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Important Legislation Passes to Encourage Job Creation, Reform Government, Protect Taxpayers Promote, Education Reform, and Improve Healthcare

Madison – Governor Walker today commended the Legislature for its work during the historic 2011-2013 session.  The session, including two special sessions, included major pieces of legislation to encourage job creation, reform government and protect taxpayers, promote education reform and improve healthcare.  It also put a $3.6 billion deficit in order and paid off hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid bills leftover from a previous administration.

“The 2011-2013 session included landmark government reforms and job initiatives,” said Governor Walker.  “But our work didn’t end there, we also improved education and healthcare, made Wisconsin safer, and tackled other issues facing our state.  I want to thank the Legislature for their work during the past year and a half.”

The historic effort began back in January 2011 when Governor Walker called a special session to Open Wisconsin for Business.  The special session included work to transform the Department of Commerce into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, eliminate the state tax on Health Savings Accounts, enacting nationally recognized frivolous lawsuit reform, expanded abilities to bring and grown companies in Wisconsin, and reforming the state’s cumbersome regulatory system.

The Legislature also passed one of the most significant pieces of government reform legislation in the nation.  It is estimated that Act 10 has saved the state, local governments and school districts nearly $1 billion annually.  These savings allowed property tax payers to save millions of dollars while services and public sector jobs were saved.  The legislation also allowed government to make personnel decisions based on merit, not just seniority, and it opened the door for ideas like performance pay schedules that will improve our schools and local governments.  The legislation finally gave government the flexibility to shop around for the best health insurance deals and make staffing decisions with the taxpayers’ interests in mind.  Act 10 also helped put an end to overtime abuses that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

Other important legislation passed included photo ID legislation and restoring the intent behind truth-in-sentencing legislation.

During the 2011-13 Session, the Legislature also balanced a $3.6 billion deficit, nearly eliminated the structural deficit, passed a budget that was credit positive, and paid off over $800 million in debt left over by the last administration. The Legislature and Governor also put $1.2 billion in new spending into healthcare for the poor and capped tuition for Wisconsin college students.  The budget also included additional funding to prevent children from being the victim of internet crimes.

The Legislature also passed a plethora of bills called for by the Governor in his Back to Work Wisconsin special session call.

The Legislature has continued to pass important legislation in recent weeks.  The Legislature has passed the Governor’s Wisconsin Working package aimed at improving worker training in Wisconsin, and putting more Wisconsinites and veterans to work.  Veterans will now be able to translate their military training to state licenses and have initial state license fees waived.

Part of the Wisconsin Working package was also Wisconsin Wins which will allow the unemployed to gain skills and training on the job while continuing to receive unemployment.  This will put them in a better position to find permanent employment and allow employers to feel out employees before hiring.

The Legislature also passed legislation to improve Angel Investing in the state and reform Wisconsin’s wetlands rules.  This week the Legislature also passed a bill to expand Family Care.

The legislative session also included the passage of a major education reform bill.  The education reform bill includes provisions to implement the recommendations of the Read to Lead Task Force and the Educator Effectiveness Design Team.   Rather than wait until third grade to know if students are struggling, the legislation requires screening of all students as soon as they enter kindergarten to find possible areas in need of intervention. Wisconsin will also model the new reading portion of its licensure test on Massachusetts’ exam to ensure teachers are equipped with the latest research on reading. 

The evaluation system portion of the legislation was developed with teachers and administrators to fairly evaluate all educators.  Rather than using raw test scores, the evaluation system puts teachers on a level playing field, regardless of the students assigned to them, through the use of value-added growth.  The system uses multiple measures of educator practice (50%) and student outcomes (50%).  The bill also establishes a new collaborative process with the higher education community to further improve our teacher preparatory programs by reviewing the performance of recent graduates.