Scott Walker’s Big Gamble

With his new budget, the Wisconsin governor has angered his party’s right, spelling trouble for a man who appears eager to run for president in 2016.

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Douglas Graham / CQ Roll Call / Getty Images

Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, during the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center at National Harbor, Md., March 16, 2013

Scott Walker has come a long way from the days when he was forced to barricade himself in the Wisconsin governor’s office while demonstrators stormed the Capitol Rotunda in Madison to protest his bill slashing state spending and dismantling public employee unions.

Two years and one recall election later, Walker enacted his second budget with little fanfare late last month. Although no Democrats voted for the bill, its provisions largely steer clear of the aggressive spending cuts and right-wing flashpoints that characterized Walker’s 2011 emergency budget repair measures. Instead, the two-year, $68 billion budget actually increases spending and borrowing, while cutting income taxes by $651 million.

The budget is a political gamble for Walker, who has said he is open to a 2016 presidential bid and kicked up a cloud of coverage when he visited Iowa, home to the first vote in the national campaign, earlier this spring. The decision to cut taxes, while also increasing borrowing and spending, is likely to play well with Wisconsin voters. But the move threatens Walker’s reputation as a hard-line fiscal conservative by introducing structural imbalances back into the state’s books.

(MORE: Uncompromised: Why Scott Walker Survived His Recall)

In the years since his budget showdown in Madison, the 45-year-old governor has become a folk hero to the right. Walker’s willingness to take on labor unions and strong-arm Wisconsin’s fiscal house back into order earned him powerful and generous Republican backers, like billionaires Charles and David Koch, and a Fox News following.

In 2012, after a landslide victory in his June recall election, Walker became a top surrogate for Mitt Romney’s campaign, in part because of his ability to appeal to the party’s base where the former Massachusetts governor struggled. Although Walker currently trails behind other 2016 Republican presidential contenders — his name wasn’t even included in Public Policy Polling’s survey of Iowa voters last week —Republican insiders say Walker’s reputation for “getting things done” makes him a viable dark horse candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016.

But should Wisconsin’s new budget send the state back into fiscal limbo, Walker could risk losing the good will he has built up among his party’s right wing.

“I’m somewhat puzzled that this administration would spend so much political capital to bring the state back to even-keel economically, and then turn around and move back in the direction that we had gone for the previous 10 years, when the budget was barely balanced,” said Todd Berry, executive director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a conservative-leaning public policy think tank based in Madison.

Berry notes that while Walker’s budget was “difficult and controversial,” it produced a budget surplus of about $420 million. By contrast, the new budget draws down on that surplus, and relies on the state’s volatile economic recovery to keep Wisconsin in the black.

A spokesman for Walker did not return a request for comment. The governor has boasted that his budget increases investment in workforce training and infrastructure as well as adding to K-12 education spending to expand Wisconsin’s taxpayer-funded private schools.

(MORE: In Wisconsin’s Recall, a Tale of Two Parties)

But Walker’s shift away from a more austere spending plan has raised alarm among Tea Party conservatives and other fiscal hawks, who tend to be more concerned with government spending than tax cuts.

“It’s not a conservative budget at all — it increases the size of government, and spends 6.2 percent more than what was authorized in the last budget,” said Todd Welch, the Wisconsin field organizer for the right-leaning, libertarian group Campaign For Liberty.

“There’s been more and more disappointment with Governor Walker within the Tea Party,” Welch added. “Republicans are really fed up with people who say one thing when they campaign and another thing once they are in office.”

This conservative dissatisfaction could create problems for Walker, who lacks the name recognition of fellow Republicans like Rand Paul and Chris Christie, should he decide to pursue a presidential bid in 2016. Its a run that would benefit greatly from the favor of those activists most alarmed by his budget plan. Even in his home state, Walker ranked third behind fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio in a recent Marquette Law School poll of the Republican presidential field. In a June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Walker came in last among a field of seven possible Republican candidates, with a 19 percent favorable rating among conservative voters.

