October 24, 2014

Governor Walker won’t push right to work agenda

Governor Scott Walker talks to reporters (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Governor Scott Walker says, if elected to a second term, he will specifically tell lawmakers not to pursue right to work legislation, nor will he expand the Act-10 collective bargaining restrictions to fire fighters and police.

Walker says such a debate would “bring back the whole firestorm again,” referring the massive protests over Act 10 at the Capitol in 2011. “It’s not even just about whether I think the policy is good or bad, it’s about the tenor and the tone of the legislature and what it means ultimately to the state as a whole.”

AUDIOWalker says he won’t pursue right to work legislation, if elected to a second term, nor will he expand the Act-10 collective bargaining restrictions to fire fighters and police. Though, he doesn’t regret making the changes in 2011. :19

The governor says making any further changes to Act 10 “opens up a whole other can of worms.” He says, “And so, I’m saying it right here, I’m not gonna just quietly say it, I’m gonna say it to people who are listening in or watching, that’s my focal point, particularly when it comes to issues that would reinvigorate the kind of debate we had a few years ago.”

“It was tough,” Walker says, but stands by his signature legislation. His biggest regret is acting on it too quickly before adequately explaining it.

The governor spoke about several hot issues with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s editorial board on Tuesday.

Mary Burke: No new taxes

Mary Burke (Photo: WRN, file)

Mary Burke (Photo: WRN, file)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke says she will not raise taxes, if she wins the election in November. The Madison school board member wants to cut taxes for middle class families.

Burke was asked during a conference call whether she’d increase taxes on the wealthy to achieve that goal. “I’m not going to increase taxes on anyone.” Burke says she’s focused on growing the economy. “As the economy grows my focus will be on reducing taxes for working and middle class families.”

Meanwhile, Governor Walker’s office is touting the latest revenue numbers. An analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows actual revenue collections for the first quarter of the current fiscal year are up $55.3 million above projections.

Walker is projecting a balanced state budget by the end of the biennium.

Scott Walker and Mary Burke show stark differences in first debate (AUDIO)

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 first debate in the race for governor highlighted some strong differences between Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, with the two candidates going back and forth on issues that included job creation, voter ID, and state finances. Meeting Friday night in Eau Claire for the first of two debates this campaign season, Walker and Burke both opened with statements that focused on the growth of jobs and the economy in Wisconsin over past four years.

Burke criticized Walker on his pledge to create 250,000 jobs during his first term in office, which she called “a broken promise” highlighted by Wisconsin being “dead last in the Midwest in terms of job creation.” Walker fired back, accusing Burke of using outdated figures for her claim and pointing to new numbers that show Wisconsin is in the top five for the region in adding jobs. He also criticized Wisconsin’s job growth when Burke served as state Commerce Secretary, under then-Governor Jim Doyle. Walker said his pledge “aimed high,” and that the state has still come a long way since he took office.

On the minimum wage, Burke argued that the state’s rate of $7.25 an hour is not enough to live on and that Wisconsin should increase it. Walker side-stepped a direct question on whether he believes it’s a family supporting wage, saying he wants to focus on getting people into jobs that pay much more than the minimum wage through expanding worker training and other programs.

AUDIO: Gov. Walker offers his view on the minimum wage (:17)

When the debate shifted to abortion, Walker stood by his pro-life stance, but deflected questions over his previous statements in support of banning abortion in cases of rape and incest. Walker said “that issue’s been resolved. That was decided by the United State Supreme Court more than 40 years ago.” Burke accused Walker of “trying to have it both ways” with a position that’s “anything but reasonable.”

AUDIO: Mary Burke criticizes the Governor’s record on abortion (:23)

Both candidates said they intended to serve a full four-year term in office if elected. Burke, a former executive at Trek Bicycles, said she “would love to be the longest serving governor in the state of Wisconsin.” Walker, who is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, said “my plan is, if the people of the state of Wisconsin elect me on November 4th, is to be here for four years.”

