Wisconsin State of the State Address 2002
By Stateline Staff
Citizens, colleagues, guests and friends. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, distinguished members of the Legislature, members of the Supreme Court, constitutional officers, cabinet members, Lieutenant Governor Farrow, First Lady Laurie McCallum, and family.
In keeping with time-honored tradition, I come before you tonight to report on the state of the state. I am pleased to report that the state of our state reflects the will of our people... and like the state of our state.... Our will is strong.
Our fellow citizens are looking to the future with courage, confidence and hope. And I am optimistic that what we do in the coming year will move Wisconsin toward an even brighter tomorrow.
There is energy and optimism throughout the land, and as elected representatives of the people, we must recognize that our citizens feel the winds of change. The people I have talked to the past year across Wisconsin do not fear change or reform. In fact, they expect it and accept it. From welfare reform to extended unemployment benefits to SeniorCare, Wisconsin has embraced a tradition of change.
Tonight, I also want to talk with you about what we can do together not as Republicans and Democrats, or state and locals, or rural and urban-dwellers, but as Wisconsinites to build a better future for our children and ourselves.
As we gather in this historic chamber, it is time to put differences behind and embrace a new spirit of partnership between state and local government and between local governments.
The past six weeks have been tumultuous. There are not easy answers or quick fixes as we put our fiscal house in order. But I believe now is the time to forge a new relationship between all units of Wisconsin government... a relationship based on mutual respect... on collaboration.... And on the principle that by working toward a common goal, we can renew our state's spirit and health.
So, tonight I extend my hand in the spirit of friendship and cooperation to begin this important journey. Working together toward a common purpose, we can achieve the oldest hopes of our ancestors -- caring and safe communities, loving families and prosperity for all.
I am optimistic about the future because during the past year, I witnessed over and over the true Wisconsin spirit... a spirit driven by goodness and compassion.
Let us now pause to reflect on a moment in time that will remain etched in our collective memories.
On a Tuesday morning last September, we awoke to a beautiful, crisp Wisconsin day. Our thoughts were on the Packers' recent win over Detroit... on the upcoming day..... And we awoke to the sounds of our children scrambling down the stairs, still excited about the start of a new school year.
Our peace and tranquility were shattered when we saw on television the images of horror and anguish. The sounds... the pictures of destruction... the terror and the suffering that were immediately and forever seared into our memory.
Since that day, we have lived in an age tarnished by the evil of a few... and yet invigorated by the goodness of so many.
Within hours of the attack, we saw the true spirit of America and the true Wisconsin spirit.
We saw members of the Wisconsin National Guard, specially trained to respond to any threat, join ranks with state and local law enforcement officers to quickly begin keeping us safe.
We saw firefighters from Wisconsin travel to Ground Zero in New York City to lend a helping hand in the rescue and recovery efforts among the crumpled steel of the twin towers.
We saw people in every walk of life, in every city and every town in Wisconsin, attend prayer services, pitch in with bake sales and roll up their sleeves to donate blood.
We saw local government doing its part in the war against terrorism by taking immediate action as our "first responders." To all who displayed the strong leadership and steady hand to keep Wisconsin safe during that time, I speak on behalf of all Wisconsin in extending to each of you a heart-felt "thank you!"
Tonight, on the 165th anniversary of the Wisconsin National Guard, 833 members of the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard are on active duty in Wisconsin, in the continental United States and around the world.
They are part of our response to September 11th and the Department of Military Affairs' continuing, long-term involvement across three fronts protecting Wisconsin's security, homeland defense, and fighting international terrorism.
I would like you to meet some of the fine men and women representing Wisconsin in our war against terrorism. They show the diversity of activities in our common defense. They are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Please hold your applause until after I've introduced them:
Lt. Col. Tim O'Brien is an F-16 pilot and is the fighter squadron commander of the 115th Fighter Wing of Madison.
Tech. Sgt. Tony White is a KC-135 boom operator with the 128th Air Refueling Wing of Milwaukee who has flown missions both overseas and here in the United States since Sept. 11.
Master Sgt. Tina Christenson is a radio communications specialist with the 128th Air Control Squadron from Volk Field who helped protect the skies over Chicago for more than three months.
Sgt. First Class Joseph Chapa has been on duty at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport as a member of Task Force Noble Badger. He represents the units assigned to airport security.
And Chief Warrant Officer Dave Molitor is the 829th Engineer Detachment commander. Twelve soldiers from this detachment, located in Richland Center, were ordered to active duty in November and deployed to "an undisclosed location" in central Asia. They are now located in Kandahar.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in showing our appreciation for these brave men and women.
All of America and all of Wisconsin have been tested and challenged over the past 13 months in many ways.
Seventeen counties in western Wisconsin were tested by floodwaters of the mighty Mississippi a year ago... and destructive tornadoes tested our resolve in western and northern Wisconsin.
We were tested by terrorism and a faltering national economy that took its toll on Wisconsin and 44 other states, causing budget shortfalls and forcing a serious re-examination of our spending habits at every level of government.
But with each test, and at every turn, we witnessed the Wisconsin character at work. We saw Wisconsinites react to adversity with optimism and determination to overcome every challenge so that Wisconsin can be a better place to live and raise a family.
There are countless examples of where the Wisconsin character prevailed the past year, including many where the stage extended beyond our borders.
Just a few weeks ago, the entire world watched in wonder as our very own homegrown Casey FitzRandolph of Verona and Chris Witty of West Allis competed in the Salt Lake City Olympic games. Of course, we all know that Casey and Chris were golden.