Walker’s defenders dismiss claims that the governor has shifted away from his  principles and suggest that conservatives might be willing to look past any queasiness over his budget.

“I think he touched a lot of conservative bases that people are not giving him credit for,” said Bill McCoshen, a Wisconsin-based political strategist and former adviser to Republican Governor Tommy Thompson. “School choice, tax cuts, rejecting Obamacare funding — all of those things are going to be very appealing to a national conservative audience.”

MORE: With Money and Momentum, Scott Walker Gains Ground in Wisconsin Recall Campaign

30 comments
RyanReber
RyanReber

Before coming up with a new slogan, how about acting on the one you won office with which was Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, 250K NEW jobs. Where are they mister? That's right, your policies failed as county executive, they have failed as Governor and they will fail as President (not that you could win), as a so called leader do what is right for the people, put pride aside and just quit already.


August1953
August1953

That Scott Walker has been an imperfect Governor is indisputable ... if one defines perfection in an elected official as always implementing those policies one advocates, and never implementing policies with which one disagrees. To expect such a person to exist is, however, Utopian in the extreme. With that said, it is hard to argue with success, and Scott Walker has been successful beyond anyone's expectations.

Has Walker implemented policies with which I disagree? Yes. Has implementation of those policies been enough to lose him my support? No. Why? I continue to support Walker's overall agenda because it is the only one so far put forth that has any chance of solving our long-term structural problems in Wisconsin. The only one that at the start does not seem likely to cause more problems than it cures. And, Walker's agenda is the only one that stands a glimmer of a chance of raising the poorest among us out of the grinding poverty in which they live.

Governor Walker has called his latest agenda "Moving People from Dependence to Independence." In my opinion, that is as worthy a goal as one could want. Freeing people from dependence on government and providing them with the tools and opportunities to become self-reliant and independent ought to be a primary goal of every member of our society.

The less fortunate were much better cared for before the advent of the "War on Poverty" and the implementation of the never-ending list of welfare programs. Private philanthropy thrived, and people's needs by and large were met. Then as now, there were some whose needs were not met. Before someone says, "And that is why we need government programs," please remember that current government programs leave many more people with unmet needs than did private philanthropy.

This result is a prime example of the law of unintended consequences at work. Those who were moved to donate to the charity of their choice in aid of those in need in most cases stopped doing so. Why? When the government began to force people to support those in need through the tax system, many of those previously inclined to give to charity no longer felt morally obligated to do so since the government was now "taking care of" those in need.

By going beyond the bounds set for the federal government by the Constitution through an unwarranted perversion of the general welfare clause, government has done more harm than good--resulting in damage to our society that will take a generation to undo.

EliMiller
EliMiller

I wouldn't exactly call his recall victory a landslide as I understand the term.

RichardFallis
RichardFallis

Christians should be appalled at Scott Walker's reign-of-error that gives us all a bad name.   

I often pray for Mr. Walker. He has attacked women, the poor, widows and orphans while giving gobs of cash to the wealthy, powered by a machine of serial lies.

The 'job creators' he worships with public money have rewarded his largesse, by going on vacation.  

Last year he claimed he had already created 100 thousand jobs! But with figures from the federal government and Federal Reserve, he quickly dropped that line. Still, with the sleepy inept media in Wisconsin, and criminally incompetent state Democratic party, he might have otherwise gotten away with it. 

When asked why his plans were failing, Mr. Walker on the Mike Gousha talking head TV show, blamed the Recall (which Walker brought upon himself) and get this...the Greek crisis!  Why, the Greeks would target Wisconsin, while leaving neighboring states to power out-of- the recession is a mystery. 

Two years ago, Minnesota had a $6 thousand annual per-capita wage gap over Wisconsin. Now, it has increased to $12 thousand! So, not only is Mr. Walker, failing to deliver numbers of 'would you like fries with that' jobs, quality jobs are absent too.  

