E-update from the Desk of Governor Scott Walker
One of the most important duties I have serving as your Governor is to provide you directly with updates related to the operation of our state government. In an effort to improve communication, periodically I will be sending out an e-update to provide you with more information about what is going on in state government. Please feel free to share this update with your family, friends, and others who may be interested in state government operations.
Earlier this week I unveiled the first phase of my Wisconsin Working plan, which contains a number of policies aimed at getting more Wisconsinites back to work. This announcement continues the focus on job creation and economic growth that I’ve had since first interviewing for the job of being your governor. The Wisconsin Working plan was in part built off of my Special Cabinet on Economic and Workforce Investment, as well as my listening sessions with job creators, job seekers and government officials. The Wisconsin Working plan specifically contains polices aimed at:
Improving Workforce Training
As I travel the state, employers tell me they are willing to hire but need more skilled workers. At the same time, job seekers need access to affordable and timely career and training programs. To address both of these needs, this week I created the College and Workforce Readiness Council. The Council will be comprised of representatives from small business, the workforce, the State School Superintendent, Cabinet Secretaries and top officials from public and private universities and technical colleges. I directed the Council to improve student readiness for college and careers through a variety of measures, including designing shorter and less costly degree programs aimed at filling high-need positions. In addition, they will look at ways to expand dual enrollment and dual credit opportunities for high school students, allowing them to earn college and workforce training credits while in high school.
Beyond this Council, I am supporting Wisconsin Wins legislation proposed by Representative Mark Honadel. This legislation will allow Wisconsinites receiving unemployment to take part-time training jobs with employers. This will allow current job seekers to receive training and demonstrate their skills for potential employers.
I’ve also directed the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to work together to align unemployment insurance claimants with businesses currently expanding in Wisconsin.
In an effort to specifically help those who have courageously stepped up to serve our country I directed the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) to support Assembly Bill 429 and Assembly Bill 438 and work with the author of these bills, Representative Evan Wynn, to deliver them to my desk. These pieces of legislation will remove many employment hurdles for veterans, such as removing the initial license fee for certain veterans and allowing military training to fulfill requirements for specific state licenses.
Matching Job Seekers with Jobs
Under my plan, DWD will double the number of job fairs they hold in 2012, bringing the total to more than 100. Job fairs provide a critical face-to-face opportunity for employers to interview prospective employees and for the unemployed to learn more about career opportunities in their area. You can learn more about these job fairs by accessing this website: www.wisconsinjobcenter.org/jobfairs.
In addition to these job fairs, DWD will hire fourteen additional staffers to serve another 350-400 unemployment insurance (UI) claimants each week in their job searches. The additional staff will hold training sessions, perform skills tests and certifications for work readiness, perform employer matching, career assistance, align the unemployed to job fairs, and provide follow up services among other duties aimed at matching the unemployed to jobs.
Beyond these DWD specific initiatives, WDVA will also be expanding its efforts to help veterans find jobs. The unemployment rate for veterans in Wisconsin is estimated at between 13 and 15 percent, compared to the statewide average of 7.3%. WDVA plans to:
· Partner with the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) to organize an employer educational seminar to inform employers of the benefits of hiring veterans;
· Hold fourteen job fairs this year in conjunction with DWD and proactively reach out to unemployed veterans in order to align them with job placement assistance; and
· Partner with Milicruit to create a Wisconsin specific platform to hold online job fairs for veterans. WDVA, DWD, and DMA recently partnered with Milicruit and other Midwest states to hold regional online job fairs.
Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Commission
On my first day in office I signed an executive order to create the Governor’s Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Commission. I asked the Commission to:
· Identify waste, fraud and abuse in state government programs and state appropriations and recommend solutions;
· Obtain and review all budget documentation for each state agency, including detailed information regarding the appropriations and programs administered and the related personnel costs; and
· Provide advice about the long and short term impact of the Commission's recommendations on state appropriations, efforts to make government smaller and more efficient, and ongoing economic development initiatives.
This week the Commission’s final report was released. It can be viewed at: http://walker.wi.gov/section.asp?linkid=1727&locid=177. Overall the Commission believes their recommendations can reduce spending by local units of government by $82.6 million and state government by $373 million for a total annual savings to taxpayers of $455 million.
State agencies have already begun implementing some cost saving measures because of the discussions they had with the Commission over the course of the last year. Below are a few examples of changes agencies have already implemented:
· The Department of Health Services created an Office of Inspector General and has invested in cracking down on fraud in public assistance programs. Results have already been seen. Benefits saved due to finding fraud in the FoodShare program grew 46% in October and payments recouped increased 80% compared to the first month of 2011.
· State employee compensation plans were modified in an effort to reduce the amount of unnecessary and costly overtime.
· DWD is working to upgrade its information technology which is expected to improve its efficiency in the Department’s ability to identify and correct unemployment insurance fraud.
· Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) found that they could accommodate their agency staff in office space soon to be vacated by the former Wisconsin Department of Commerce, which is estimated to save WDVA between $300,000 and $400,000 annually.
The recommendations by the Commission will help state government operate more efficiently and effectively. Moving forward I will work with members of both political parties to implement many of the remaining recommendations made by the Commission.
Just Ask the Governor: Part I
Each e-update I will answer a question submitted by a recipient of the previous e-update or from somebody who contacts my office directly.
Question: You need to find a way to make sure that Wisconsin keeps its good teachers in the classroom. How do you plan on making sure that excellent teachers are paid well for their good work?
Answer: As a result of the reforms enacted earlier this year, school districts are now able to pay based on performance, give merit bonuses for teachers and have more overall control of their budgets. Some school districts across the state, such as the Baldwin-Woodville School District gave staff bonuses to retain them, while other districts such as Cedarburg and Hartland-Lakeside have instituted merit pay programs.
In the past, school districts could not make decisions about the best way to retain the best and brightest teachers because of collective bargaining. Now that our reforms are enacted, districts have retained teachers and have the ability to give bonuses to excellent teachers.
It has been a pleasure communicating with you. It is an honor to serve as your Governor and represent the residents of Wisconsin.
Governor Scott Walker