It’s official! After doing everything he could to destroy the former progressive state of Wisconsin, its governor has announced his candidacy so that he can annihilate the United States. Scott Walker’s presidential announcement is about a month late because he waited until he got the $72 billion biennial budget bill from the Wisconsin legislature—something he hoped would happen a month ago.
In the latest YouGov.com poll, the top of the 15 declared candidates is unabashed racist Donald Trump. Walker will have to go a long way to out-trump Trump, but he’s worked hard to do this. Here are some of his outstanding efforts, starting with his most current budget that slashes $127 from K-12 education and $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System. In the past, Walker complained about including non-budget items in the bill, but he has recovered from this problem as these inclusions show:
- Repeals tenure in the university system.
- Advances school vouchers and the corporate privatization of Wisconsin public schools.
- Eliminates a long-standing provision in state law requiring the minimum wage to be a true “living wage.” (At this time, the minimum wage is $7.25 that the governor’s office claims to be a “living wage.”)
- Opens a giant loophole in the state law that mandates one rest day per week for many blue-collar workers.
- Lowers wages for construction workers in the state by drastically reducing the scope of the state’s prevailing wage laws.
- Allows payday lenders full reign to prey on low-wage workers by expanding their authority to sell additional financial products and services such as insurance and annuities while allowing them to give financial advice.
- Weakens the state’s lead paint standard.
- Prohibits any town or county from demanding more insurance from pipeline companies to cover possible spills.
- Includes public policy provisions without public hearings or public input.
Among his 104 line-item vetoes to the budget, Walker axed more than $1 million in grants for environmental groups, a tourism plan, overhaul to long-term care programs such as Family Care, and tax exemption for construction to municipalities and nonprofit groups. He vetoed speeding up the termination of a long-running state program for assistance in cleaning up leaking underground fuel storage tanks. Another veto killed a requirement that half the money for the state from selling public land be set aside for future land purchases because Walker wants all the money to go to paying off debts. His removal of a provision limiting mandated drug tests to applicants with “reasonable suspicion” makes the state ripe for a lawsuit based on the law’s unconstitutionality.
The budget leaves a deficit of $490 million, and his promise to increase jobs in the state and pushing through a “right-to-work,” anti-union law has ranked Wisconsin 42nd in wage growth, the lowest in the Midwest. The budget has only two victories: removing the open records law and preserving the governance structure of the state’s retirement system oversight board may preserve it as one of the best-funded and best-managed pension systems in the nation.
Earlier this year, Walker skipped more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books with a $283 million deficit. Fortunately for the governor, delaying the payment didn’t require legislative approval. His action increases debt-service bills by $545,000 next year and $18.7 million the year after that.
One way Walker attempted to save money, at least for the short-term, was to cut food stamp benefits. One 65-year-old woman saw her monthly benefits go from $120 to $16 without any notification. She found the reduction came from her lack of documenting her heating costs with a utility bill. When Congress changed the way that states factor utility costs for food stamp eligibility, most states took action to prevent cutting benefits. Wisconsin didn’t, and 255,000 families, mostly seniors and people with disabilities, lost much of their benefits.
Food stamps were an obsession of the Wisconsin legislature last May as they concentrated on what to eliminate from the diets of poor people. At the top were lobster, shell-fish, and shrimp, but the list didn’t stop there. Willing to spend several million dollars for implementation of their micromanaging food stamp purchases, the “food police” tried to ban red and yellow potatoes, nuts, trail mix, herbs and seasonings, jarred spaghetti sauce, soups, salsa, ketchup, sauerkraut, pickles, dried beans sold in bulk, white or albacore tuna (permitting “light tuna”), and canned beans, except for green, wax or yellow. In Wisconsin, the land of cheese, the program eliminated types of cheese—no large blocks, no shredded, and no sharp. The legislature wasted their time because the plan couldn’t go into effect without a federal waiver.