Minnesota, has high-tech. Mr. Walker stubbornly insists low-wage tourism, agriculture, and old-fashioned manufacturing will power our future.

Rather than investing in the future, Mr. Walker has given cash to his pals through a corrupt jobs agency that doesn't know to whom it gave money! Millions of dollars are missing, with no clear objective about who is getting loans and grants or why they are getting them.

While playing the lead role in the 'Wisconsin Chain-Saw Massacre' cutting over $1 billion from education in his first budget including $77 million from community colleges, from where business has told him they need grads now, Mr. Walker is jeopardizing Wisconsin's long-term success.

Within just a few years, with our school system is guaranteed to match the results of Texas or Alabama, through cuts and support of voucher skewls, higher educated people and the jobs they bring will give Wisconsin a pass. The UW university system will in short-order be populated by professors teaching other people's dated work furthering the downward spiral.

As well, by throwing almost a hundred thousand people off the Badgercare program, and refusing to take 100% Medicaid dollars from the federal government, Wisconsin will soon find itself at a competitive disadvantage to neighboring states, where low-wage jobs will expand in addition to the value-added professions. 

While much has been made of the Walker income tax cuts, they amount to about the cost of a tank of gasoline over a two-year period for the average taxpayer while leaving the state with a $500 million structural deficit.  

All of the above shows Mr. Walker's, slavish worship at the altar of Ayn Rand's Gospel of manipulative 'take'  ignoring Christian doctrine.

The Lord Jesus is quoted in each of the Gospels saying 'Believe AND obey' including concern for the poor and vulnerable. Mr. Walker, cares nothing for those who are without, and tragically many seeking the truth may turn-away figuring 'If that (Walker) is a Christian I want no part of if."

That is why I pray for Mr. Walker, who must repent, and acknowledge he can't worship Ayn Rand and Jesus at the same time. He can't have two masters. 

It is a sin church leaders in Wisconsin have not called him out on his policies . And so they need our prayers as well.


MollyBrown
MollyBrown

While many other states are starting to see improvement in their overall economic health, Wisconsin under Governor Walker continues to lag behind. Statistic after statistic shows Wisconsin among the bottom states for economic growth. Below is a summary of where Wisconsin ranks with regard to job creation and economic development:

  • Wisconsin ranks 42nd as best state for business. (Forbes Magazine's Annual "Best States for Business" rankings, December 2012)

  • Wisconsin ranks 44th in the nation in job growth. (Bureau of Labor Statistics--Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 3rd Quarter 2012)

  • Wisconsin ranks 45th in wage growth. (Bureau of Labor Statistics--Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 3rd Quarter 2012)

  • Wisconsin ranks 49th in economic outlook. (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia leading index report, April 2013)

  • Wisconsin will be 49th in job growth through 2016. (Forbes Magazine's Annual "Best States for Business" rankings, December 2012)

  • Wisconsin ranks 50th in short-term job growth. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce "Enterprising States" Study, April 2013)

    Is Walker really qualified to run the country or is he really qualified to ruin the country?

MollyBrown
MollyBrown

Women have long faced discrimination when it comes to health insurance coverage. Over the years, insurance companies in Wisconsin have been required to cover basic women's health care like mammograms, maternity care and, in 2009, birth control. In addition, the Affordable Care Act put in place federal protections to ensure that all women had access to preventative services under their health plan--including birth control. Organizations from the National Institute of Medicine to the World Health Organization to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists tell us that access to birth control is the single greatest investment in women's health that a community can make.

Despite the clear evidence of positive effects birth control has on our community, Republicans in Wisconsin have introduced legislation that would allow religious employers to discriminate against women by denying them affordable access to birth control. The proposal is illogical given that a fall 2012 study released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) demonstrated that access to no co-pay birth control coverage leads to significantly lower unintended pregnancy and abortion rates.

