On Tuesday, January 15, Gov. Walker gave the annual State of the State address. As a lifelong resident of Wisconsin (save for my time in the U.S. Army), I was disappointed with the SotS (State of the State). Not only did the address remind me of a three-ring circus, it was full of contradictory proposals, leading me to believe that Wisconsin is not heading “Forward,” as our state motto so proudly proclaims. (Of course, Wisconsin politics since the spring of 2011 has resembled a circus, and it appears to have continued to the SotS.)
The first act of our circus occurred during the Governor’s discussion about the current debate over mining. At this point, Gov. Walker brought out a number of miners, wearing their hardhats and carrying the Wisconsin flag. The message of course was, “if you’re against the mining bill, then you’re against Wisconsin.” I understand the attraction to passing the mining bill- jobs. Gov. Walker stated that it “could lead to as many as 3,000 construction-related jobs and 2,800 long-term jobs.” The problem with the bill, however, is that the mining also has the potential to lead to detrimental effects on the environment.
While the mining would harm the environment, the negative impact on the environment could, in turn, possibly harm Wisconsin’s tourism industry. If one were to peruse the WI Department of Tourism’s website, one would notice the prevalence of outdoor related activities. The irony here is that Gov. Walker discussed the importance of tourism to Wisconsin during the State of the State, stating that “tourism has grown to a $16 billion industry, supporting one in thirteen jobs in our state.” Even more ironic is that on the main page of the website are two links- one for “The Great Outdoors” and one for “Travel Green Wisconsin.” So, the question remains- why would the Governor support a bill that could harm Wisconsin’s environment, when it’s that same environment that is so important for our tourism? It seems to me that tourism provides many more jobs than the proposed mining.
It was during the section on tourism when our second act of the circus occurred. This time, Gov. Walker felt it necessary to bring out a number of “Travel Tourism greeters.” These are the people who work at our information centers across the state. I am not trying to downplay the importance of these workers; however, I do question the use of them as props during a speech.
Our third circus act actually had nothing to do with the speech at all; instead, it had to do with cell phones. I found it disturbing that during the speech, legislators had their cell phones out. The first example comes at 10:06 of the video. There are other times throughout the speech when you can observe phones lying on the desks in front of legislators, or even legislators typing on them. Call me old-fashioned, but shouldn’t our legislators be paying attention to the speech instead of messing around with their phones? Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch a political speech or debate on tv while Tweeting about it; however, doing it live as an elected official seems to be a bit amateurish.
As for the contradictions in the speech, I’ve already discussed the issue with the affect of mining on the environment and how that would harm our tourism. The second problem lies in funding Gov. Walker’s plans outlined in his speech. Within the first few minutes, the Governor said that he “will lay out a clear plan for reducing the burden on hard-working families by lowering income taxes on the middle class.” That’s all well and good, but then throughout the speech he discusses initiatives that would possibly require state funding. For example, he would like to “improve the amount of investment capital available to help start-ups and other small businesses.” Additionally, Gov. Walker would like to “provide a financial incentive for high-performing and rapidly improving schools.” (This in itself is a problem because the schools that need the funding are the ones not doing well.) Finally, the Governor mentioned that he is “committed to a healthy transportation system” because it helps businesses “keep their competitive edge;” part of that commitment involved freight rail. The irony here stems from the fact that this is the the same governor who de-railed plans for a high speed train to connect Madison and Milwaukee. So, rail is good as long as it is for business interests? Wouldn’t a high speed train connecting our two largest cities have brought more tourism to those cities? And isn’t tourism important to Wisconsin? So, the governor would like to spend government money on businesses, education, and infrastructure, while lowering our taxes.
I look forward to the Governor releasing the state budget in February because Wisconsin’s state of the state is, well, dire.