Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker reaffirmed his commitment Tuesday to creating 250,000 new jobs in the state by 2015.
Marking the midway point of his first term in office, the governor delivered his third State of the State address in front of lawmakers in Madison.
While Walker admits the state is behind the pace needed to reach his campaign goal, he says it's not out of reach and getting there starts with passing a mining bill as soon as possible.
"We have the potential for a billion and a half dollar investment here in our state that could lead to as many as 3,000 construction-related jobs and 2,800 long-term jobs," said Walker, surrounded during his speech at one point by engineers, carpenters and millwrights.
They joined the governor in helping make a pitch for mining legislation that would pave the way for a new iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin. Pointing to a large Wisconsin flag, he noted that the image of a miner is on the state seal.
"If any state can move forward with a way to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining, shouldn't it be the Badger State," said Walker.
Democrats have concerns about scaling back environmental regulations to open a new mine. They're also questioning how soon any new jobs would even be available.
"Jobs tied to the mining industry and the mine up north are years and years down the road. There will be years to permit this," said State Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).
"We have to go beyond just looking at a mining bill. We need to make sure we bridge that skills gap so that employers that have jobs have people with skills who can take those jobs," said State Rep. Jill Billings, (D-La Crosse).
Walker used the address to defend controversial reforms put in place during the last session involving benefits for public sector workers. He says those helped turn the state's $3.6 billion dollar budget deficit into a $342 million surplus.
"Today, unlike the federal government and many of our neighboring states, we have a surplus, which will allow us to invest in our priorities," said Walker.
Lawmakers from both parties say job creation remains the top priority the next two years. Republicans say they're glad Walker is still shooting for his 250,000 new jobs goal.
"I think we should be. We got to get our residents back to work and get our economy turned around," said State Rep. Lee Nerison (R-Westby).
"We're turning things around. We're heading in the right direction. We're moving Wisconsin forward," said Walker, wrapping up the 30-minute speech.