My column for the West Bend Daily News is up.
Walker has earned another four years
Governor’s race outcome will come down to turnout
Wisconsinites are already heading to the polls for the general election with the start of early voting Monday. If the polls are accurate, most voters made up their mind about the governor’s race long ago and very few are going to change their minds. What will matter most is who, and how many, decides to get off their duff and vote. When we wake up Nov. 5, the result will look obvious with the benefit of hindsight, but as we peer into the near future, obvious is not the word that comes to mind.
I will go to the polls to cast my vote for Scott Walker for the third time in four years. Frankly, given the progress that Wisconsin has made during Walker’s first term, I see no reason to replace him — especially with a Madison one-percenter who hasn’t been employed for the better part of a decade.
Walker signed a tremendous amount of consequential legislation since becoming governor. Walker signed the bill finally allowing for concealed carry in Wisconsin. This came after concealed carry had thrice been thwarted by Democrats in the past few years despite strong public support for it and 48 other states already allowing it. Almost 250,000 Wisconsinites are now permitted to exercise their right to carry a concealed weapon.
One cannot write about Walker’s record without mentioning Act 10 and its impact on the state. For the first time in generations, Act 10 allowed all levels of government to get a handle on the largest component of most government budgets — personnel costs. Here in West Bend, we have seen the tools made available by Act 10 used by the county, city and school district. For the first time since anyone can remember, almost every unit of government is talking about frozen or declining tax levies. Meanwhile, government services are as good as or better than they have ever been.
On taxes, Walker has signed multiple tax cuts, thus putting billions of dollars back into citizens’ pockets. He reduced and simplified the state income tax. He signed multiple property tax cuts.
Perhaps most impressively, Walker signed legislation reducing the tax withholding tables by 10 percent. While not a tax cut, it reduced the penchant of state government withholding too much from every Wisconsinites’ paychecks just to give it back to the taxpayers in the form of a tax refund. Taxpayers are able to keep more of their own money instead of being forced to give it to the state government as an interestfree loan.
Even with these substantial tax cuts and increasing state spending in two consecutive budgets (something with which I vehemently disagree), the state’s financial standing has not been this good in years. The state of Wisconsin finished its last fiscal year with a $517 million surplus. If the history of this governor is any guide, a good chunk of that surplus is likely to end up back in the pockets of taxpayers in the form of even more tax cuts. Meanwhile, all of Wisconsin’s priorities are being generously funded including the rainy day fund, which is 16,500 percent greater than it was the first day Walker sat in the capitol as governor.
In the area of education, Wisconsin is surging ahead. High school graduation rates have improved since Walker became governor. Our students’ ACT scores, which have historically been high, now rank second in the nation. Third-grade reading scores are up. Walker’s support for the expansion of school choice has led to opportunities for thousands of kids to find and fund the educational option in which they can succeed. As people around the nation complained about the skyrocketing cost of college education, Walker did something about it by enacting a freeze on tuition for the past two years. This freeze has saved college kids and their families millions of dollars and Walker proposed to continue the freeze and expand it to technical colleges.
On the economy, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.5 percent. That is the lowest unemployment rate since 2008 and almost half a point below the national average. Under Walker, the state has added 111,000 private sector jobs.
Despite the massive upheaval in Wisconsin when the liberals revolted and forced a recall election where the citizens of Wisconsin affirmed their support for Walker, the state is better off than it was four years ago. Unemployment is down. There are more jobs. Taxes are down. Civil rights are expanding. Education is improving. The state budget is running at a surplus while responsible local governments are using Act 10 to balance their budgets while cutting taxes.
Could it be better? Sure. It could always be better. But Wisconsin is far better off with Walker as our governor than without him. He has certainly amassed an impressive record of achievements and positive results that would be the envy of any governor in the nation. For this, and for what Walker can accomplish in a second term, he deserves our votes.
(Owen Robinson’s column runs Tuesdays in the Daily News.)