Speaker Gard, Majority Leader Schultz, President Lasee, Speaker Pro Tem Freese, Members of the Legislature, Lieutenant Governor Lawton, Constitutional Officers, Supreme Court Justices, Members of the Cabinet, Tribal Leaders, and fellow citizens of Wisconsin.
It is my honor to stand before you tonight and report that the State of Wisconsin is on the move.
On the move creating jobs, growing the economy, returning fiscal sanity to state government, embracing new education and health initiatives … while standing firm against raising taxes.
After years of job losses, we came together and took aggressive action … investing in manufacturing, streamlining regulations, giving farmers tax credits to grow their businesses, and passing a balanced budget without raising taxes.
And perhaps even more important than what we did under this dome … the people of Wisconsin used their own determination and hard work to propel this state forward. To every small businessperson … to every worker who didn't give up … to all the students who pushed a little harder … to each farmer who got up a little earlier … here's what we've accomplished together:
Over the past year, we've created nearly 70,000 jobs.
For 11 straight months, we've led the Midwest in job growth.
We've created twice as many jobs as Minnesota - and six times as many as Iowa.
As the new issue of Inc Magazine reports: Wisconsin has experienced -- quote -- a remarkable turnaround … with the nation's largest surge in manufacturing job creation -- unquote.
Manufacturing is up.
And personal income is up.
And homeownership is up.
And ACT scores are up - the highest in the nation.
You should also know a few things are going down.
Like crime. It's down. We're 25 percent below the national average.
Alcohol-related deaths … down 14 percent, thanks to a tougher law on drunk driving.
And teen smoking … down … to the lowest level ever recorded.
From cutting back on state contracts to reducing the number of state cars, we're making state government smaller, smarter, more efficient, and more accountable.
With new jobs, new ideas, and growing confidence that our brightest days lie ahead, Wisconsin is on the move.
In a speech like this, it's tempting to cover every aspect of the agenda -- from the environment to corrections policy to campaign finance to welfare reform. And our plans for Wisconsin's future are as broad and diverse as the state itself. I'll discuss many of these important issues next month when I introduce the budget. But since the clock is also on the move tonight, I'd like to focus on four areas:
Growing Wisconsin's economy. Putting kids first. Expanding access to health care. And restoring fiscal discipline.
Let me start with the economy.
Since I took office, my Administration has invested almost $300 million in economic development projects, helping to attract, retain, and provide training for nearly 50,000 jobs.
We've helped great Wisconsin companies expand, from Bay Shipbuilding to Johnsonville Sausage …
… from GE to GM … from Promega to Georgia Pacific.
The results can be seen all across the state. Madison was recently rated as the best city in America for business by Forbes Magazine, with La Crosse, Wausau, and Green Bay ranking in the top third. Milwaukee has gained more jobs than any metro area in the Upper Midwest and is one of the fastest growing job markets in the nation.
Tonight, I have yet another announcement to make, and this is a big one - 1,000 new, good jobs coming to the Milwaukee area. We are providing economic development assistance to Kohl's, helping them greatly expand their corporate headquarters and create jobs over the next few years -- from entry level to management level -- and solidifying the future of this great company in Wisconsin.
I want to thank Senators Kanavas, Darling, and Taylor for working with my Administration to get this done.
This is part of a new, strategic focus we are bringing to economic development. We made a choice to compete at the high end by fighting for Wisconsin's rightful place producing the best products, with the most highly skilled and educated workforce anywhere in the world.
Last session, I unveiled an ambitious action plan called "Grow Wisconsin." We worked together - Democrats and Republicans - and passed into law nearly every bill I requested. No matter which side of the aisle you're on, you stood with Wisconsin's workers and families, and for that, I thank you.
We passed the most sweeping regulatory reform effort in the Midwest - cutting red tape, but protecting our environmental standards. We passed a major financial modernization bill to make new capital available to investors. We created tax credits to spur more than $250 million in angel and venture capital investment. We provided tax relief to offset the high cost of energy for manufacturers. We strengthened agriculture with a livestock siting bill, and a tax credit to help dairy producers modernize. And because we passed the single sales tax reform, this year, Wisconsin businesses won't suffer a tax penalty for every job they create.
We are on the move - and we are not stopping.