This proposal will not affect a small minority of women. In fact, another CDC study released this February found that virtually all women of reproductive age between 2006 and 2010 who had ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lifetime (99%, or 53 million women aged 15 to 44). In addition, birth control is not only a valuable family planning tool, but it also has many other medical benefits, According to the Guttmacher Institute, 58% of women use birth control for noncontraceptive health care reasons

dougswanson3732
dougswanson3732

His defenders say he hasn't moved away from his principles, and that's correct - you have to have principles first.  The Tea Party should understand that this politician is bought and paid for and while he will shrink government where his owners want him too he will also expand it where it benefits them - corporate tax breaks, expanded public money for private schools, etc.  Some of it's political (medicaid expansion, gutting unions) but most is payback.  He's a politician who used you to get elected - shocking!

MollyBrown
MollyBrown

Under Scott Walker funding to public schools has decreased while funding to voucher schools has increased.  These voucher schools have NO ACCOUNTABILITY.  Teachers there DO NOT have to have a state license to teach.  Furthermore, they are not required to do background checks on the people they hire.  Therefore you could have someone teaching your child who is not qualified and is also a sex offender.

These voucher schools are not required to administer the same state wide reading tests that public schools do.

There is no law requiring voucher schools to employ special education teachers for the students who may need the extra help.

There is no law requiring the voucher schools to follow state laws regarding corporal punishment.

So the children going there could be receiving an inferior education and no one would know it because there is no law requiring it.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Since when does Scott Walker do anything without his handlers approval?

leothelioness
leothelioness

Where do I begin? Hmmm. Well The promise of jobs. None that can be seen to help the economy, lot of teachers lost to cuts though. hmmm.  The environment? Northern Wi.  iron mine, not good for the environment, or jobs, Jobs so far out of state workers. Budget?  What a mess, take from public education tax dollars and give to private schools (vouchers). Work at home? Hmmm, Flying all over the country to raise campaign funds, more Tax dollars gone. not working at home!  What more do you need to know about this guy? You can plainly see he is not interested in  Wisconsin. Oh and don't forget the money he turned down for medical assistance for the people in Wi. that don't have one of his new jobs!  Hmmm. I wonder if  his family have gotten gifts for all he has done to help out the poor corporations that haven't created any jobs. hmmm.     {Check out Virginia Gov.} in BIG trouble. 

conservativespartan11
conservativespartan11

You're under the impression Gov Walker is going for president. The rumor is he wants a good showing for the first few states in order to position him for VP.

With Gov Walker's new budget funding some aspects of Common Core and his administration leading the charge for ObamaCare until the various groups dragged him screaming back to reality (Walker executive order #10, support for AB210 and much more), his chances, by his own actions, have limited him nationally.

Sadly, he may have imploded to the point where he'll struggle to win re-election in 2014.


OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

If I win the Powerball I'll vote for him.  Otherwise, I'm sticking with the 99%. 

MollyBrown
MollyBrown

Scott Walker has no college degree.  He dropped out of Marquette before finishing and rumor has it that he was being investigated for cheating.  Only 9 US presidents have been in office with no college degree and the last one was Harry Truman who left office in 1953.  There is NO CHANCE that Walker would ever be considered as a Presidential candidate.  In addition to no college degree, he has many skeletons in his closet.

Furthermore, Walker campaigned on jobs, jobs, jobs.  He claimed that he would create 250,000 jobs during his first term in office.  That has turned out to be a complete fabrication since Wisconsin has sunk to the bottom in terms of job creation under Walker.  His real agenda was to pass extremist right wing social bills such as ending access to abortions.  Walker refused free federal dollars to enable many Wisconsin residents to have health insurance.  Now Wisconsin taxpayers will have to pay $125 million more to insure 85,000 fewer Wisconsinites.

Walker does not care about the middle class or working poor.  He is only interested in courting the uber wealthy and big corporations.

suedem
suedem

Is it elitist to expect a Presidential candidate (AND a gubernatorial candidate) have the character to finish college?

cjrautmann
cjrautmann

There's one basic problem with Scott Walker's policies.  

