Newly red Wisconsin revs up for a new year in politics
Congress slow but state and Milwaukee, Waukesha politics are heating up
Arthur W. Thomas
The start of a new year brings about changes. Many people make resolutions to diet, workout, save money or quit smoking. Whatever it is, people always have a new agenda. The same is true for Congress.
President Barack Obama set his agenda for the following year in his State of the Union address to Congress on Jan. 25. Republicans countered the President’s speech with a rebuttal given by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. Both speeches focused primarily on the economy and the nation’s debt.
“We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time,” said the President in his speech. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government.”
Obama pointed to adding 100,000 teachers, giving 80 percent of the population access to high-speed rail and freezing domestic spending for the next five years as ways to do this. He also said he would veto any legislation containing earmarks. One proposal of interest to Carroll University students is the President’s request to make the tuition tax credit permanent. He said it was worth $10,000 for four years of college.
Paul Ryan’s speech in response to the President painted a much starker picture. He pointed to the need to reign in the national debt as the most important issue facing the country.
“A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, its imperative,” said Ryan
The Congress has not had a very active year thus far. The attempted assassination of Gabriel Giffords (D-Ariz.) put the brakes on the politicking expected with a divided government. The Senate was not planning to reconvene until Jan. 25, but the House took a full week off in honor of Rep. Giffords (D-Ariz). When they returned, House Republicans did pass a bill to repeal last year’s health care reform law. The repeal is largely symbolic as the Democrat-controlled Senate will likely not bring it up for a vote. Look for the debate to heat up in March over raising the debt-limit and a transportation funding bill.
While the Congressional year has been slow to start in Washington, the state legislature has been at work since the beginning of the year. New Republican Governor Scott Walker called a special session to address job creation in the state. The legislature has passed bills regarding tort reform and the creation of tax exemptions for health savings accounts. They are also currently working on legislation to require voter IDs in Wisconsin elections.
When Walker was sworn in as Governor, a vacancy was created in his old position, Milwaukee County Executive. County Board Chairman Lee Holloway stepped in as interim County Executive. He has since appointed Marvin Pratt to serve until the April 5 special election. Holloway is running for the position along with Republican Jeff Stone, Democrat Jim Sullivan, and philanthropist Chris Abele. There will be a primary on Feb. 15 to cut the field to the top two.
The race for Waukesha County Executive does not have any of the excitement as the one to the east. Current County Executive Dan Vrakas is running unopposed.