Walker’s failure to gut the open records law by concealing special interests influencing legislature and other public records was a blow to the governor. The move came from a lawsuit after the governor withheld “search for truth” and the “Wisconsin Idea” from the university’s mission. Walker would also like to hide the fact that his creation, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, handed out more than $124 million to Wisconsin business without any formal staff review. The documents on these gifts, under Walker’s oversight, were made public in late June. These 27 awards, expected to create over 6,100 jobs, caused only 2,100 additional positions. Major Wisconsin newspapers published nothing about this fraud.
Walker is also facing an investigation into whether his 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with nonprofit groups. According to the Center for Media & Democracy’s PRWatch, “Prosecutors gathered evidence of Walker secretly raising millions of dollars for the supposedly ‘independent’ nonprofit Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG), with the express purpose of bypassing campaign finance disclosure laws.” The same prosecutor is investigating whether one or two of the supreme court justices are implicated in the same kind of scheme because two groups suspected of coordinating with Walker’s campaign also spent $10 million to elect the four-justice conservative majority. Walker accused the investigation of being a “witch hunt,” but the prosecutor, a Republican who had voted for Walker, assured him it was not.
Republican prosecutors gathered evidence of Walker bypassing campaign finance disclosure laws by secretly raising millions of dollars for the supposedly “independent” nonprofit WiCFG. The group spent at least $9.1 million during the recall elections and funneled at least $10 million more to other politically-active groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WM&C) while reporting to the IRS that it spent $0. A John Doe investigation already led to convictions of six of Walker’s former aides on charges of illegal coordination, embezzlement, and corruption as well as secretly working on his campaign while they were on the clock as state employees. (More information here.)
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin may be right about the government has only two branches—omitting the court system—because of the election of judges. Thanks to a vote by the people of Wisconsin (aka the “legislature”), the state Supreme Court’s chief justice is now elected by the court instead of being the longest-serving justice, changed after 150 years. And thanks to the conservative machinations of Walker’s regime, the conservatives are in the court’s majority. Since then, newly elected conservative (and misnamed) Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has ignored the agreed-upon calendar. When some justices were not available for Roggensack’s revisions, she told them they could email her “their votes” so that they didn’t appear to have “withdrawn” from the cases she had scheduled at her special meeting. No discussion was necessary because the four right-wing justices are in the majority. Roggensack was also elected through an email vote.
Luckily for Walker, Roggensack has already decided not to have a hearing on the investigation into Walker and the two justices. The four conservative justices also won’t recuse themselves from deciding whether the John Doe investigation should be shut down even if two parties to the case are involved. The WiCFG and WM&C spent $7.6 million to help elect these four justices, providing 76 percent of the support for David Prosser, 69 percent of support for Justice Michael Gableman, 59 percent of the spending for Justice Annette Ziegler, and 48 percent for Roggensack. If they kill the Doe, justice will definitely be on sale in Wisconsin.
In his for governor last fall, Walker promised that he would serve out a four-year term if he were elected. “You have to be crazy to want to be president,” he said while claiming that he could wait 20 years and be only the same age as Hillary Clinton during her current presidential campaign. Immediately after telling his Wisconsin constituency that he “was going to do the best job I can over the next four years,” he started traveling throughout the United States and the globe, abandoning the legislature to its budget fights.
Of the four trips taken within five months of his inauguration, three were paid by taxpayers. The GOP Jewish Coalition paid for the fourth visit to Israel. Just Britain cost his constituents $138,200, and he was ridiculed for refusing to answer if he believes in the scientific theory of evolution. Since then Walker tried to keep reporters from following him, and his itinerary in Canada was kept secret. He failed to attend a news conference that focused on climate change and the health of the Great Lakes. (For the geographically-challenged, Wisconsin borders Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.)
Walker has done so much damage to Wisconsin that this is only Part I. The next two days will describe more about Wisconsin’s downhill spiral, thanks to Gov. Scott Walker, now GOP presidential candidate.