In the last few months, I have announced a series of new initiatives that will build on the momentum of "Grow Wisconsin."
With the help of Senators Robson, Hansen, and Roessler, and Representative McCormick, we will increase our investment in our state's manufacturing extension partnerships by $1.3 million.
We are creating a Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network that will help innovative new companies succeed.
We are launching a new effort to recruit more angel investors who provide early-stage capital for emerging businesses.
And led by our Lieutenant Governor, my Administration is opening a statewide dialogue on advancing the economic status of women.
But despite the progress we've made, the economic news isn't all good. Some areas haven't had the same economic expansion as the rest of the state. Many workers must depend on two jobs to make ends meet. And for many families, the rising cost of living - from a doctor's visit to a gas fill up - has eroded any gains they've made.
Tonight, let me outline the next steps to ensure that Wisconsin continues to lead, innovate, and create jobs:
First, let's complete the unfinished business of the last session: pass a meaningful worker training bill. We can give workers the skills they need to raise their incomes, and give businesses the trained workers they need to compete. Let's work together, and get this done.
Second, we must ensure that our energy supply is both adequate and environmentally responsible.
Under my Administration, we've made the greatest strides in years to increase our energy capacity - not only power production, but power transmission. We've given incentives to communities that site power plants or transmission lines, and we've cut by half the time it takes to get new facilities approved.
I want to thank Senators Risser and Cowles and Representatives Black and Jensen for serving on my Task Force on Energy Efficiency and Renewables. You've developed good energy policy, good economic policy, and good environmental policy all rolled into one.
By the year 2010, at least 20 percent of the energy that state government uses will come from renewable sources, and by 2015, we'll set a standard for homes and businesses of 10 percent.
In my budget, I'll also have a major new initiative on biofuels. It's time to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. When it comes to our energy future, let's rely on the Midwest - not the Mideast.
The last session has been called the most productive for agriculture in 25 years, and that wouldn't have been possible without the partnership of Majority Leader Schultz and Representatives Ott, Ward, Vruwink and Gronemus,. One success was the Dairy Investment Tax Credit. In my budget, I'll ask for your help to create a similar credit for livestock producers -- providing up to $50,000 to help them modernize and expand.
In Wisconsin we've shown that we can have a strong environment and a strong economy. We're working to protect the Great Lakes, combat invasive species, and lower mercury emissions to protect our air, land, and water. And under my Administration, we've permanently protected more than 42,000 acres of pristine natural areas through the Stewardship program.
Democrats and Republicans agree on many things. But we have an honest disagreement when it comes to raising the minimum wage.
I'm for it. Most of you on the Republican side are not. Even though most other workers - including you in the Legislature - have had pay raises in the past seven years, those working for the minimum wage have not. I believe going from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour for people who haven't had a raise in seven years is reasonable.
The Legislature has the power to block this increase for the next two years without ever having a vote. In fact, it's already been five months since you first objected to the minimum wage, but you've never had a vote on the floor.
All over Wisconsin, I see people who are working so hard to support themselves. And they deserve a chance to get ahead.
It's time to approve a higher, statewide minimum wage of $6.50 an hour.
Every month you delay, minimum wage workers lose $100. It's time to take a vote - do it this month.
We're joined tonight by Craig Culver. I'm sure you recognize his name - he created frozen custard that is so good we eat it in January. Craig, thank you for being here tonight.
Craig served on the committee that adopted the higher minimum wage - under a process that has existed under both Democratic and Republican Administrations since 1919. Like all the businesses represented on the committee, he cast his vote for a higher minimum wage. Craig, thanks for doing the right thing - and we'll keep working together to make sure this state follows your lead.
Last year, I announced my KidsFirst Initiative - a comprehensive investment in our future. I said then that it represented the priorities I would use to put together my next budget, and I intend to make good on that promise.
Let's take a few minutes to talk about the investments we'll make in our kids.
We already know that the early years of a child's life last forever. Excellent day care and early childhood education can mean higher overall development, a smaller chance of being held back in school or dropping out, and lower special education costs.
Tonight, I am announcing that my budget will include a program that will - for the first time - rate the quality of child care providers. We will create a five-star rating system, with higher levels of state reimbursement for providers with the highest ratings for quality.
