Wisconsin continues to be a leader in creating jobs in high-paying sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, professional and business services, and construction. My economic record includes creating more than 170,000 jobs since I took office œ an increase of nearly 75,000 high-paying professional service jobs, and thousands of manufacturing jobs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while Wisconsin has added manufacturing jobs, other heavy manufacturing states have lost manufacturing jobs between January 2003 and June 2006:
U. S. lost more than 388,000 manufacturing jobs
Illinois lost 44,000 manufacturing jobs
Michigan lost 67,000 manufacturing jobs
Indiana lost 1,200 manufacturing jobs
Ohio lost 50,000 manufacturing jobs
The work we’ve done in the past three years to invest in manufacturing, infrastructure, and job training is paying off for hardworking families. But I know there‘s more to do. As part of my economic development plan, Grow Wisconsin, we‘ve made great progress:
Signed two balanced budgets with no tax increases and we‘ve actually cut taxes by $700 million;
Repealed the tax penalty on businesses that create jobs by signing the single factor sales tax reform;
Exempted energy used in manufacturing from the sales tax;
Implemented the most aggressive regulatory reform plan in the Midwest to streamline permitting;
Created 25 percent tax credits to attract $250 million of angel and venture capital;
Created $51 million in new tax credits for businesses that create jobs in distressed areas; and
Raised the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour.
To create new, high paying jobs in Wisconsin and spur new capital investment, I created a new $2 million training fund at the Wisconsin Technical College System. In addition, the Department of Commerce has contributed additional funds to provide technical assistance to modernize manufacturing operations through the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP), a private/public partnership to support manufacturing in Wisconsin. In the past year alone, WMEP has helped 459 Wisconsin manufacturers achieve impact of $215 million in sales increases, cost savings, expense avoidance, retained sales and capital investments, and saved or retained 2,381 jobs.
I will continue to pursue initiatives to promote manufacturing extension during my next term to promote the robust manufacturing industry that is the backbone of Wisconsin‘s economy.
Ensuring that all Wisconsin citizens have access to high quality, affordable health care is one of my top priorities as Governor. I am fighting for solutions in our state, but also with partners across the country for national solutions. No state can solve the national health care crisis by itself. It‘s a disgrace that, due to inaction by Congress and President, 46 million people face each day without health care coverage. States also need more flexibility and more incentives from the federal government. The wealthiest nation on earth should be the healthiest.
In the meantime, Washington‘s failure can‘t be Wisconsin‘s. As Governor, I‘ve worked everyday to expand access to health care, and make it more affordable for middle class and working families. Health care should be a birthright, not a ticket to bankruptcy. Middle class and working families in Wisconsin shouldn‘t have to live in fear that if they or a loved one is seriously injured, all their savings will be lost to cover their health care bills. Small business owners shouldn‘t either œ if just one employee develops a serious illness, their health care costs could double.
To help lower health care costs and pass along the savings to Wisconsin families, I have proposed a new program called Healthy Wisconsin. The state will set up a large, catastrophic insurance pool with lower rates that employers can join. Healthy Wisconsin will lower health care premium costs for small employers by 30 percent. And it will cut the uninsured rate in half by 2010.
Families continue to be squeezed by the high price of health care. Health premiums are getting more and more expensive œ rising 20 percent a year for some people. Last year, I signed a tax cut that made health insurance premiums tax deductible for families that pay the entire cost of their own insurance œ benefiting 80,000 families. Now, I am proposing to make health insurance premiums tax free for all Wisconsin citizens.
Whatever you put toward your health premiums œ whether you‘re self employed or get your insurance through your employer œ would not be taxed. This expansion would benefit more than 637,000 Wisconsin families and individuals whose health insurance premiums are now taken from their paychecks after taxes. On average, these families pay $300 a month or more for their insurance. And many people œ particularly families with kids œ can pay much more. A family paying $300 a month for their insurance would save about $236 a year from this tax cut. While it won‘t make all their financial worries go away, it is significant, meaningful relief for middle class families. It will make life in Wisconsin more affordable. And it will help continue to reduce the tax burden.
I am committed to making sure that every child in Wisconsin has access to quality, affordable health care. My BadgerCare Plus initiative will do that. Under BadgerCare Plus, every child in Wisconsin will have access to affordable, comprehensive health care regardless of family income. And to make sure every kid gets a healthy start, BadgerCare Plus will also provide access to quality health care for any pregnant women who makes under $48,000 a year. And, under my KidsFirst Initiative, we‘ve already boosted access to dental care for kids, increased immunizations, and reduced teen smoking to historic lows.
By working with an innovative Wisconsin company called Navitus, I developed the BadgerRx plan which enables the state to negotiate better prices for the drugs we buy. The plan is based on getting Wisconsin‘s best doctors to recommend the most effective prescription drugs, and then negotiating the best prices. As a result, in the first year alone, Wisconsin saved taxpayers $25 million. Businesses œ large and small œ as well as local governments have been able to join in to receive these significant savings.
But we didn‘t stop there. We extended BadgerRx to the half million Wisconsin citizens without prescription drug coverage. They now do not have to go on the Internet, or worry whether the Bush Administration will disrupt shipments from Canada. They will be able to walk to the corner drugstore where they will receive needed medications at greatly reduced prices.
These initiatives are just the beginning of my efforts to ensure quality health care is available and affordable for Wisconsin‘s middle class and working families. I look forward to continuing the great work that we have begun.
It is critical that all of our students possess the skills to compete in the 21st century global economy.
Youth apprenticeship programs are a great way to help our students broaden their horizons and gain valuable skills and knowledge. Whether a student is on a college track or plans to head directly to work, youth apprenticeship offers the opportunity to learn hands-on skills in their chosen career path. Students can enter the youth apprenticeship program and develop strong skills that lead to jobs with family-supporting wages.
In Wisconsin, youth apprenticeship programs include: auto technician, finance, graphic arts/printing, health services, logistics, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, and welding. Student apprentices work part-time and take related classes in addition to their regular coursework. Program graduates earn a state skill certificate and receive credit at many technical colleges and universities for their program experience. In surveys, apprenticeship graduates say the program gave them a solid head start on their chosen careers while earning money working in their area of interest.
More than 9,000 students statewide have graduated from the youth apprenticeship program since it began in 1992.
Despite the program‘s popularity and success, the Republican Legislature has cut its funding over the last five years from $3.2 million to $1.1 million a year. As part of my Grow Wisconsin initiative, I have fought to increase funding for youth apprenticeship because it‘s a proven success œ for our kids, our businesses, and our economy.