Wisconsin is known for many things, such as our friendly disposition, impeccable beer and cheeses and, of course, our Green Bay Packers. Since I've taken office, we've gained national recognition for the proven results of our fiscal and economic reforms.
We took a principled stand, confronted our shortcomings and transformed them into real solutions. We're turning things around and heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, the national outlook isn't as bright. With growing debt and deficit without a clear solution, the problems we face as a nation are daunting.
After years of tax increases and budget tricks, Wisconsin faced one of the largest budget deficits in the country — $3.6 billion. Our state government was hemorrhaging money due to fiscally liberal policies which catered to special interest groups and government union bosses.
Wisconsin was on the same path as many of our neighbors — such as Illinois and Minnesota — which, instead of instituting real reform, continued down the road to insolvency. In Illinois, it has led to a dramatically underfunded public-employee pension program and downgraded credit rating.
Unlike our neighbors, we eliminated our deficit and balanced our budget without raising taxes and created a substantial surplus. We gave power back to local governments and school districts so they could make budgeting decisions that worked for their communities, resulting in savings of more than $1 billion.
We pursued a bold agenda with clear goals in mind — to eliminate our deficits, create a better economic outlook for Wisconsin's future and promote sound fiscal policy, all while reducing government interference in the lives of our citizens. We accomplished these goals. And because of our reforms, we've been able to return money to the hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin.
Nationally, the outlook for the future isn't as promising. A severe lack of leadership from the president and congressional leaders has left America with a debt exceeding $16 trillion, a number that continues to rise. The Senate hasn't passed a budget in more than three years and political battles inside the Beltway have crippled any chance at meaningful reform.
The bitter partisan arguments and political pandering have put the needs of American taxpayers on the back burner. Instead of putting money back in the hands of the people to stimulate our lagging economy, Washington continues to increase taxes on families and employers who are already struggling.
Rather than promoting the powers of the states, Washington insiders seek more control over state affairs with overreaching social programs — such as ObamaCare — with little regard to the fiscal ramifications or the long-term negative consequences for state budgets. Special interests and the growing desire for control have debilitated any attempt at real reform that would help get our economy back on track.
Washington offers Americans excuses instead of fixes and defers the problems we face today to the leaders of tomorrow.
People are searching for a path forward and that's what we're doing in Wisconsin. Our state still faces challenges but we are moving in the right direction. Because we had the courage to enact meaningful reforms, we have a solid foundation to build upon. We are creating jobs and putting people back to work. In fact, our unemployment is the lowest it's been since 2008.
We're investing in education and workforce development, getting rid of the bureaucratic regulations that cripple small business and continuing to cut taxes to put more money back in the pockets of Wisconsin taxpayers. Washington must do the same in order to fix the problems that threaten our country.
President Obama and our national policymakers must concentrate less on their political futures and see the forest rather than the trees. They need to focus on the next generation and what's best for America, rather than the next election.
It's easy to blame opponents or kick the can down the road. But that never will solve the problems America is suffering. With courage and conviction, real reform is possible. Wisconsin is proof. We were not afraid to take on our biggest challenges and because of that tenacity, we've been able to put our middle-class families first and capitalize on the proven results of our reforms.
We turned things around and are moving our state forward with commonsense and fiscally responsible policies.
President Obama and lawmakers on Capitol Hill need to do the same. Americans need less talk and more action from the policymakers who are focused more on the superficiality of the Beltway rather than the needs of the people they represent.
In order to pull ourselves out of the national debt crisis we're in, our president needs to exhibit real leadership and enact the kind of reforms we put in place in Wisconsin. It's time the president follows Wisconsin's example and moves our country forward.
Scott Walker, a Republican, is governor of Wisconsin.