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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


McCallum draws attention away from budget crisis in first State of State speech

Gov. Scott McCallum sought to make amends with local leaders while firmly defending his budget deficit plan Tuesday night.

Also addressing the effects of terrorism on Wisconsin’s economy, the governor’s first State of the State address since replacing former Gov. Tommy Thompson 14 months ago brought a gentler tone toward budget cuts, but fell under criticism for not making concessions to education and shared-revenue spending.

McCallum gave priority to protecting the state’s working class, urging local governments to cooperate with the state Legislature through budget negotiations.

“To all local officials, I say this tonight: let’s work together, because we share a common goal,” he said.

Higher education got only fleeting mention in the speech, as the governor praised the legislature’s speedy approval of the BioStar project, which secured state funding for UW-Madison biotechnology.

As part of a lengthy list of guests he praised, the governor acknowledged UW basketball coach Bo Ryan, who was named Big Ten Coach of the Year Tuesday.

“There is another individual with us in the chamber who knows a thing or two about adversity,” McCallum said. “This was supposed to be a ‘rebuilding’ year for Badger basketball–we had a new coach with a new system, a group of young players and one of the toughest schedules in the country.”

The speech, given to the joint session of the Legislature, traditionally boosts the popularity of the governor by allowing them to appear as optimistic leaders of the state.

The governor has faced lagging popularity because of the dramatic cuts proposed by his state budget-deficit proposal. McCallum’s plan would reduce the state’s $1.1 billion deficit.

Milwaukee’s Tim Sheehy will head the governor’s Task Force on State and Local Government.

“The goal of the task force will be to build a better Wisconsin through state and local partnerships,” McCallum said. “The task force will consist of those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work together for the greater good of Wisconsin’s taxpayers.”

Governor McCallum said lawmakers needed to work together in a bipartisan fashion to help solve the budget deficit.

“Government must do what all Wisconsin families do when they gather around the kitchen table and look at their budget — live within their means,” McCallum said, using a catch phrase. “I said it wouldn’t be easy, but that it is time to make touch decisions and limit government spending while protecting services for those who need us the most — our children, the elderly and the disabled.”

McCallum said he predicted his budget proposal would be controversial but that he will continue to push for a budget solution that would make government more efficient and not raise taxes.

“Those who argue that the shared revenue program should be preserved in its current form ignore the fact that much has changed in state and local finances in the last 30 years,” McCallum said. “In town halls and city councils across the state, and right here in the Capitol, already the debate has changed from how we spend money to how we can make money.”

Despite the governor’s plea for the state Legislature to work together, some lawmakers said McCallum’s address lacked content.

Senate President Fred Risser, D-Madison, said McCallum did not adequately address his budget deficit proposal.

“We did not get any additional help on the budget,” Risser said. “He did a lot of rehashing of things he has already said. I thought at least he would defend his decision to cut shared revenue.”

Risser said he did not see the benefit of a new task force to deal with the budget deficit.

Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, said he thought that overall the governor had a better tone in his speech but that it did not adequately address the state’s budget crisis.

“He is really stuck with what is a discredited proposal which is dramatically slashing aid to local governments,” Black said. “I think he was largely saying the same old, same old.”

Black said even with less hostile tone, the governor did not make changes to the budget proposal, which he says unfairly puts the budget of fiscal mismanagement on local governments.

“We love Wisconsin; Wisconsin is a great state,” Black said. “But the state of the state is not great.”

Dane County Executive, and gubernatorial hopeful Kathleen Falk said McCallum’s speech did little to convince local governments that he is willing to work with them.

“I was disappointed,” Falk said. “I thought that with the hostile reaction that he has gotten to the budget-repair bill that he would have come up with a more positive idea.”

Falk said that because of the hostile reaction to the bill, she anticipated McCallum would have come up with a solution to the bill.”

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