With us tonight is Ann Terrell from the Milwaukee Public Schools. She helped design this initiative as the chair of our task force on child care quality. Ann - thank you for helping Wisconsin build one of the most innovative child care systems in the nation.
Every year, our state spends $300 million on child care for working families - making us second in the nation in our commitment to children. Right now, we pay the worst child care facility and the best child care facility the same amount, and that's wrong. My plan will reward quality, encourage improvement, and give parents the information they need to choose the right child care center.
From Whitefish Bay to La Crosse, from Cuba City to Oconto Falls, from Menasha to Waterloo, we have the finest four-year-old kindergarten program in the nation.
In September, I was in Port Edwards to visit a new 4K program launched in partnership with the Wisconsin Rapids School District and the YMCA. Next fall, I plan to be in Eau Claire to welcome their new 4K program.
But even today, more than half of Wisconsin school districts don't offer four-year-old kindergarten - not because parents don't want it, but because of the way the school funding formula works. Instead of encouraging communities to provide four-year-old kindergarten, we're discouraging them.
It's time to change that.
In my budget, I will include funding for grants to help make up the difference in state aid -- so communities will no longer be punished for doing the right thing.
Wisconsin has one of the best school systems in the nation, yet when it comes to school breakfast participation - we rank dead last.
School breakfast helps raise test scores, improve attendance, reduce special education costs, and fight obesity. Yet too many of our schools are not taking advantage of the program - costing Wisconsin $13 million in federal revenue every year.
Tonight, I am announcing that my budget will increase the reimbursement rate for schools that participate in the school breakfast program by 50 percent. Let's not settle for last place when it comes to getting our kids off to a healthy start.
I also believe we must continue to support the SAGE program, which reduces class sizes in the early grades. We know it works, but funding hasn't been increased in eight years. As a result, almost 50 schools have dropped the program.
In my budget, I will propose significant new funding for small class sizes, focusing on the early grades. Let's work together and get this done for our kids.
With respect to school choice, I outlined a reasonable compromise last spring. I'll support some adjustments to the school choice cap as part of a larger package to help all students, whether they are in choice or public schools.
It's time to make this happen. Students not only in Milwaukee, but across the state, are waiting for you to act.
Each week, more than 1,000 students learn about our geography, history, and culture as they try to answer the question: Where in Wisconsin is Jessica Doyle?
And at least tonight, I can answer that question. She's right up there.
Like other parents, I have enormous respect for the work of our teachers. But obviously, my favorite teacher is Jessica.
From the days I first saw her teaching when we were in the Peace Corps, I've understood what a great educator can do.
In these past two years, she's worked so hard to promote education in Wisconsin, visiting almost 200 schools in 79 school districts.
Through her Read On Wisconsin Internet book club, she's encouraging our kids to discover the joy of reading.
As part of our Community Connections initiative for middle schools, Jessica is calling attention to innovative, grassroots mentoring partnerships around the state, and encouraging more people to volunteer their time helping kids in school.
Jessica will never stop teaching. Today her classroom is all of Wisconsin's schools. And together, we'll never stop believing in the limitless potential of Wisconsin's children. Jessica - thank you.
As I put together my education budget, I'll draw from many of the good ideas put forward by my Task Force on Educational Excellence. Comprised of Democrats and Republicans, educators, business leaders, and parents, the task force made 40 recommendations, on everything from how we improve special and early education to how we help school districts with declining enrollment.
One issue raised by the task force was the need to reform the way we pay our teachers - not only to attract and retain the best educators, but also to address the rising costs of health care.
The QEO lets school districts avoid arbitration if they retain the same benefit package. That creates a powerful disincentive for school districts to develop innovative solutions to reduce health care costs.
The QEO is a roadblock to reform, and it must go.
If we're willing to move past the old arguments on the QEO, we can design a new system that better controls rising health care costs, improves teacher retention, and encourages teachers to upgrade their skills and knowledge. It will allow local communities to make their decisions at the bargaining table rather than as mandates from Madison.
We need a new system that pays teachers not only on the length of their service, but also on their ability to help children learn.
In my budget, I will offer planning grants to school districts, so they can work with teachers, school administrators, and business leaders to develop innovative ways to reward teachers for skills and knowledge that enhance student performance.
