We found opportunities for growth, economic development in challenging times
A $6.6 billion budget shortfall. The highest unemployment levels in 25 years. Soaring home foreclosure rates. Businesses like General Motors closing all across the state.
That economic environment wasn’t what we had hoped for. In fact, some have said it was like getting caught holding the bag. But those challenges were our reality—Wisconsin’s reality—when we began this term.
From the start, we were committed to finding solutions to our economic problems—and I’m proud to say we have set Wisconsin on a path to a stronger future.
We made smart use of recovery dollars, funding infrastructure improvements that have made Wisconsin more attractive to new and expanding businesses. Construction industry reports show these projects have created and sustained more than 50,000 jobs.
We helped struggling Wisconsin workers—like so many of our friends and neighbors in Janesville—with emergency unemployment benefits and health care coverage. We strengthened our workforce long-term through increased investments in technical colleges and training programs.
We have partnered with the business community, establishing $200 million in growth incentives—incentives that are supporting growth at major employers including Frito Lay and SSI Technologies in Rock County. We created another Development Opportunity Zone just for Janesville that offers business benefits for hiring more workers. Other programs, such as the Enterprise Zone program, have boosted businesses across the state—including Mercury Marine, Oshkosh Truck, Uline, Republic Airways and Morgan Aircraft—creating more than 5,500 jobs.
We also worked hard to protect your pocketbooks at a time when every dollar counts.
Despite the deficit, we passed a balanced budget safeguarding Wisconsin families from tax increases. That means no general sales tax increase, no payroll tax increase and no income tax increase for more than 99 percent of Wisconsinites.
We approved legislation aimed at curbing the foreclosure trend that will stop bad lenders from taking advantage of uninformed consumers. We also passed the first-ever regulation of the payday and auto title loan industries.
We approved BadgerCare expansions that increase access to affordable, necessary health care. Wisconsin has become a model for the nation in that respect, with more than 98 percent of residents covered. We demanded health insurance fairness too, requiring insurance coverage of kids with autism and hearing problems.
We worked hard on other critical issues, too. We safeguarded our educational system from the deepest budget cuts and raised the bar with new quality standards for our schools. We cracked down on drunken driving through tougher penalties and greater access to treatment programs. We also cleaned up campaigns to keep the big money and special interests out of Supreme Court races.
In the face of so many challenges, we found opportunities—opportunities to generate job growth, boost businesses, strengthen Wisconsin’s economy and improve your quality of life. We’re encouraged to see signs of growth across the state and even in Janesville, and I’m confident that better days, for all of us, are just ahead.
Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, serves as Assembly speaker and represents Wisconsin’s 44th Assembly District. He can be reached at P.O. Box 8953; Madison, WI 53708; phone 1-888-947-0044; e-mail rep.Sheridan@ legis.Wisconsin.gov.