Reaction from area lawmakers to Gov. Scott Walker’s State of the State Address Jan. 19 was split along party lines.
State Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and state Rep. Ed Brooks (R-Reedsburg) both reacted positively to the address.
“More people are working, property taxes have held steady, and we continue to keep a close eye on the finances of our state,” said Marklein.
“One major initiative that Gov. Walker outlined in his speech was a plan to provide a connection between higher education and job placement while providing relief to those that have student loan debt. This same plan also includes initiatives that would create internship positions, provide financial literacy to those who choose to take out student loans, removing the cap on the interest amount those with student loan debt can deduct on their taxes, and creating small grants to keep students in school during a financial emergency.”
Marklein is the Senate author of bothg proposals.
“I was glad to hear Gov. Walker touch on the issues of K-12 education, worker training, and higher education,” he added. “We have done a great deal in the past five years, but we still have work to do.”
Brooks agreed with Marklein and Walker that the state is “on the right track.”
“Over the last five years, unemployment has steadily declined, and is now at a 14-year low, and our labor force participation rate is among the best in the nation,” he said.
“However, we are not done yet. I was pleased that Gov. Walker mentioned the importance of youth apprenticeship programs and rural broadband expansion, two cornerstones of the Rural Wisconsin Initiative that I rolled out last week. As the legislature moves forward with the initiative, I trust that we will have the Governor’s support.”
However, state Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) was not impressed.
“Over the last five years, we’ve seen deep cuts that have limited economic growth, stifled innovation and denied thousands of families the opportunity to get ahead,” she said. “Democrats continue to believe that the best way to move our state forward is by restoring investments in our schools, infrastructure and worker training programs.
“When it comes to the challenges facing our state, we need solutions, not sound bites,” Shilling added. “Placing more students in unpaid internships isn’t going to help the nearly one million Wisconsinites burdened by $19 billion in student loan debt. It’s time to follow the lead of other states like Minnesota and allow families to refinance their student debt at a lower interest rate just like you can with home and auto loans.”