The plan - which can build off Superintendent Libby Burmaster's Wisconsin Quality Educator Initiative - represents a better way of paying teachers. We'll add incentives to attract our best teachers to some of our most challenging classrooms, whether in inner cities or rural districts. We'll develop new ways to attract the math and science teachers we need. And we'll make real reforms in health care.
A high school graduate from Green Bay isn't just competing against graduates from Appleton and Oshkosh. She's competing against graduates from all over the world.
Yet Wisconsin - unlike most other states - requires only two years of math and science in high school. In fact, we're in the bottom 13 states in math and science requirements. Our high school requirements aren't even high enough to meet the basic standards for incoming freshmen at the University of Wisconsin.
The world has changed, and so has the job market. It is time our schools changed with them.
So tonight, I propose legislation requiring a third year of math and a third year of science as graduation requirements for all Wisconsin students. Let's raise our standards - so all students are prepared for the 21st Century.
And when it comes to expanding educational opportunity, there's no greater investment we can make than in the University of Wisconsin.
The $3.2 billion deficit I inherited forced some difficult cuts for all of state government, but particularly the University System. While we still don't have the resources we'd like, I'm committed to reversing the trend - providing more state support, adding faculty to improve quality and expand access, and increasing financial aid.
For the first time in more than 10 years, the budget I will submit to you next month will add more state money to the UW and financial aid than to the corrections budget.
Let's never forget: the UW System is the best in America. And we need to keep it on top so Wisconsin can continue to compete with anyone in the world.
It's why I'm proposing a $750 million public and private investment in biotechnology and stem cell research, including the Institute for Discovery - which will unlock new medical cures and launch new businesses that will benefit the entire state.
Joining us tonight is UW's Dr. Jeff Johnson. Dr. Johnson has discovered a protein that halts the progression of Alzheimer's in mice, and he is researching how to apply this discovery to people. His research could help an estimated five million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer's, including 110,000 Wisconsin residents.
In my budget, I'll ask you to provide $3 million for Alzheimer's research. Let's make sure Wisconsin continues to pioneer the effort to treat and one day cure this deadly disease.
In my last budget, we passed a 56 percent increase in financial aid - the largest in state history. Tonight, I propose we go a step further.
Right now, families can deduct up to $3,000 in college expenses from their Wisconsin taxes. In my budget, I will expand the deduction up to the average cost of tuition at the UW System - this year, that would be about $5,000.
Quality childcare … early education … smaller class sizes … higher standards … and a strong university system. Now that's an education agenda for the 21st Century.
One of the best parts of being Governor is spending time with so many different people across this state. And one of the hardest things about being Governor is listening to the struggles that families have in affording health care.
The father who worries what he'll do if his son gets hurt in a Little League game.
The young worker who's happy to have a job but has no health coverage - and is one illness away from financial disaster.
The senior who's splitting pills in half to make them stretch a little farther.
These problems aren't isolated to just a few families - they touch people in every corner of this state and nation.
Every state feels the effects of this national crisis, and no state alone can solve the problem. A national problem demands a national solution, and year after year, Washington has let us down.
But we can - in the meantime - take actions on the state level to lower health care costs and increase access to care. And here, Wisconsin has been a leader.
We are a leader in the number of children covered by health insurance.
We have the best senior prescription drug benefit in the country.
We are helping our farmers and small businesses lower health care costs through our health care cooperatives.
We preserved BadgerCare, Medical Assistance, and SeniorCare despite tough budget times - even as many other states cut people off.
In my budget, we will implement significant reforms in Medicaid. We will ask all parts of the health care system to share in the solution, but the guiding principle will be to protect health care for the people who depend on these vital programs.
We are leading the fight to provide our citizens with safe, affordable prescription drugs from Canada through our website, Drugsavings.wi.gov.
Now, we'll take the next steps as a state to make prescription drugs more affordable for our citizens.
Working with an innovative Wisconsin company called Navitus, last year we implemented a new prescription drug plan that enables the state to negotiate better prices for the drugs we buy. The plan - called BadgerRx -- is based on getting Wisconsin's best doctors to recommend the most effective prescription drugs, and then negotiating the best prices. As a result, in the first year alone, we saved taxpayers $25 million.
