On Inauguration Day in Madison on January 3, I had heard a protest against our new governor was taking place by Capitol Square. I told myself to go down and cover it, at least to see what was going on. As it was frigid and I just spent days traveling in trains, buses, and cars upon returning from the holidays, I was not feeling well. There were helicopters downtown that morning, making my pounding headache all the worse. Quite frankly, the prospect of being there depressed me.
Here’s a man, Scott Walker, whose reputation as Milwaukee County Executive precedes him.
As Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker has a long history of budget vetoes being overridden by the Milwaukee County Board. I recently spoke with several board members on this issue.
Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Lynne De Bruin (15th Dist.) voted to uphold Walker’s vetoes. She agrees that things will be different for Walker in Madison.
“He will find more agreement in a State Assembly and Senate that has also become Republican,” De Bruin said. “The majority of the county board is more liberal than Walker.”
In 2009, Walker also vetoed the spending of federal stimulus money in Milwaukee County. The county board also overrode this veto.
According to Marina Dimitrijevic, Milwaukee County Board Supervisor (4th Dist.), Walker has been ineffective at getting concessions from political foes in former job.
“In the seven years I’ve been on the board, we’ve overridden 50 to 70 percent of his vetoes,” Dimitrijevic said. She admits the playing field in Madison will be different.
Question: Who will override Walker now? Wisconsin was the only state in 2010 where the governor’s seat and both houses in the Legislature swung from one party to the other.
In his 2011 Budget Address for Milwaukee County, Walker touted his success in cutting spending.
“We reduced the government workforce by 25%, and overtime is down 12% since2002,” Walker said. “And we did this while maintaining high levels of service for county residents.”
Question: Is this really something to be proud of? When you implement similar policies statewide, how will this play towards your pledge of creating a quarter million new jobs in the state in your first term?
Governor Walker will face much less resistance with the new Republican majorities in Madison. Scot Ross, executive Director of One Wisconsin Now, thinks Walker will show his true colors when his own party is in charge.
“The fact that the county board overrode Walker’s Draconian cuts is not new,” Ross said. “It happens every year.”
Ross charges that Walker vetoes budgets with the full knowledge that the vetoes will be shot down, thus presenting little political risk while appeasing his conservative base.
“Now he and the right wing Legislature will own the budgets,” said Ross.
Why is this all so depressing? I’ll tell you why. I found myself saying repeatedly, “This man is ruining his administration before he even takes office.” He’s pledging to cut social programs when unemployment and poverty are the highest they’ve been in a generation or more. Another C.E.O.-type politician… Haven’t we learned? Was this Obama’s fault, or has Fox News just been doing their job? Didn’t Walker’s opponent save that lady from getting beaten up in a parking lot?
I digress. What really pissed me off was the purely political and unilateral rejection of $810 million in federal stimulus money that would have connected Madison to Milwaukee with high-speed rail. The money also would have gone to the Hiawatha line from Milwaukee to Chicago. Eventually, Obama’s plan was to connect Madison to the Twin Cities also.
The state has been set back six years (a governor’s term). All to save money for… no one? The money has already been marked to be spent on high speed rail! Other states quickly snapped up the federal funds. Walker did this in protest against gov’t spending! No “big government” for us in Wisconsin. In fact, no competent governance at all.
That’s unfair to poor Scott… After he realized the potential political problem, he tried to get the money to go for maintenance of Wisconsin’s interstate system. But it is against the law to spend this money on anything but high speed rail. Republicans then tried to blame the Obama Administration for not allowing them to break the law.
Question: Wouldn’t high-speed rail lead to new businesses along the route and more local travel/tourism/commerce in southern Wisconsin? Yes, dummy. How are those 250,000 new jobs coming along, Scott?
The moral of this story is that a political ploy to prevent Democrats from gaining a victory (by creating jobs) has led to things being worse for everyone. Good job, everyone. Did you vote? Did you know about this issue? The fact that this person is our governor reflects poorly on our education system, media, our curiosity, and our morals.
AND ONE MORE THING… (IN CAPS BECAUSE I’M YELLING)
Here’s an excerpt from a story I’m working on:
The University of Wisconsin-Madison made a commitment to convert its coal-fired physical plant to one that uses natural gas and biomass fuel. The plan to decommission coal boilers at the plant, replacing them with two gas boilers and one biomass fuel boiler, is under way. The sources of biomass fuel will include wood, switchgrass and crops (and crop waste) from Wisconsin.
According to Physical Plant Director John Harrod, Jr., this project is abiding by a new set of federal standards on emissions controls currently being published and received by the Environmental Protection Agency, called Maximum Available Control Technology (MACT).
“This will be taking us out of the coal business altogether by next summer,” said Harrod.
Walker is now halting the production of the new biomass fuel boiler. What is happening? Is this anti-intellectualism? Where is our spirit of ingenuity? More to come on this…
Good job, Wisconsin… Backward!!!