Out on the national hustings, Scott Walker may be a darling
of the Republican right, but in Wisconsin, where he is governor,
he’s in trouble.
In the cheese-head state, Walker has pulled a Brownback.
He’s a candidate for the party’s presidential nomination and at
home, where he most needs his friends, he has irked them.
Republicans in Wisconsin – among them the Senate major-
ity leader and Speaker of the State Assembly – are among
Walker’s leading critics, saying his budget proposals are more
about appealing to voters in primary election states than what
is good for the state’s economy.
It seems that Walker has pulled more than one page straight
from the Brownback notebook. When pressed for answers, he
offers diversions. While the state’s economy takes a nose-dive,
Walker pushes for loosening tenure protection for professors,
banning abortions after 20 weeks, and requiring drug testing
for welfare recipients.
Where have we already seen this?
The Wisconsin Legislature is in a stalemate, running into
overtime. Among contentious issues is how to pay for badly
needed road and bridge repairs. Many Republicans say citizens
would not object to selective tax increases to pay for the work.
Walker, sticking to his “No-tax” mantra, instead proposed the
state borrow $1.3 billion for the road work.
.Adding more than a billion dollars to the state’s debt load is
irresponsible, some Republicans said. The governor’s dispute
with the Legislature is over the Wisconsin economy, with GOP
lawmakers favoring investments in education and infrastruc-
ture, and a strident Walker insisting on no tax increases.
The Wisconsin budget office, a non-partisan agency, said
earlier this year that the state could save $345 million over two
years by enacting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable
Care Act. Walker, unlike his neighboring governors, refused,
taking his script the Brownback way, straight from the
American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing think
tank that writes policy and legislation to be adopted nearly
ver batim, and the Koch-financed American Policy Institute.
Walker then offered debt-financing to fill a widening hole in
the Wisconsin transportation budget, which had been robbed to
stem budget deficits created by tax cuts. (Brownback‘s bonding
scheme, which has been approved, is for $1 billion to fund gaps
in the public employee pension system, and to play the stock
market for profits to diminish part of Kansas’ $400 million
deficit next year.)
In addition to filling holes in the Wisconsin transportation
budget with debt financing, Walker also cut $300 million in
funding for the University of Wisconsin system – another cue
from the Brownback-Koch camp. Brownback threatened a
$300 million cut in state university funding but did not act on it
because Kansas lawmakers caved in to his bullying, and voted
$300 million in various tax increases.
Wisconsin’s reaction to Walker’s threat is not so timid. “The
university doesn’t deserve this cut,” said Senator Luther Olsen,
a Republican. Legislators there voted last month to restore $50
million of Walker’s cuts. “We are fools if we go around bashing
one of the best things in the state of Wisconsin.”
The New York Times reports that the national Walker boasts
far more conservative credentials than the Wisconsin Walker,
saying, for example, that he “demanded” the 20-week abortion
ban when, in fact, he begged Republicans to send him a bill. He
boasts of crafting and signing the state’s anti-union “right-to-
work” legislation this year; in fact, he lied to his closest union
allies to gain their support for his 2014 reelection, then double-
crossed them by signing a bill that busts unions in a state with
an economy still reliant on organized labor.
The wrangling in Wisconsin goes on, but you get the idea
– after all, it comes from the same playbook that Brownback
used, a script ever-faithful to the conservative dogma of ALEC,
as edited by the billionaire Kochs.
Have we forgotten how to govern on our own?
– JOHN MARSHALL