October 22, 2014

Walker, Burke make closing arguments in final debate

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and GOP Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and GOP Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The two candidates for governor field questions about jobs numbers, the state budget, education costs, taxes, the Kenosha casino, the economy, and whether to criminalize first offense drunk driving.

The city of Milwaukee gets a lot of attention, with questions about central city violence, unemployment among African Americans, and an arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Governor Scott Walker’s predecessor sees even more attention from the current chief executive. “In the last three years,” Walker says while defending his jobs numbers, “we created twice as many jobs as were created during the three years that my opponent was in charge of the Department of Commerce under Governor Doyle.”

In an effort to compare his Democratic challenger Mary Burke to former Governor Jim Doyle, Walker references Burke’s former boss multiple times. “With the number of times that Governor Walker has mentioned Jim Doyle,” Burke quips, “it’s clear that he’d be running against him than me.”

Burke and Walker differ on drunk driving

Burke says first time offense for driving drunk should be a misdemeanor, saying there needs to be more consequences for the thousands of alcohol-related crashes on Wisconsin roadways. In addition to avoidable deaths, “This is costing our society a lot of money along with the type of personal injury that it causes.”

Republican Governor Scott Walker says it’s a “tragic” issue, but criminalizing first time offenders isn’t the answer. He says the focus needs to be on those who are on the road multiple times driving drunk. “That’s something we have to crack down on,” he says, “Those first time offenders … criminalizing that isn’t the answer. It’s going after repeat offenders.”

Walker says this is an issue that Republicans and Democrats at the Capitol can work on together.

AUDIOOne non-scripted moment came when the clock malfunctioned. :44

Disagreement on the Kenosha casino debate

The high-stakes issue of expanding gaming in Wisconsin gets a lot of attention among the two gubernatorial candidates. Burke says an impartial study is needed before making a decision on a proposal for an off-reservation casino in Kenosha, saying it’s important to look at the impact on Kenosha, Milwaukee, and the state over all.

“I have said that if it shows that it creates a significant number of new jobs and it adds to Wisconsin’s employment and tax base, that I would approve that casino.”

Burke says she will make a decision and won’t “kick the can down the road” like her opponent.

Meanwhile, Walker says he’s done a lot to increase jobs in the area, but says the biggest issue holding up the Kenosha casino project is the tribal compacts his predecessor Governor Jim Doyle negotiated. Walker says he’ll take the time to get it right, so the state doesn’t lose money on the deal. “We’re gonna take the full amount of time that we need to … to make sure we can get to a point where we can create those jobs. We can have a win, win, win. Create the jobs there, protect the jobs in other parts of the state, and make sure we do that without creating a $100,000 hole in the state budget.”

AUDIO: Burke closing argument 2:47

AUDIO: Walker closing argument 3:06

The small percentage of independent voters have just two weeks to make up their minds before Election Day. Walker and Burke continue to say a win in this hotly-contested race will depend largely on voter turn-out. Both candidates have been running head-to-head in polls, with the most recent Marquette University Law School Poll showing them at 47 percent each among likely voters.

The two candidates met in Milwaukee for an event that was sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and was broadcasts statewide on television and radio. Burke and Walker were questioned by a panel of broadcast journalists. Burke and Walker met the week before for their first debate in Eau Claire.

Walker, Burke differ on significance of abortion debate among voters

Mary Burke, Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Mary Burke, Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is pro-life, says voters don’t want to belabor the abortion issue. “You guys are asking a lot of interesting questions that quite honestly I don’t hear anyone ask.” He says people who talk to him on the campaign trail prefer to talk about jobs and education.

During a meeting with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board on Tuesday (jsonline video), Walker said people who talk to him on the campaign trail have other priorities. The following day, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, who is pro-choice, met with the same editorial board, whose meeting was streamed live on its website.

Burke said people do want to discuss women’s health — and abortion. “I think people do care. And the fact that there are ads running on TV I think indicates that it is a subject that is important to people.”

And not just women. Burke says men who have daughters want them to have options, the right to make their own decisions about their bodies.

Some arguments include a mandated 24-hour waiting period before having an abortion, a required ultrasound, and bans on abortions after 20 weeks. Walker and Burke agree on parental consent of minors.

The two candidates meet for the second of two debates tonight in Milwaukee.

