Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson urged lawmakers to strike a more bipartisan tone and to address what he called a values deficit that has led to cuts in education funding.
Larson, D-Milwaukee, said Wisconsin has struggled on the job creation front while other states have seen significant growth.
"Starting today, we have a choice between more extreme ideology or real bipartisan solutions," Larson said. "Extremism has cost Wisconsin dearly."
Larson said putting an "open for business" sign up was not enough to create real jobs.
"Wisconsin needs honest change, not just talk and political gimmicks," Larson said.
He challenged his fellow senators to visit their school districts to witness the impact of funding cuts. He said he's seen educators struggling to teach in overcrowded classrooms and schools that no longer teach art and music.
"By continuing to steal from our children's piggy bank, we're robbing them of their opportunity to live up to their full potential," he said.
Larson also said lawmakers have a chance to shed the "light of accountability and transparency" on state agencies, particularly the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Larson said the hastily created agency was given $85 million in taxpayer money, but no rule book, and ended up losing track of $50 million in loans.
"With Wisconsin still struggling economically, it is unacceptable to allow our jobs creation corporation to continue to play fast and loose with our tax dollars," Larson said. "Wisconsin citizens will not allow us to double down after finding out that the deck is stacked against them."