Wisconsin is near the bottom of the country in terms of job creation, and second from the bottom in terms of economic growth.  

Yes, he gets things done.  But it turns out those things are things that are really bad for the state economy.  

WHY do we want that kind of a person running the country?  

MollyBrown
MollyBrown

@August1953 Are you joking?  Scott Walker has been a complete failure.  When he campaigned to be governor all he said was jobs, jobs, jobs.  He claimed that he would create 250,000 jobs. So where are they?  Nowhere to be found.  

And Scott Walker privatised the Department of Commerce with the scandal ridden Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation or WEDC.  An audit showed that over $56 million of taxpayer money was gone and unaccounted for.  Grants were being given out to companies when they never created any jobs.  By some "coincidence" many of the companies getting these grants had given thousands to Walkers campaign coffers.  The Director of WEDC was given a 50% raise to now being paid $180,000 when he clearly has done NOTHING to deserve it.  Furthermore, the audit showed that government employees were using taxpayer money to buy alcohol, itunes and football tickets.  So where is the accountability for these actions?



mjshep
mjshep

@August1953 "The less fortunate were much better cared for before the advent of the 'War on Poverty.'" Do happen to have any proof of that assertion other than things you pull out of hot air?  In fact, the poor were in much more desperate shape before the government stepped in with social welfare programs.  That's why the government stepped in.  The idea that private philanthropy thrived, and people's needs by and large were met is a myth.  To move people from dependence to independence requires that there be decent jobs paying a living wage.  Where are the jobs?


August1953
August1953

@EliMiller I think that Scott Walker having received more votes in the recall election than he received when first elected, and having won by a larger margin, too, is worthy of being called a "landslide" victory.

crichardscpa
crichardscpa

@RichardFallis More great economic news today in WI because of our beloved guv, Scott Walker:  http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=301461

The message of Jesus Christ is that he died on the cross for our sins and that those who believe in HIM will have eternal life..... and those who do not .....  Your ST social justice solutions through gub'ment, many times, has been detrimental to the poor in the long run. See the many good studies on this by "black" economist Thomas Sowell and the Acton Institute.

LauraNo
LauraNo

@MollyBrown The entire republican party ran on jobs in 2012. They have since produced zero jobs bills. But hundreds of anti-abortion bills, hundreds of bills to repeal ObamaCare (colossal waste of money - as if Obama would ever sign such a thing!). They are jokers and their voters seem to approve, they'd rather rail at the number of people needing food stamps while doing their best to not grow the economy. It's a disgusting spectacle.

leothelioness
leothelioness

@MollyBrown Molly you have got it right! Walker doesn't care. He only has his sights on bigger things.  I don't believe that he dropped out though I think he was asked to leave, (to put it nicely). The only job he has created is the job we have to get him out of office in 2014!

crichardscpa
crichardscpa

@MollyBrown I live in Wisconsin, have an MBA degree, and find it refreshing to be lead by this man. You cannot believe the vicious, foul nature of the Left (oddly the teachers) here.  We thank Gov. Walker for revealing this to us and the nation.  It has been an eye opener.

August1953
August1953

@mjshep @August1953 Read Charles Murray's "Losing Ground" about the effects of the War on Poverty, then get back to me on that.

MollyBrown
MollyBrown

@crichardscpa @MollyBrown Are you kidding me?  The foul nature of the righties has been revealed thanks to Walker and his puppets.  Look at the insulting remarks made by the likes of teapublican Glen Grothman.  Further look at what Scott Walker did to security around the capitol.  He appointed one of his security guards to be head of capitol police and now they go around arresting people for simply holding up a sign.

MollyBrown
MollyBrown

@crichardscpa @MollyBrown Oh please stop pretending that you don't know.  Glen Grothman, among others, has made plenty of derogatory remarks about the demonstrators appearance and how they smell.  There is no justification for him or others to make those remarks.