ON HIGHER EDUCATION
I don't think there's any state in the country that has had more happen than Wisconsin in the last four months on one of the most significant issues in the country, the affordability of higher education. I don't want any kid in Wisconsin thinking "I can't get to college."
Wisconsin has one of the lowest-tuition university systems in the country. The budget I signed ... will add 5,000 to 6,000 additional seats in our [University of Wisconsin] system over the next five years.
We created the office of the Wisconsin Covenant. That's an exchange of promises with eighth-graders. It says this is what you do to go to college: Finish high school, maintain a B average, be a good citizen, take the classes you need for college. We promise in return that there will be a place for them in their university or technical college system, as they choose. And our private colleges have also joined in this, which is great. We'll work on a need basis with families to assure they can afford it.
The budget I signed added $45 million in additional financial aid for students going to public or private colleges. We're on pace to triple the amount of financial aid we'll have available over a four-year period of time.
Then on top of that, soon after the budget was signed, the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, which makes student loans, funded our private Wisconsin Covenant Foundation, initially with $40 million. Our goal is to grow that to $200 million. Businesses tell me they need more college graduates. This is the way they can support that.
Then, just before Christmas, John and Tashia Morgridge -- John [was] the longtime head of Cisco Systems -- created a foundation to support financial aid for students coming out of public high schools in Wisconsin and going to our public universities, funded with $175 million.
ON EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
We now have more than 60 percent of our school districts offering 4-year-old kindergarten. With the help we're going to give the remaining school districts, we hope to make that 100 percent.
ON HEALTH INSURANCE
We made huge advances, with a major revision of Medicaid and BadgerCare, which is our children's health-care program that we offer to parents as well as children. We put those programs together to create BadgerCare Plus.
It has two important features: As of Feb. 1, all children in Wisconsin will have access to affordable health care. Up to 200 percent of poverty is covered, but children and families above that will be able to buy into BadgerCare Plus for their children and pay on a sliding scale.
I've had far too many people come up to me and say they couldn't take a raise at work, because if they took a raise, they would no longer be eligible for BadgerCare, and they had a child with a medical condition and there's no way they could ever get insurance. They will now be able to buy into BadgerCare. Our goal is to have every child in Wisconsin covered.
Our next step, starting in January of next year, will be basic health coverage for adults who would qualify for BadgerCare if they had children. People will have to pay for it, but it will be a basic, stripped-down health insurance policy, affordable for people who are making very little money.
With these two steps, 98 percent of our population in Wisconsin will be covered.
ON THE ENVIRONMENT
We have what we call the Stewardship Fund, a publicly funded effort to buy public lands, geared toward preserving our great forests but also bike trails in urban areas. We've refunded it for another 10 years, at a level of $85 million a year.
ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
We want to really build on biotechnology. [The] University of Wisconsin-Madison is now the second-biggest-funded research institution in the United States. Only Johns Hopkins exceeds it. We've seen great economic activity come out of that. We're working hard to grow a research campus around the medical school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
I'm working on a proposal to allow people in Wisconsin to have 100 percent of their capital gains exempted if they reinvest those gains in start-up companies in Wisconsin, and a proposal for significant tax credits to companies if they increase their research and development operations in Wisconsin by 25 percent more than their average the last three years. I really want to make Wisconsin a research and development center.
ON WHAT WISCONSIN CAN LEARN FROM MINNESOTA
We think that what's happened in the Twin Cities is really remarkable. This is one of the really great urban success stories of the United States.
One of the notions I've been trying to push is that Milwaukee is central to the overall economic well-being of Wisconsin. We are more spread out, with more cities of 50,000 to 100,000. But to the extent that you have developed a world-class commercial hub, it's something we have to understand, how important Milwaukee is to the overall mix of our economy.