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Reality Check: Look back at Walker's 2014 State of the State Address

Reality Check: Look back at Walker's 2014 State of the State Address

Gov. Scott Walker is set to give his annual State of the State speech Tuesday night, offering new ideas and updating lawmakers on the state's fiscal situation.

The tone of that speech may be different than last year, where Walker used a recently announced surplus to lay the groundwork for an election-year tax cut.

The governor touted a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a few days before last year's speech that said the state would have $911 million more than expected as an ending balance by June 2015, creating a total surplus of just more than $1 billion.

"I ask you to work with me over the next few weeks to return the vast majority of the new surplus directly to the hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin and add more than $100 million to the rainy day fund," Walker said in his 2014 speech.

The Legislature did just that, cutting income and property taxes by some $500 million. Walker also changed withholding tables to allow taxpayers to keep more of their money each year.

But since last year, the state's budget situation has drastically changed. Because of the tax cuts and many other factors, by the time the Legislature adjourned in March, the surplus was down to just $165 million. Then, in November, a memo issued by the administration said it is now $132 million in the red.

Secretary of the Department of Administration Mike Huebsch said in that memo that the state would address the shortfall before the end of the biennium.

The governor also laid out other plans in his speech.

"In addition, our Blueprint for Prosperity will increase the Wisconsin Fast Forward program by $35 million to focus on three new areas," Walker said in 2014.

Those three areas were eliminating waiting lists for high-demand jobs, job training programs for high school students and programs to help connect those with disabilities get jobs.

In a look at those initiatives, News 3 found $28 million awarded to all 16 tech colleges in July to open nearly 5,000 new spots. So far, 1,526 students are enrolled statewide in those spots, and 252 of them have completed training.

Madison College officials said so far, they've added spots for 425 students and have eliminated one waiting list in welding.

On the high school training programs, News 3 found a grant application wasn't posted until last month, so that $3 million has not been spent.

On the disability initiative, only $622,340 has been awarded in grants out of $1 million set aside.


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