Governor seeks less controversyWith one eye on the 2014 election, Gov. Scott Walker seems intent on toning down controversy in Wisconsin as he begins his third year in office.
By: By Matt Pommer, Superior Telegram
With one eye on the 2014 election, Gov. Scott Walker seems intent on toning down controversy in Wisconsin as he begins his third year in office.
Controversy marked his first two years in office, and he is expected to seek a second four-year term in 2014. In 2011, a Republican-controlled Legislature approved his plan to maim public-employee collective bargaining. Last June Walker survived a recall election.
Both events attracted national attention, giving Wisconsin a reputation as a volatile place to live and do business.
To no one’s surprise Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature in the November election. They won a 20-vote margin in the assembly and a three-vote margin in the state senate. That was expected — Republicans had drawn the boundary lines for the legislative districts.
But that’s only part of the picture. Democrats easily won Wisconsin’s presidential electoral votes despite U.S Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville, Wis., being the GOP vice-presidential candidate. Liberal Democrat Tammy Baldwin won the U.S. Senate seat defeating Republican Tommy Thompson who had won four gubernatorial elections.
While the GOP won Assembly seats, Democrats had a significant lead in the number of total votes cast in the 2012 assembly races.
Walker is struggling to focus media attention. Reporters repeatedly ask whether his legislative agenda includes a right-to-work provision to weaken private-sector unions. He replies he won’t ask for that type of legislation.
Reporters also continue to ask the governor and public officials for their views on assault weapons like the one involved in the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. Both Walker and Atty. Gen. J.B. Van Hollen have sidestepped questions on the topic.
The pro-gun lobby is a powerful force in Wisconsin elections so the gun questions test the political talents of both men. The killing of first graders may slow down the lobby’s efforts to loosen gun laws in Wisconsin this year.
The Michigan Legislature late this year had passed legislation to allow the carrying of concealed weapons in schools. The Newton massacre intervened and the bill got vetoed.
Walker would prefer to talk about opening mining in Wisconsin to create several thousand jobs in the state. Will he opt for bipartisan legislation created by State Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, or back ideas favored by mining companies?
Two years ago the governor backed the idea of undoing the 1971 merger of the state’s public colleges that created a single University of Wisconsin System. The merger was a Democratic idea pushed by then-Gov. Patrick Lucey. Walker hasn’t found many Democratic ideas that he likes. The notion of un-doing the merger was eventually dropped.
The governor is talking about reforming how state government operates. He also has suggested he may propose capping in-state UW System tuition. His Tea Party supporters may not like the approach if it means more tax dollars going to the university.
Another major spending issue is whether to adopt the expanded Medicaid coverage possible in the federal Affordable Health Care Act. His answer will lay the ground work for health care issues in his re-election bid.
One sign of a “toning down” of politics came when Walker dropped his idea of ending same-day voter registration in Wisconsin. The idea had received zero media support. Walker retreated after he learned it would cost the state more than $5 million to make the change.