Scott Walker, a Republican, is the governor of Wisconsin.
A major budget deficit. A fragile economy. Years of budget gimmicks deferring tough decisions. Sound like Washington, D.C.?
Actually, this was the Wisconsin that newly elected legislative leaders and I inherited a little more than two years ago. Our state faced big problems. We were at a turning point. So together, the legislature and I worked to fix the economic and fiscal crises holding Wisconsin back.
Like most Americans, I think government is too big and too expansive, but the government that is necessary should work — and work well.
Working with the state legislature, we took a $3.6 billion budget deficit and turned it into a budget surplus of more than half a billion dollars. And we built the largest rainy-day fund balance in state history.
Tough but prudent decisions put us back on track. We enacted long-term structural reforms that include allowing schools to bid out health insurance, local governments to stop overtime abuse and the state to collect reasonable contributions for health insurance and pensions — all of which saved millions. Instead of austerity, we chose reform.
At first, some legislative leaders balked at our plans. But we worked through their concerns and together we created legislation that not only passed but also produced positive results.
Now Wisconsin is able to make significant investments in our priorities, which include worker training to help people get the skills they need to compete; tax relief to spur economic growth; additional aid for schools with new performance measures to ensure children are learning; and support for returning veterans to reenter the workforce.
When I ran for governor, the unemployment rate topped out at 9.2 percent and Wisconsin ranked 43rd on Chief Executive Magazine’s list of best states for business. Today, our unemployment rate has dropped to 6.7 percent and Wisconsin has moved up to 17th on the magazine’s list.
Equally important, 94 percent of employers surveyed by the statewide chamber think Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, up from just 4 percent in 2009.
Our reforms are working, and we continue to work with the legislative branch to do more to improve the lives of the people we represent.
That’s what we’re doing in the Badger State. And that’s why Wisconsin continues to be open for business.