My Views On The Issues:
Jobs and the economy:
After years of recovering from the recession, Wisconsin is definitely headed in the right direction. Unemployment is at a record low, and employment is at a record high. The unemployment rate in 2010 was 9.2% and now it is at 3%, which is significantly lower than the national average. Our current unemployment rate is tied for the lowest in the history of Wisconsin. This is because the policies we have passed are working.
In the last six years, Wisconsin opened its doors for business. We put taxpayers first, eliminated unnecessary government regulations, and invested in worker training. We took care of the most vulnerable citizens, but also cracked down on fraud, waste, and abuse in government programs.
New businesses are opening their doors. New business entities grew by 6.7% in the first 11 months of 2017. Exports increased by 6.5% in 2017, with agriculture exports increasing even more, up 6.7% in the first three quarters of 2017. These statistics are helping fuel optimism not only within our state but among job creators nationwide. As an executive in the private sector, I am proud to say the "We Are Hiring” sign is back up! But there is no doubt, we have more work to do. We need to continue to cut the red tape, reduce costs, and become a more employer friendly state. I am proud of my bipartisan approach to co-authoring bills and working hard to keep hundreds of good paying jobs in Wisconsin.
Our education system in the Central Wisconsin area is one of the best in the state. The 2017-2019 budget that I supported will provide our schools the tools to continue this great work. I delivered on my commitment to give students everywhere an effective education by supporting a budget that made the largest investment ever in K-12 education. We increased state aid to school districts by $636 million, and more than $16 million in new money for special education and mental health services. I also supported a bill in the legislature that will provide increased sparsity aid funding. School districts with membership below 745 and a sparsity factor of fewer than 10 members per square mile will see an increase in per-pupil payments from $300 to $400, a total of $6,454,600 in the 2018-2019 school year. This will be of great benefit to rural schools across the state.
In a bipartisan effort to give hope to Wisconsin families dealing with addiction, I proudly voted in favor of a package of bills that would provide more tools to fight Wisconsin’s opioid and heroin epidemic, and provide more help to those in our state suffering from opioid addiction. The legislature began the H.O.P.E. (Heroin, Opiate Prevention and Education) Agenda in 2013 to combat the devastating opioid problem in our state through increased prevention and treatment methods. Over the last several years, we have continued to focus on this initiative to focus on identifying, treating, and preventing the opioid crisis in Wisconsin. This initiative included an expansion of the T.A.D. (Treatment and Diversion) program, which gives victims of the opioid epidemic the opportunity to rehabilitate and recover. As Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, I successfully passed this expansion out of committee and it went on to be signed into law. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fight opioid abuse and addiction in Wisconsin and make our citizens safer.
This session I also supported a budget that helped to protect our state's most vulnerable populations with investments to increase access to and improve long-term care services, personal care, dementia care specialists, and Family Care. We also increased payments to Disproportionate Share Hospitals, which are those that serve a significantly disproportionate number of low-income patients.
When I first ran for the Assembly I made a promise to hold the line on taxes. Lowering my constituents’ tax burden has been my priority since taking office in 2013 and I am happy that I have been able to do that. I have worked hard on behalf of the taxpayers in my district. In the 2015-2017 state budget, taxpayers came first. Since 2011, we have cut taxes by more than $8 billion. The tax burden on Wisconsin families is currently at the lowest it has been in more than 50 years.
As a former law enforcement officer and the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, I have continued to focus on public safety in Wisconsin. The committee deliberated on bills dealing with criminal penalties, the judicial process, and fighting the opioid and drunk driving problems in Wisconsin. We passed initiatives to keep our communities safer.
This session I personally authored a number of bills focused on increasing public safety. Assembly Bill 570, authored with Senator Jerry Petrowski, would protect the privileged mental health records of crime victims. Currently it is far too easy for criminal defendants to access these records and use them against their victims, and a bill I introduced would create a process to raise the burden of proof for access.
I also introduced a bill specifically targeted at increasing public safety in our community. Over the years we have seen far too many fatal accidents involving animal-drawn vehicles, with one such accident occurring in December in Juneau County. This session I introduced Assembly Bill 475 with Senator Petrowski to create additional lighting requirements for animal-drawn vehicles to ensure they are seen by other drivers on the road.
Our area has many different industries: agriculture, manufacturing, paper, and logging to name a few. I would like to see these industries stay solvent and continue to grow and prosper. Often this may mean less regulation and government interference. I offer strong support to these industries so they can remain strong and continue to be a positive reminder of what Wisconsin offers the country.
Our next generation deserves the opportunities we have all had and I will do my part to make sure these industries are around for many generations to come. Although there are many job openings in these fields, many in today’s workforce lack the skills and training needed to work in these highly technical trades. That's why I would like to see Wisconsin continue to invest in workforce development initiatives, with the goal of equipping workers with the skills they need to find jobs in the modern workforce.