Mary Burke downplays ties to former boss Jim Doyle

Then-Governor Jim Doyle introduces his new Commerce Secretary Mary Burke. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Then-Governor Jim Doyle introduces his new Commerce Secretary Mary Burke. (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke appears to be distancing herself from former Governor Jim Doyle, with whom she worked for nearly three years.

During a meeting with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board Wednesday, Burke said she hasn’t sought advice from the man who appointed her as his Commerce Department secretary in 2005. “I talk to Governor Doyle, uh, infrequently.”

Burke said she hardly communicates with her former boss at all. “Not even once a month,” saying it’s been only a “few times” since she got into the race. Doyle was first elected in 2002 and served two terms as Wisconsin’s chief executive. Burke said, “I have a lot of good people on my team and I get a lot of good advice.”

Governor Scott Walker, who doesn’t talk about Burke by name, frequently compares his opponent’s policies to those of his predecessor — even mentioning him four times in last Friday’s debate. Walker says electing Burke would be essentially a third term for Doyle.

For her part, Burke said there were things on which she and Doyle did not see “eye to eye,” including raids to the transportation fund and large increases to college tuition.

Burke and Walker are tied in the latest Marquette University Law School poll that was released on Wednesday.

Burke says plagiarism accusations slowed campaign momentum

Mary Burke rallies her supporters in Madison (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Mary Burke rallies her supporters in Madison (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

When pressed about earlier accusations of copying parts of her jobs plan, first reported by BuzzFeed, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said criticisms are just a matter of ‘politics as usual.’

During a meeting with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board Wednesday, Burke said she took the claims seriously and responded immediately. “I was on it from day one. I remember because I was on the phone and doing interviews the first day that it came out.” She says, “That’s politics. This was no doubt politically motivated to take the attention off some really bad job numbers that were released at the exact same time.”

A consultant, who worked for several Democratic candidates, was blamed for using his own words in multiple campaigns. Though, Burke said, “It’s definitely my plan.”

In her defense, Burke had said she wants to bring the best ideas to Wisconsin and “I don’t care where they’re coming from.”  She also said last month, “As governor, I am going to welcome ideas from other places — the best ideas, the best practices.”

Burke said at today’s meeting the snafu probably slowed the momentum of her campaign as she strives to replace first term Governor Scott Walker on November 4th. “Yeah, sure. It had an impact, but there are three weeks to go on this. This is how politics go. This is how campaigns go.”

Turnout will be the key to winning the election. Just minutes after Burke made her comments, the Marquette University Law School poll released its latest findings, showing Burke and Walker tied.

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Governor Walker considers revamping the gas tax

(PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

(PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Governor Scott Walker floats the idea of replacing the traditional gas tax with a sales tax on gasoline and alternative fuels for vehicles, saying it could help stabilize the state transportation fund as it faces a $680 million shortfall in the next biennial budget.

Walker gave scant details on his plan during an editorial meeting with the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday, but elaborates a bit on Tuesday when meeting with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board and reporters.

Walker points out fuel-efficient vehicles don’t generate enough revenue from the gas tax. “The gas tax is based on gallons of gas purchased,” he says. “As the gallons of gas go down, the gas tax collections go down, even though those vehicles put the same wear and tear – if not more – on the roads and infrastructure.”

Craig Thompson heads the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association. He says more information is needed on the proposal. “Well, without knowing all the details, it’s a little hard to say, but there are other states in the country who have looked at these sorts of things.”

Walker suggests his idea would be a more stable source of revenue, rather than relying on fuel usage. A bipartisan state transportation commission has recommended, among other things, an increase in the state gas tax and a higher driver’s license registration fee to help generate revenue to maintain the state’s roadways. Those ideas were rejected by Republicans.

Thompson says he needs more details before he can fully comprehend or comment on the governor’s proposal. “I think you have to give the governor credit for putting some ideas on the table. Many of the media have asked both candidates to do that and he’s started that conversation.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke doesn’t like the idea, which would make fuel taxes for motorists go up or down based on the fluctuation of prices at the pump, rather than hinging on the actual amount of gas pumped into the tank. “Pegging it and having it be a sales tax rather than on a gallon of gas actually subjects it to wide fluctuations because of the changes in prices of gas. So, I think it probably doesn’t work very well. I would be looking to address the real issue.”

Walker’s idea comes just three weeks before he faces Democrat Mary Burke in the general election November 4th.