Now, private businesses - large and small - as well as local governments can join with us to save money on prescription drugs. Already, more than 220,000 private sector employees and family members have been included. The City of Janesville has signed up as well, and we look forward to working with other local governments and businesses - both large and small - to help reduce their drug costs.
Tonight, I am pleased to announce a new effort to help the half million Wisconsin citizens without prescription drug coverage. Later this spring, individuals will be able to join BadgerRx. They will not have to go on the Internet, or worry whether the Bush Administration will disrupt shipments from Canada. They will be able to walk to the corner drugstore and receive their needed medications at greatly reduced prices.
With this plan, Wisconsin will lead the nation in helping people who don't have prescription drug coverage. Participants will receive the same drugs recommended for state employees, and they'll benefit from the full buying power of state government.
As I've often said, Wisconsin's greatest strength continues to be the dedicated, hardworking people of our state. They go to work everyday, pay their taxes, and raise their kids with good, Midwestern values.
Unfortunately, in the 1990s, state government let them down. At a time when the national economy was booming and state revenues were soaring, the state's rainy day fund sat empty. A culture of overspending developed. The state's bureaucracy grew bigger - and slower to respond to the needs of everyday people. New cars were purchased, new state departments were created, and costly contracts were given out without anyone checking to see whether the work was done. Often, those contracts were extended year after year, without any competitive bidding.
Two years ago, that culture of overspending caught up with state government. It was a $3.2 billion deficit - the deepest budget hole Wisconsin has ever seen.
Other states balanced budgets by passing huge tax increases, cutting millions off health care, or ending the school year early.
But here in Wisconsin, we balanced our budget without devastating services or abandoning the values that make Wisconsin great.
We did it together, and most importantly, we did it without raising taxes.
We made tremendous progress two years ago, and we've made even more progress since.
We're rebidding costly state contracts. In our first year, my Administration reduced contracting out by $32 million - the first reduction in at least a decade. Since then, we saved $93 million on a single contract under the Medicaid program, and $46 million on an information technology contract.
We're trimming the state's vehicle fleet back to its level a decade ago. Since July, we have sold 651 vehicles, generating more than $2.1 million - and we will eliminate more than 1,000 state vehicles by April.
For the first time, we're asking state employees to pay a portion of their health insurance, just like workers in the private sector.
We've cut discretionary pay bonuses by 92 percent. We've eliminated more than 1,500 cell phones and sold seven airplanes.
We used to lead the nation in exporting prisoners to other states, but not anymore. Because of reforms we're making in Corrections, we'll have every inmate back in Wisconsin by this summer.
In the last two years, we've had a chance to look at state government from top to bottom. And at times, I've been shocked by the things we've found.
The state never took advantage of its buying power in purchasing desktop computers or software. Now we are - and we've reduced the average price of a computer by $1,000, saving the state $3 million per year. We've also reduced the cost of software by $125 per computer, saving another $2.5 million.
The state also wasn't negotiating volume discounts when employees traveled for state business. Now, we're moving forward with consolidating state travel across agencies, negotiating discounted airline and hotel prices - and saving the state $4 million a year.
State government used to have 220 email servers, and each agency paid separately to operate email. Now, we're consolidating those servers, and we're going to lower the cost of an email account from as much as $15 a month to $3 - saving $1.6 million a year.
Earlier today, we took another step forward. Taking advantage of lower interest rates - and proving that Democrats and Republicans can work together - we saved the taxpayers $19 million. I want to thank the leadership -- Majority Leader Schultz, Minority Leader Robson, Speaker Gard, and Minority Leader Kreuser -- for working with me to get this done.
Unfortunately, even with the progress we've made, Wisconsin still faces a deficit of about $1.6 billion - about half of what we faced two years ago, but still a very significant hole. Not surprisingly, the culture of overspending that developed over two decades couldn't be completely fixed in just two years. And so we must continue our work.
Next month, I will outline my budget for the next two years. I will balance this budget the way I balanced the last one - trimming overhead, cutting wasteful spending, and reforming and redesigning the way Wisconsin does business. And tonight, I renew my pledge to the people of Wisconsin: I will balance this budget without raising taxes.
Taxpayers have done their part, and now it's time for us to do ours.
Speaking of fiscal responsibility, there's someone here who has been showing a lot of it lately - Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee.
