MADISON - In his fifth State of the State Address, Governor Jim Doyle called for bold efforts to make Wisconsin America's health care leader, invest in education, and put the state on a permanent path of fiscal responsibility. In particular, Governor Doyle unveiled a plan to ensure that 98 percent of Wisconsin's citizens have access to health coverage - the highest percentage in the nation.
"In 2007, Wisconsin is a place where anything is possible," Governor Doyle said in his address. "There's one challenge we have to address head-on: the middle class squeeze. From filling up the tank to paying the health care premium, it's still too hard for many families to make ends meet. Wisconsin must remain the state of opportunity for all. We must fight to ensure that middle class families thrive."
Making Wisconsin America's Health Care Leader
In his address, Governor Doyle outlined a plan to expand health care coverage, reduce cost, and reduce medical errors. The Governor's initiative would ensure that virtually all Wisconsin citizens would have access to affordable health coverage.
"The simple truth is, the time has come for the wealthiest nation in the world to provide access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance for its citizens - and Wisconsin can lead the way," Governor Doyle said.
Governor Doyle's plan includes:
Offering health coverage to every child in Wisconsin. Low-income families would simply enroll their children into BadgerCare Plus, while families at higher incomes would be able to buy into the program, starting at about $10 a month.
Expanding coverage to adults making up to 200 percent of the poverty level, whether they have children or not. This would help 71,000 hardworking men and women get the health care they need.
Creating a purchasing pool to help businesses - particularly small businesses - afford catastrophic health coverage for employees. Investing $30 million to help doctors and hospitals use technology to eliminate costly medical errors.
After these proposals are implemented, 98 percent of Wisconsin citizens will be covered with affordable comprehensive care. Many of the citizens remaining without coverage include young adults who decide not to buy insurance even though they can afford it.
The federal government will cover most of the costs - bringing an additional $60 million from Washington. The state's share will be covered in the Governor's upcoming budget, including money saved by streamlining the program and taking greater advantage of managed care.
Building on his health care effort, Governor Doyle presented his anti-smoking initiative to increase Wisconsin's tobacco tax by $1.25 a pack, triple funding for smoking prevention programs in the state, and make all public buildings and workplaces completely smoke-free.
"I've devoted much of my public career to this fight," said Governor Doyle. "Despite our progress, too many of our kids are still lighting up, too many lives are being cut short, and the cost has swelled into the billions. We know that smoking is an addiction. We know how hard it is to quit. And that's why we are launching a major new initiative to help Wisconsin citizens quit smoking and live healthier."
Investing in Education
Governor Doyle's address highlighted the Wisconsin Covenant. Under the Wisconsin Covenant, eighth graders will be given the opportunity to sign an agreement to stay in school, be a good citizen, and maintain a B average. In return, the state will guarantee them a spot in higher education and a financial package to pay for it.
In his budget, the Governor will provide funding for the Office of the Wisconsin Covenant and a major increase in financial aid.
"I don't want any high school kid to think college isn't for them, or that it's only for rich people," Governor Doyle said. "I want every boy and girl to know ... with the Wisconsin Covenant, college is within your grasp, just reach for it."
Governor Doyle also:
Called for a mandatory third year of math and science for high school graduation.
Announced he will triple funding to give kids access to the school breakfast program. Right now, Wisconsin ranks 50th in school breakfast participation.
Urged the Legislature to approve a major investment to reduce class sizes from kindergarten to grade three.
"Smaller classes, higher standards, good nutrition, a strong start in life, and a ticket to college for every kid willing to work for it," Governor Doyle said. "That's our education agenda, an agenda of opportunity."
Investing in the University of Wisconsin System Governor Doyle also announced an investment in the University of Wisconsin System to increase the number of college graduates in Wisconsin and produce the kind of educated workers the state needs to grow.
"Tonight, I propose a new investment in the University to produce more college graduates, more engineers, scientists, and nurses," Governor Doyle said. "This will be a major undertaking for the University and for the state, but the benefits will be wide and far reaching."
Governor Doyle's investment will include:
Increased enrollment at UW campuses to bring college within reach for more Wisconsin students.
Enhanced degree programs at UW campuses, including a new Health Sciences major at UW-Stevens Point, new opportunities for technical college students at UW-Oshkosh, improved services for adult students at UW-Green Bay, strengthened student retention at UW-River Falls, and expanded liberal arts programs at UW-Superior.
Partnering with UW-Platteville to expand opportunities at UW colleges, including a new mechanical engineering degree at UW-Fox Valley, and an electrical engineering degree at Rock County.
