusively on economic development.

None of those will deliver on Walker’s stated purpose for calling the Legislature into a special session, which was to create jobs, said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action Wisconsin. His group organized a morning news conference that brought together unemployed people and other critics of Walker’s agenda.

“There are no jobs in the jobs agenda,” Kraig said.

Walker has promised that by 2015 there will be 250,000 more jobs in the state than when he took office.

His legislative agenda to date has weighed heavily on business tax cuts, which critics said won’t do anything to spur job creation. Walker argues they will send the message that Wisconsin is a more business-friendly state, which will spur economic growth.

Critics like Kraig also point out that even before Walker took office he killed a high-speed rail project that was projected to create thousands of construction jobs in the state. Walker argued that Wisconsin couldn’t afford the $7.5 million annual operating costs and that the federal money should be used on road and bridge repair, even though that wasn’t allowed.

And Walker’s tax cuts come at a cost. They will reduce tax collections by $117 million over the next two years, only adding to the state’s budget problem. Walker has indicated he will use the State of the State speech to begin talking about how he will balance the budget without raising taxes, but he won’t release his plan for three more weeks.

Walker has already indicated he wants state employees to pay more for their health insurance and pension costs. He’s also expected to target Medicaid for costs savings. The program is projected to be $174 million short in the current budget year and possibly $1.8 billion short by the middle of 2013.

Walker, a former state Assembly member, will deliver his State of the State speech to a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chamber.

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