On Tuesday night, Gov. Scott Walker discussed his efforts to pull Wisconsin out of the Great Recession while also promising that anybody who wants a job, can get one.
It was the governor’s first state of the state address since he ended his presidential bid in September. Walker’s speech focused largely on commitments to education.
Gov. Walker began his 40-minute speech by ticking off a list of accomplishments since he first took office in 2011. He says Wisconsin has come back strong from the Great Recession that gripped the nation for several years.
“There are more people working in Wisconsin than at any point in our state’s history. State finances are stable. Our school students are doing well overall. College tuition is frozen and property and income taxes are down from 2010,” Walker says.
Walker promised several times in his speech that everyone who wants a job will find a job. He proposed several education-related partnerships in order to achieve the goal.
“In the fall, 25 school districts will be part of an academic and career plans pilot. We provided funding so that every child in the state between grades 6-12 can have access to a plan in the next school year. This will prepare students to think about their interests so they can take courses in junior high and high school that will prepare them for future occupations,” Walker says.
Walker also called on the UW-System to work with high schools on a plan that would allow students to complete a degree in three years. In addition, he announced increases in grants to technical colleges. In closing, Walker asked Wisconsin residents to help him devise a plan to move Wisconsin forward for the next 20 years. He announced he would hold listening sessions across the state throughout 2016.
“I want to hear from you about what makes Wisconsin great, where you want to be over the next two decades and how we should measure success. Now more than ever it is important to consider the kind of state our children and grandchildren will inherit. We need to think more about the next generation, than just about the next election,” Walker says.
One person who criticized the governor’s speech is Democratic state Rep. Mandela Barnes of Milwaukee. He says Walker ignored several issues facing his constituents.
“The governor mentioned at the end of his speech that we need to be more concerned about the next generation than the next election. If that were the case, we would have heard the governor mention how we’re going to combat one of the biggest societal issues that we’re facing in Milwaukee and that’s the epidemic of gun violence, especially what we saw last summer, being one of the most violent summers on record,” Barnes says.
Barnes says he hopes the jobs Walker intends to create will be good paying ones. Julia Azari is an associate political science professor at Marquette University. She thinks Walker’s speech attempted to mend fences for his long periods of absence while on the presidential trail for much of 2015.
“I do think that one of the things Walker was trying to do is refocus on specific state issues, having attempted a run on the national stage,” Azari says.
Azari says it remains to be seen whether the governor’s speech will help boost his approval ratings. The most recent Marquette Law School poll shows Walker’s numbers near a record low of 37 percent. Another tally is due next week.