Funding for an innovative partnership among UW-Eau Claire, Stout, and the Chippewa Valley Technical College to produce more graduates in advanced disciplines like nanotechnology, biotechnology, and polymer engineering.
Breaking ground on the Institutes for Discovery - where UW-Madison will help create thousands of new jobs, and unlock cures to deadly diseases through biomedical and stem cell research - with no ideological strings attached.
Creating and Preparing for the Jobs of the Future
To meet the challenges of a changing economy, Governor Doyle announced a major new investment to build a faster, more flexible worker training program, ensuring Wisconsin's success in the global economy.
"With investments in workers, a strong commitment to manufacturing, and by unleashing a new generation of entrepreneurs, we can win the global competition," Governor Doyle said. "Let's seize this opportunity, and put Wisconsin to work."
In the next decade, Wisconsin will need more welders, nurses, engineers, machinists, and skilled manufacturing workers. To address this, Governor Doyle proposed increasing our efforts from $2 million to $8 million in the next budget - to help Wisconsin's technical colleges train an additional 36,000 workers.
He will also ask the Legislature to double funding for the highly successful Youth Apprenticeship Program to get our kids ready for the world of work.
Governor Doyle also proposed a new Wisconsin Venture Center, to help connect Wisconsin's entrepreneurs and innovators with investors around the world.
Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Governor Doyle announced a budget proposal to streamline services for children and families to ensure that all Wisconsin children grow up safe, healthy, and with the support of strong families. The Governor's proposal will merge child welfare, child support, child care services and the W-2 program into a single, unified agency - the Department of Children and Families.
"Right now, Wisconsin has a cabinet level department devoted to prisoners, but not one devoted to children and their families," Governor Doyle said. "With this initiative, we'll make sure that bureaucracy never gets in the way of doing what's right for our kids."
The new Department of Children and Families will unify services currently divided between the Department of Health and Family Services and the Department of Workforce Development. The merger will improve coordination of these services, reduce duplication, and build further accountability in government for the welfare of children and families.
In his address, Governor Doyle announced that next week he will join with leaders of Milwaukee to announce a comprehensive strategy to help the Milwaukee metro area succeed and thrive.
"Whether you live in Milwaukee or Marinette, the future of our state's largest metropolitan area affects you," Governor Doyle said. "For Wisconsin to thrive, we need a strong and growing Milwaukee. It is a great and vital city - our center of culture and commerce, the hub of our economy. Yet Milwaukee also faces unique challenges. Unless our entire state joins together to help meet those challenges, our entire state will suffer."
Protecting Our Environment and Achieving Energy Independence
As part of a broad effort to make Wisconsin the nation's leader in energy independence and create thousands of jobs in our state, Governor Doyle proposed the next major step forward for energy independence by dedicating $40 million in his budget proposal for renewable energy like solar, wind, hydrogen, biodiesel and ethanol. Governor Doyle has set a goal for this state to generate 25 percent of its power and transportation fuels from renewable sources by 2025.
Governor Doyle also highlighted the consequences of global warming as an opportunity for Wisconsin to lead the country to finding solutions.
"There is no question that global warming demands immediate action by the federal government," Governor Doyle said. "It is a disgrace that so many national leaders have turned a blind eye to what is a scientific fact. Yet the scope and consequences of this problem are so massive that the responsibility for action rests not only with our leaders in Washington, but with all of us."
The Governor announced he will appoint the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming, comprising businesses, industry, environmental organizations, local governments, and private citizens. This new effort will be charged with developing a state plan of action to explore state and local solutions to global warming.
Since the creation of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, Wisconsin has preserved over a million acres of beautiful lands for future generations to enjoy, 160,000 of which were protected under Governor Doyle's administration. In his address, Governor Doyle urged the Legislature to reaffirm the decades of bipartisan support for the Stewardship project by reauthorizing the program.
Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform
Governor Doyle praised Republicans and Democrats for working together to pass sweeping ethics reform - the first in 30 years - to create a strong Government Accountability Board that will have the power to enforce laws, investigate and bring prosecutions against those who violate the public trust.
"This was a model for what can happen when people in both parties set aside differences and do what's right. But we shouldn't stop there," Governor Doyle said.
Governor Doyle called on the leaders of both parties to help clean up Wisconsin's airwaves and bring an end to phony issue ads. The Governor proposed requiring any group running an ad mentioning a candidate within two months of an election to disclose their donors, and abide by contribution limits. These groups would no longer be able to take corporate contributions that would otherwise be illegal.
Governor Doyle also announced that he has asked Speaker Mike Huebsch and Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson to work with him to forge an agreement on a strong, comprehensive campaign finance bill that can win the support of both parties.