CHICAGO — Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle this week outlined a broad agenda for his final year in office, calling on the Legislature to provide property-tax breaks for homeowners and pass measures that promote job growth, hand control of the Milwaukee Public Schools over to the city’s mayor, and establish a Milwaukee-area regional transit agency.
“I have a year left as governor, and I want to be very clear about what my top priority will be. I will do everything I can to help our businesses create jobs and give our workers the opportunities to get those jobs. Nothing is more important,” Doyle said in his state of the state address Tuesday evening.
He warned that the state faces “another round of difficult” budget cuts, but pledged to protect education, health care, and public safety spending. He also pledged he would not seek tax increases.
Doyle reiterated his support for legislation that would hand control of the school district to Milwaukee’s mayor, saying the move was needed to improve academics at MPS. The proposed legislation would give the mayor the power to appoint a superintendent and more fiscal control over the district.
“We need a superintendent appointed by the mayor who will have a clear mission of reform and the ability to drive real change, day after day, month after month, year after year ... If you do not act now, you will be picking up the pieces of a broken school system within a few years and failing children who desperately need your help,” he said.
Doyle proposed a program dubbed the Wisconsin Green to Gold Fund, a $100 million revolving loan fund to offset manufacturers’ energy costs in the hope that companies would in turn create more jobs.
He also wants to spend $1.75 million through the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help small and mid-sized manufacturers use sustainable practices.
In a push to promote both job creation and fight global warming, he called on lawmakers to pass a Clean Energy Jobs Act that would set a new standard calling for 25% of state energy to come from renewable sources. Doyle contends the move would generate 15,000 new jobs.
The governor called on lawmakers to pass a measure that would put to a public vote a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to direct property relief solely to homeowners.
The state constitution’s uniformity clause, which requires business and residential properties to be treated equally, would have to be amended to undertake such action.
The measure must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before it could go on the ballot.
Doyle pressed lawmakers to embrace his proposal to create a Milwaukee County regional transit agency with the power to impose up to a half-cent sales tax that could generate an estimated $60 million annually to fund bus service.
The governor, a Democrat, who announced last year he would not seek re-election, enjoys Democratic majorities in both chambers but some of his proposals have been opposed by members of his party.
The state adopted a $61.8 billion two-year budget last June that authorizes $3.58 billion of bonding and wipes out a $6.6 billion deficit through a mix of federal stimulus funds, spending cuts, tax and fee increases, and debt restructuring.
Wisconsin’s GO ratings are AA from Standard & Poor’s, AA-minus from Fitch Ratings, and Aa3 with a negative outlook from Moody’s Investors Service.