September 23, 2015

What’s next for Walker and Wisconsin?

By: Sen. Lena Taylor

Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign went supernova. At first, he exploded onto the national political scene, but it didn’t last long. His early exit from the race leaves Wisconsinites wondering, “Now what?”

To see where Walker will take us, we should first look at where we’ve been.

Just look at what Walker did to Wisconsin in his transparent effort to position himself as the national darling of the far right of the right-wing party. Walker started with a bang. In 2011, when governors all over the country were clamoring for any help they could get from the federal government to stimulate their economy, Governor Walker turned away over $800 million to create a high speed rail infrastructure between Madison and Milwaukee.

His venomous attitude towards all federal government programs extended to a refusal to create a state health care exchange under ObamaCare and a refusal to accept over $300 million federal Medicaid expansion funds. That money would have created thousands of jobs and expanded healthcare coverage to tens of thousands of his own constituents.

It seemed as if President Barack Obama did it, Walker hates it. But his hostility extended beyond Obama. Walker was quick to announce his failed pledge that he’d create 250,000 jobs in his first term as governor and just as swift to attack workers and their job security. Through Act 10, Walker took away public employee unions’ ability to negotiate over wages, benefits and workplace conditions. In just a few years, he followed that up by doing the same thing to private sector unions, fulfilling his now infamous gaffe where he stated his intention to “divide and conquer.” Walker’s attack on workers, however, didn’t end there. His most recent war on workers rolled back the clock on Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law.

Snubbing his nose at Obama, the federal government and workers wasn’t all Walker did to position himself for the presidency. Walker took Wisconsin, a state known for its motto of “forward,” backwards in several other key areas as well. The state that is home to the founder of Earth Day is also the home to a governor who gave a sweetheart deal to wealthy political donors to strip mine a large piece of the earth in northern Wisconsin. It gets worse. He took his extremism to social issues by passing a bill to ban abortion after 20-weeks, including in the case of the life and health of the mother.

There’s more. Amongst political inside circles, there’s talk that Governor Walker likes to urge his senior staff to come up with “bold” ideas. Unfortunately for the people of Wisconsin, those almost are “extremist” ideas. Take for example, Governor Walker’s unwitting attempt to brand himself as the most anti-public education governor in American history. On his watch, Walker made the largest cut to K-12 public education in the history of Wisconsin and followed it up with a $250 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! Despite those huge cuts to public education, Governor Walker somehow found millions of dollars to expand Wisconsin’s voucher school program.

So, now that he’s finally done running for president, what’s Walker’s next move? Many hope that Governor Walker’s national aspirations are behind him and that he’ll finally prioritize job creation for Wisconsin rather than thinking about his own employment opportunities. I’m not one of those people. As they say in politics, it’s not what you did yesterday, it’s about what you can do tomorrow. Governor Walker has a tremendous opportunity to put his political ambitions aside and start working for all the people of Wisconsin. But I’m not very optimistic that tomorrow is going to be any better than yesterday. The ball is in Governor Walker’s court.

The polls are clear. Governor Walker’s approval rating in Wisconsin tanked right along with his national numbers. His options are also clear. He can continue to appease the far right-wing of the Republican Party and divide Wisconsin, or he can get to work creating jobs and uniting Wisconsin.

Which option do you think he’ll choose?