Walker tells Chamber members help is available to battle fuel shortage
It was as if Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker could do no wrong during his appearance Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Saukville Chamber of Commerce State of the Community dinner.
Meetings elsewhere in the state resulted in Walker getting to the Landt-Thiel American Legion Hall an hour later than scheduled, yet his arrival was greeted with resounding applause.
The governor’s comments were largely limited to an update on state efforts to intervene in the propane shortage, as well as a recapping of his Blueprint for Prosperity initiative spelled out during the Jan. 22 State of the State Address.
Despite not breaking any new policy ground, the bullet point recitation drew enthusiastic applause on a regular basis from the audience of 125 guests.
A question period was dropped to allow time for photos with audience members, as the governor worked his way around the room following his 20-minute talk.
Walker was certain to find plenty of supporters at the dinner. He received 70% of the vote in Ozaukee County in the 2010 election and a similar level of support during the 2012 recall.
Walker was casual and relaxed as he spoke, drawing his comments from memory rather than a prepared text.
“I prefer to work on Vince Lombardi time — which is 15 minutes early — but we’ve been working hard on the propane shortage,” the governor said in explaining his tardy arrival.
Walker said he directed the Department of Administration’s Division of Energy Services to make an additional $7 million in crisis benefits available to counties with homes that rely on propane for heat.
In addition, he said the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation was making a $5 million loan guarantee program available as a line of credit for propane dealers in the state.
After reciting the corrective measures being taken to reduce the impact of the propane shortage during Wisconsin’s coldest winter in decades, Walker made a personal plea to those at the dinner.
“If you know friends, neighbors or loved ones out in the country who rely on propane for heat, especially older folks, I am asking you to check on them,” Walker said.
“I know farm folks are always self-reliant, but this is about checking on their safety to make sure they are staying warm.”
The governor also talked about the $911 million surplus the state has accumulated since he took office.
Walker said part of that money has been set aside in a $100 million “rainy day” fund, “seven times larger than anytime in the past.”
He said the remaining dollars would be used to build a stronger economy.
“My Blueprint for Prosperity plan not only returns the bulk of that $911 million surplus to taxpayers, but also invests in programs that help train skilled workers for great manufacturing jobs,” Walker said, comments which played well with the business audience.
“There are great careers in manufacturing, but we need your help in getting that word out. We need to make sure everyone who wants to work can find work.”
He then turned his focus on jobs.
“You can’t just magically create jobs. You do it by investing capital into businesses. If you are a small-business owner looking to grow, we want to help you.”
Walker said his plan also calls for cutting state property taxes by more than $400 million, resulting in an average tax-bill reduction of $100.
State income taxes, too, would be reduced under the plan, he said, targeting the lowest income-tax bracket.
The level of state withholding will also be adjusted, which Walker said would result in an average of an additional $58 a month appearing on the typical paycheck.
For his appearance, Chamber members presented the governor with a gift basket filled with local items. They included a sausage from Blau’s Saukville Meats, personalized lip balm from Alliance Packaging, a Charter Steel sweatshirt and Saukville Elementary Eagles spirit wear.