Walker Avoids Policy Details In State Of The State Address

Governor's Speech Was Short, Light On Specifics

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Public Television.

Gov. Scott Walker delivered his fifth State of the State address on Tuesday night, a short speech that was thin on details but that promised “bold reforms” of state government

As promised, Walker used his State of the State to discuss merging some state agencies, a move he suggested the federal government could learn from.

“I believe that government has grown too big and too intrusive in our lives, and we must reign it in,” said Walker. “But the government that is left must work.”

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Walker said he wanted to combine the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, and merge agencies that oversee financial institutions.

He also announced that he was working with new attorney general Brad Schimel on a lawsuit against federal energy regulations aimed at reducing climate change.

“These proposals could have a devastating impact on Wisconsin because we are so heavily dependant on manufacturing,” said Walker.

But beyond that, Walker’s State of the State was light on specifics. The governor called on the Legislature to send him a school accountability bill, which was nothing new. He also called on lawmakers to send him a bill “making it crystal clear that no school district in the state is required to use Common Core standards.”

When it came to themes, Walker praised the Green Bay Packers: “If there’s one thing that can bring Democrats and Republicans together here in Wisconsin, it’s the Green Bay Packers,” he said.

He also denounced the recent terror attack in France, and closed his speech with a global message: “May god bless each and every one of you, may god bless the great state of Wisconsin, and may god bless freedom-loving people all over the world.”

Walker’s entire speech lasted 24 minutes.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said afterward that the highlight of Walker’s speech was his proposal to combine state agencies. He said that would be scrutinized by lawmakers, “simply because the Legislature’s very familiar with those agencies and knows not only the head of those agencies but the workings of them.”

Fitzgerald said Walker’s reference to Common Core didn’t surprise him, but he said the Legislature’s still struggling with what it could do with the academic standards.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling had a Green Bay Packers reference of her own in reaction to the governor’s speech.

“We’ll have to check, but I think the Green Bay Packers have had offensive drives that were longer than the governor’s speech this evening,” she said.

Shilling said she felt shortchanged by the lack of details in Walker’s speech about how he plans to solve a budget shortfall he helped create, and she said his plans to merge agencies didn’t cut it.

“That does not help the working moms and dads in this state try to figure out how they can afford tuition for their sons and daughters to go to a university or a tech school,” said Shilling. “That does not help aging Wisconsinites who are concerned about long-term health care.”

The State of the State address came less than two weeks before Walker is scheduled to speak alongside presidential hopefuls in Iowa, and just three weeks before his next budget address. It’s possible those other speeches will flesh out more of Walker’s agenda. Last night’s address, however, left many people guessing.

Check out WPR’s live coverage of the State of the State below.