Both Casey and Chris are competing in Europe and can't join us tonight, but that won't stop us from celebrating their success of what it took to win gold.
Jeff and Ruthie FitzRandolph have spent thousands of hours molding their son's character and work ethic. As a parent and coach myself of three very athletic and active children, I know the difficulties of balancing work with the demands of instilling in your child a competitive spirit that they will carry with them in life.
There are many sacrifices that Jeff and Ruthie have made to help Casey along his path to Olympic glory, and tonight we pay homage to their dedication and their commitment. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to recognize tonight Jeff and Ruthie FitzRandolph.
There is another individual with us in the chamber who knows a thing or two about adversity. 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.
But with each game, the Wisconsin character emerged. We watched the new coach and the determined players react to adversity with confidence and conviction to overcome every challenge thrown their way.
The result is Wisconsin's first big ten title since 1947! The Badgers also became the first UW team since 1941 to beat every conference team in the same season. The coach, Bo Ryan, is the winningest first-year coach in Wisconsin history with 18 wins and only the seventh coach in Big Ten history to win the conference championship in his first year.
And just today, Bo was named Big Ten coach of the year. Ladies and gentlemen, Bo Ryan. I also want to recognize Marquette basketball coach Tom Crean for the great job he has done this year... coach Crean is in Cincinnati tonight and couldn't join us, but he deserves our thanks for a job well done.
We accomplished much under this dome last year, primarily by putting political differences aside and working together for the common good. Let me take a moment to highlight a few of these accomplishments:
I was pleased to have been able to bring together key legislators, the business community, sportsmen, sportswomen and environmental groups to craft a consensus and pass a law to protect our wetlands and our environment. It is the first of its kind in the nation.
Two individuals who played key roles were Republican Representative Neal Kedzie of Elkhorn and Democrat Senator Jim Baumgart of Sheboygan.
Working in a spirit of bipartisanship with A.A.R.P., the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and countless Democrats and Republicans, we passed a prescription drug benefit program for nearly 300,000 Wisconsin seniors that will serve as a national model in senior health care.
Last year, I introduced a fiscally sound, balanced and realistic budget for the state, which kept spending increases to the lowest level in more than 30 years, held the line on taxes, and protected our core priorities of education and helping the state's neediest citizens. These principles paved the way for a bipartisan budget agreement in August.
I want to acknowledge Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen of Waukesha and Democrat Majority Leader Chuck Chvala of Madison.
I also want to acknowledge the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee Republican Representative John Gard of Peshtigo and Democrat Senator Brian Burke of Milwaukee and thank them for getting the budget passed in the shortest time in more than six years.
And earlier this year, Wisconsin became the first state in the country to provide extended benefits to unemployed and displaced workers.
There were other accomplishments, as well.
We have taken huge strides in our relationship with the state's tribal governments. I would like to acknowledge the tribal chairmen with us tonight. We have continued to move people from welfare to work. Just last week I joined President Bush and Secretary Tommy Thompson in announcing a welfare reform agenda that will help more welfare recipients achieve independence through work, protect children and strengthen families.
We invested in smaller class sizes .... Because smaller class sizes have proven to be an effective learning environment for children. Thanks to the efforts of this Legislature, SAGE will allow more than 500 schools to reduce class sizes in grades K through 3.
We have provided our youngest children with every opportunity to reach their full potential by investing in 4-year-old kindergarten.
We are taking the necessary action to make Milwaukee the jewel of Wisconsin, and are taking steps to make southeast Wisconsin a world-class economic powerhouse.
When we build Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin, we build all of Wisconsin. That's why we must improve the Menomonee Valley, through the redevelopment of Canal Street.
We will be helping revitalize downtown Milwaukee.
The Marquette Interchange is the heart of Wisconsin's transportation system, and we have finalized plans for the largest capital project in our state's history.
State Fair Park is becoming self-sufficient and a year-round attraction, thanks to the steps I've taken.
UW-Milwaukee is becoming a first-class institution nationally, with the help of our budget.
And the consortium of five universities through the new TechStar program will combine academics and business to create economic growth.
Working together in a bipartisan fashion, legislative members of the Building Commission were influential in getting the first Biostar project approved, a project that keeps UW-Madison at the forefront of biotechnology. I applaud Senators Risser, Meyer and Roessler, and Representatives Hoven, Vrakas and Plale.
Wisconsin taxpayers saved $62.9 million through the aggressive use of my veto pen the highest veto amount ever for a biennial budget signed into law.
I unveiled a comprehensive energy package that serves the economic interests of the state and preserves our resources and environment.
In the aftermath of 9-11, statewide price gouging at gas stations was stopped after I personally directed investigators to identify known offenders immediately.
A few weeks after the cowardly attacks on America, I established an anti-terrorism task force to address current and future terrorism issues in Wisconsin.
And all of us did our part throughout the year to ensure that the Packers returned to the NFL playoffs after a short but painful absence. And while they didn't go all the way, it sure was a fun ride.... And the Pack will be back!
That is a list of accomplishments of which we can all be proud .... And the best is yet to come.
In my inaugural address last year I introduced the principles that would guide me as your governor holding the line on government spending, no tax increases, improving education, building wisconsin through economic development and job creation, and assisting our seniors and the neediest of the needy.
The executive budget I sent to you last year also reflected these principles, and they are the foundation of my budget reform act, which I unveiled Jan. 22.
I believe so strongly that these principles reflect the core values of all Wisconsinites that I state them again.
One, we must always put the hard-working men and women of Wisconsin the taxpayers first.