UW Expert says State of the State has changed

Gov. Walker's 4th annual speech to focus on tax cut

Gov. Scott Walker’s fourth State of the State speech scheduled Wednesday night will set the tone for the new legislative session and possibly his re-election.

Walker is expected to talk about his plans for income and property tax cuts, that when combined total $504 million at the joint meeting of the Legislature. The AP reported the typical Wisconsin homeowner would save around $150 a year with those cuts.

Walker released excerpts of his speech on Wednesday afternoon before it was to be delivered in the evening before a joint meeting of the state Senate and Assembly.

According to the AP, Walker said in the excerpts that, “The state of our state is strong and improving every day. The economy is dramatically better and our finances are in great shape.”

Considering all past State of the State speeches from Walker and other Wisconsin governors, Mike Wagner, an assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication specializing in politics, said the address has changed in some ways.

“One way things have changed is that Republicans and Democrats are just more different from each other maybe they were 25 years ago,” Wagner said. “They’re aren’t very many liberal Republicans there aren’t very many conservative Democrats. So the policies the governors talk about are increasingly kind of predicted by their party.”

Wagner went on to say the speeches, directed to lawmakers and citizens, are more carefully crafted than they used to be, but when it comes to the average Wisconsinite, they will largely take away what they bring into watching the address.

“If you come in watching the speech fan of the governor or opponent of the governor, you’re going to find things you like or dislike based on the things that he says,” Wagner said. “It becomes harder and harder for our lawmakers to persuade us which could be a problem in our democracy.”

Among the changes, Wagner said if he could make a change to the annual speech it would be to explain the public the process of coming through on promises.

“We don’t hear a lot of how that process works and what the chief executive’s vision is for working with those legislative leaders to get things done,” Wagner said. “If I was a speech writer I would spend a little more time trying to explain to citizens here’s how we’re going to try to do it, and here’s how you know whether it’s my fault or their fault that something doesn’t happen.”

The State of the State will be available live Wednesday on Channel3000.com at 7 p.m.