The one largely unscripted moment came near the end of the debate, when the candidates were asked to describe a quality of their opponent that is a positive to leading the state. Walker was quick to respond, remarking on Burke’s philanthropic work with the Boys and Girls Club. Burke briefly stumbled, eventually complementing Walker on his “work around domestic abuse.”

AUDIO: The candidates compliment each other (:36)

In terms of why voters should elect them, Governor Walker made the case that the state has improved dramatically since he took office, pointing to the lower unemployment rate, business growth, tax cuts, and a budget surplus. Burke argued though that the state’s recovery has not worked under Walker’s “top down approach,” and that families have not been better of under his policies.

Walker and Burke will meet in one more debate, Friday October 17 in Milwaukee.

U.S. Supreme Court blocks Wisconsin’s voter ID law

File photo

File photo

Less than one month before Election Day, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Wisconsin cannot require voters to show a government-issued photo identification when they request a ballot.

Wisconsin’s photo ID law for voting was ruled constitutional on Monday by the federal appeals court in Chicago, but the American Civil Liberty Union immediately went to the Supreme Court seeking an emergency request to block the ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ACLU sought to put the law back on hold before November, arguing there’s not enough time to prepare voters. In response, justices issued an order late Thursday evening blocking the law from taking effect.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas dissented in the decision to put the requirement back on hold, saying there was no evidence the appeals court had “erred in its application of acceptable standards.”

The order is just the latest chapter in a rather dramatic history for the voter ID law. The requirement, approved by the Legislature in 2011, was in effect for a single primary election in February of 2012. It was put on hold by a Dane County judge shortly after that, with further orders blocking its enforcement. Despite the state Supreme Court upholding the law earlier this year, it had remained on hold until September because of the ongoing federal challenge.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen released the following statement, following Thursday night’s decision:

I believe the voter ID law is constitutional, and nothing in the Court’s order suggests otherwise.  Instead, the Court may have been concerned that even with the extraordinary efforts of the clerks, absentee ballots that were distributed before the 7th Circuit declared the law valid might not be counted. We will be exploring alternatives to address the Court’s concern and have voter ID on election day. 

ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis expressed relief:

“The ACLU of Wisconsin is profoundly relieved that the Supreme Court has halted the state’s ill-advised rush to implement the voter ID requirement. Thanks to this ruling, our clients and the many other voters without ID will be able to vote on November 4 without unnecessary obstacles.”

The state Government Accountability Board was set to launch a $400,000 public education campaign to help ensure voters were aware of the photo ID requirement before November 4. The future of that effort remained uncertain as of Thursday night and a GAB spokesman declined to comment, directing questions to the state Department of Justice.

WRN’s Andrew Beckett contributed to this story.

GAB head responds to calls to eliminate his agency

Kevin Kennedy (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Kevin Kennedy (FILE PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the Government Accountability Board, says his group is “focused on administering the upcoming election,” and won’t respond to personal comments.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Tuesday said the GAB — which oversees elections, campaign finance, lobbying laws, and investigates ethics violations — is “dysfunctional, unresponsive, and totally undemocratic.”

When questioned by reporters the next day about Vos’ harsh comments, Governor Scott Walker said the issue is “not even on my radar,” but he’d look at it in the future if necessary. “From our standpoint, we’ll certainly look at it. But for us, it’s just not a priority.”

At a WisPolitics luncheon Tuesday, Speaker Vos singled out Kennedy, saying he “has to go” because “he is an embarrassment.”

Kennedy said in a statement “Speaker Vos’ statement contained several factual errors,” so the GAB is “developing a way to advise the speaker and members of the Legislature of the correct information.”

Coming out of a bioscience conference in Madison, the governor said citizens are more interested in the economy than whether to dismantle the elections agency. “Again, that’s one that I haven’t really spent much time or effort looking at that. It’s certainly something to look at in the future if that came up.” Walker says he’s focused right now on issues more relevant to Wisconsin residents.

Among other things, Vos is upset with the GAB’s new ballot design for November’s election.

Walker said he hasn’t had a conversation with Vos about those concerns.

The GAB is made up of six former judges, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.