Governor Jim Doyle's annual State of the State speech tonight included plans for several new initiatives, including:
--Creating a new health insurance program for children called BadgerCare Plus. The effort would merge 500,000 individuals currently enrolled in three different programs into one.
--Creating a large, low-cost insurance pool for Wisconsin employers designed to address the cost of catastrophic care.
--A new financial aid package for college. Wisconsin eighth-graders who sign a pledge agreeing to maintain at least a B average in high school, take certain courses and stay out of trouble would be eligible. If they go to a public Wisconsin school, the state would guarantee them grants, loans and work-study jobs to pay cover the cost of tuition.
--An expansion of Wisconsin's Family Care program, which provides long-term, community based support for low-income seniors and the disabled. Services range from the meal delivery to help administering medications. Doyle has touted it as a cheaper alternative to putting seniors into nursing homes.
--An initiative aimed at helping Wisconsin capture 10 percent of the stem cell research market by 2015. Doyle plans to direct the Department of Commerce to spend $5 million to recruit companies that find practical applications for stem cell research. The initiative includes efforts to promote Wisconsin as a leader in the field.
--$6 million to help people with rising heating costs. The effort would give 30,000 Wisconsin families an average of $200 in state heating bill assistance this year.
--$9.5 million in private venture capital for startup businesses in northeastern Wisconsin that has been deemed the "New North."
--A tax credit for poor parents working at least 35 hours a week designed to ensure their incomes meet the federal poverty level of $19,350 for a family of four. The credit would cost the state $22 million in revenue in its first year, helping an estimated 9,000 families with 26,000 children.
-- Outlawing the practice of "health care dumping." Doyle said profitable companies such as Wal-Mart should not deliberately manipulate their benefits so that employees qualify for state-funded programs such as BadgerCare.