Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came to Springfield Tuesday morning, to compare himself favorably to two Illinois politicians: Pat Quinn and Abraham Lincoln.
Walker never mentioned Quinn by name -- he referred only the “Democrat leadership” in Illinois -- but he said he had balanced his budget without tax increases, while Illinois’s income tax hike has failed to eliminate our state’s deficit.
Walker, who is facing a recall election in June, spoke to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
The “starkest contrast” between Madison and Springfield is this, he said: “Ilinois and Wisconsin, like nearly every other state, had big deficits. We had a $3.7 billion deficit. Other states are going to make poor decisions on how to balance the budget. We avoided tax increases.”
After Illinois raised its income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent last year, Walker and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels visited Chicago, on a mission to poach businesses for their states. Walker held up an old “Escape to Wisconsin” tourism bumper sticker.
“A year later, after we balanced a $3.6 billion budget deficit, things haven’t gotten any better in Springfield,” he said. “When you raise taxes on business and individuals, it drives away wealth.”
Walker also pointed out that Wisconsin added $1.2 billion to Medicaid, while Illinois is considering cutting the program by twice that amount, as well as laying off public employees.
“Tax increases did not work,” he concluded. “We put in place long term structural reforms that allowed us not only to balance our state budget but our local governmental budgets as well. We thought about the next generation.”
Wisconsin’s recall election is a result of Walker stripping public employees of the right to collective bargaining. The crowd outside his speech was far larger than the crowd inside, as thousands of union members protested the governor’s appearance in Illinois. Walker addressed his enemies in the labor movement directly.
“Members of my fan club are outside, many of whom were bused into Wisconsin last year,” he said.
As a result of Wisconsin’s new labor laws, Walker said, school districts can bid out health insurance contracts, saving “tens of thousands” for instruction. Seniority and tenure have been eliminated, meaning “we can put the best and brightest in classrooms. What we did is pro-education, because it’s about the kids, not about bureaucracy.”
With no more union contracts, teachers can deal directly with administrators. Walker quoted a superintendent who’d told him how grateful he was that he could now focus on “curriculum, not grievances.”
“Who’s in charge?” Walker asked. “Is it a handful of union bosses or the taxpayers? I don’t know about you, but I choose the taxpayers every time.”
Walker then blamed the recall election on “a handful of big government union bosses, not just in my state but in Washington, (who) think I’m standing in the way of their power and their money.”
Walker predicted he would win the recall, then invoked Lincoln, another controversial politician who’d had “the courage to move the state forward.”
“What has made America great is that we’ve had men and women who’ve had the courage to think about their children and their grandchildren, not about their political careers,” he said.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!