While the Legislature has wasted time arguing over a complicated and unworkable Constitutional amendment that would gut education and stifle job growth, Mayor Barrett has actually accomplished something. He cut spending. Under his budget, the city increased its levy by just 2 percent -- less than inflation.
He did it not because politicians in Madison mandated it, but because it was the right thing for Milwaukee.
Property taxes are too high, but let's work together to lower them without harming education, economic development, police and fire protection, and local control.
Some of those who are complaining the most about the increase in property taxes are the most responsible. They tried to cut shared revenue, which would have caused the largest property tax increase in a generation.
By overspending, they nearly bankrupted our state, leaving us with too little money to help our schools.
Tonight, I am announcing that my budget will fulfill the state's responsibility to the taxpayers by living up to our commitment to local government and our schools.
First, we will fully fund shared revenue.
Second, we will significantly increase aid to education.
Third, we will provide over a billion dollars in property tax relief through the homestead credit and the school levy credit.
Fourth, from prescription drugs to cell phones, we'll allow local governments to take advantage of the buying power of the state.
Fifth, we're simplifying the application form for the Homestead Credit - going from 17 pages to a single sheet of paper. The goal is simple: to make sure that families get the tax relief they deserve.
And finally, we'll make significant reforms to the Expenditure Restraint Program. State government spends about $60 million a year to encourage municipalities to hold the line on spending, but loopholes allow some communities to get the incentive even with large property tax increases. In my budget, I will close the loopholes - so we reward communities that actually hold down property tax increases. We will expand it to cover counties as well as municipalities. And instead of just giving incentives to achieve a target property tax increase, we will provide bonuses for municipalities and counties that hold their property taxes even lower.
These are the things that state government must do, and we will. Then, it will be up to local governments and their citizens to determine what's best for their own communities. And if elected officials fail to follow the wishes of the people, citizens should hold them accountable.
What we don't need is bumper sticker politics, or more mandates from Madison. And we certainly shouldn't trade Wisconsin's education system - where students score the best in the nation on the ACT - with Colorado's, where students score near the bottom.
The incredible progress we've made in Wisconsin over the past two years wouldn't have been possible without the hard work of our state employees.
They are the people who care for our seniors … patrol our highways … protect our forests, air, and water … provide job training … and teach the next generation at our universities. They come to work everyday with a single purpose: to make Wisconsin a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
I'd like to introduce one of them - Trooper Les Boldt. If you watch TV news, you've probably seen him before. Thanks to the video camera in his patrol car, we could all marvel at the sight of him racing to stop a woman from jumping off a bridge.
Trooper Boldt represents the very best of Wisconsin. Please join me in saluting him and all of Wisconsin's state employees for the tremendous work they do.
Tonight, I have delivered my report on the state of our state. But that report would be incomplete without acknowledging the service of our brave men and women in uniform.
Right now, more than 1,700 members of our National Guard are deployed overseas, and countless more sons and daughters of Wisconsin are serving on active duty in regular and reserve units.
Thirty-three Wisconsin service members have laid down their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some were parents, some were college students, some were just 18 years old. All of them are heroes.
I've gotten to know these families. I've met parents who were burying a son or a daughter, and children saying a last goodbye to their father. In churches and community centers and crowded gymnasiums, I've seen the incredible mark that these 33 men and women left on our communities.
Would you please join me in saluting these fallen heroes and their families?
Tonight, we are joined by Deb Kiser, whose husband, Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Chuck Kiser, was killed in Iraq on June 24. Since then, Deb has reached out to other families of the fallen, to help them cope with their loss. Like many of the families I have met, in her greatest moment of grief, Deb has summoned the grace to help others.
Deb, Alli, and Mark Kiser - you are heroes, too, and we honor you tonight.
As I have seen people like Deb Kiser help others deal with a loss … as I have seen entire communities mourn the death of one of our troops … I am constantly reminded that Wisconsin really is a family. And in our respect and admiration for those who have served and fallen, we stand united -- and we have them in our prayers.
As we face the challenges of the next two years, let us draw inspiration from these and all the hardworking families of Wisconsin. Let's give them a government worthy of their character and values.
From growing our economy to investing in health care and education to restoring fiscal responsibility … yes, Wisconsin is on the move.
With a deep admiration for the great people of this state, and a sincere commitment to do their work, let us continue to move Wisconsin forward.