Wisconsin Department of Administration
Walker's speech contained hints that he may be poised to seek the national stage.
In his State of the State address Tuesday night, Gov. Scott Walker boasted that what he calls the "Wisconsin comeback" is working.
Pointing to a falling unemployment rate, an increase in the number of private sector jobs and improved school performance records, Walker touted the reforms he made in his first term as governor.
"If you remember nothing else, remember this," Walker said. "More people are working, while fewer are unemployed. State government is more effective, more efficient, and more accountable, and the state's financial condition has improved."
Walker promised to again lower property taxes and vowed that the state will finish the year with a budget surplus -- despite the most recent projections that show a more than $800 million gap between the state's tax revenue and the cost to maintain its current services.
Unsurprisingly, Democratic legislators were quick to criticize the governor, in a news conference after the speech.
"I felt shortchanged by the brevity of his speech," said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D—La Crosse).
She questioned how Republicans planned to fix the projected budget deficit -- a problem attributed in part to the substantial tax cuts Walker enacted in his first term. With declining revenue sources, it "becomes impossible to maintain services let alone invest in priorities we all value [such as] quality schools, roads and job creation," Shilling said.
"I think Wisconsin families are working harder than ever, but many are finding that no matter how much they sacrifice, no matter how many hours they put in, they live every day on the verge of economic and financial insecurity," Shiling said.
Though his address did not lay out any specific policy details, Walker called upon the Legislature to pass a school accountability bill and expressed his desire to "eliminate any requirement" for schools to use Common Core state standards.
Walker also proposed the consolidation of several state agencies, which would include merging the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Institutions that deal with financial and professional services would also be combined into a "one-stop shop," and several other consolidations and regulatory reforms would be enacted within existing agencies. The move highlights Walker's vision for a smaller government.
"We want common sense solutions," he said, "not bureaucratic red tape."
Increasingly named as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, Walker's speech Tuesday night contained hints that he may be poised to seek the national stage.
A comment about hugging Green Bay Packers owners in the stands at Lambeau Field was a likely reference to a Twitter jab he made last week after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- another potential 2016 presidential candidate -- hugged Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Walker also touched on foreign affairs. He condemned the recent terrorist attacks in France, calling the assailants "cowards" who are "afraid of freedom."
This week, Walker travels to California to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting, and on Jan. 24 he will speak at the Iowa Freedom Summit along with several other 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls.
While Walker has not officially announced his intention to run, both engagements point to a presidential bid. He's also hired Rick Wiley, a former Republican National Committee political director with experience on presidential campaigns.
Another possible Republican candidate from Wisconsin -- U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville -- announced this week that he won't seek the presidential nomination, which would clear the way for the governor to run.
Most believe a Walker presidential run is imminent.
"I believe he's running for president of the United States," said Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). "I really do."
Hansen lambasted Walker for rejecting federal money to expand Medicaid -- a decision Hansen said left 150,000 without insurance coverage.
"It was the worst possible thing he could have done," Hansen said. "To me, that says he doesn't want to be affiliated with [the Affordable Care Act] at all, and that he wants to be our next president."