ICYMI: “Keep Your Eye On Scott Walker In Wisconsin”
June 5, 2017

Washington Examiner contributing writer highlights Gov. Walker’s bold leadership and conservative reforms in Wisconsin

[Madison, Wis.] — In case you missed it, Washington Examiner contributor Salena Zito wrote an article highlighting Gov. Walker’s conservative reforms and model of leadership for Republicans in Wisconsin and across the nation. You can read the story here, or find key excerpts below:

Keep your eye on Scott Walker in Wisconsin
Washington Examiner
by Salena Zito
Jun 5, 2017

RACINE, Wisc. — Scott Walker is ready to go.

“I am ready to run again for governor,” Walker told the Washington Examiner after a dedication ceremony of the 200-mile Frank Lloyd Wright Trail.

Walker is one of a string of Midwest Republican governors in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and his state of Wisconsin who have run and won in traditional blue states in difficult elections and emerged as strong executives as the country battled itself out of the recession.

“I have not been as optimistic about the future of the state of Wisconsin as I am right now. And I’m even more excited about how much greater it can be going forward,” he said.

Walker indicated he will make an official announcement later this summer. …

It’s fair to say Wisconsin and Walker are a microcosm for what Republicans have done right in the past eight years in winning 1,100 down-ballot seats across the country. It may offer Republicans a model of how they either keep that majority or lose it.

According to Walker, as long as they continue to govern, the party will keep growing. “We did something really important in Wisconsin that Republicans more than ever need to know in Washington. And that is, we did what we said we were going to do” once elected, he said. …

Walker said business growth, caring for the citizenry and strengthening infrastructure are the path to success that all his Midwest counterparts are attempting. “You do that through good governing,” he said. …

“We’ve just aggressively invested in things that build our workforce, and that’s made it easier for us to both attract and retain and grow current businesses,” he said.

“This is the kind of governing that has grown the Republican Party in all of our states.”

Wisconsin opens for business

For 13 years, CEO Magazine has been ranking business-friendly states, and for most of that time, Wisconsin was near the bottom. It started to rise up the ranking a few years ago.

In 2010, the year Walker won the election, Wisconsin ranked 41st, but by by 2014 it had moved up to 14th. This May, it hit the top 10. …

He also points to major changes in the state’s regulatory environment with the signing of Act 10, a landmark law that has saved Wisconsin taxpayers $5.24 billion, according to an analysis conducted by the MacIver Institute, a free-market think tank based in the state.

“I’d like to say we enforce common sense, not bureaucratic red tape. I’m going to keep working on it,” he said, pointing to major tort reform as another contributing factor.

His 2011 bill was written to limit noneconomic damages, double the amount of compensatory damages and raise the standards for qualifying people as experts when they testify.

Welfare reform

In his newest budget, Walker takes on entitlements, beginning with welfare reform. Proposals up for approval by the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee include requiring childless adults in the state’s Medicare program either to be working or to accept job training of 80 hours a month.

This matches the requirement for childless adults who receive food stamps.

Walker’s entitlement reform requires all childless adults applying for Medicare to be screened for illegal drug use. Those who refuse the test are ineligible for coverage and lose their benefits for six months. People who test positive get treatment paid for by taxpayers through the Medicaid program. …

“But public assistance, as I’ve often said, should be more like a trampoline than like a hammock. So our goal is for anybody who is able to work, we want to get them the training and the support that they need to get into the workforce. We now have in our state more people employed than we’ve ever had before. Our unemployment rate’s the lowest it’s been since April of the year 2000. And we’re also in the top 10 list of states in terms of the percentage of people in the workforce.” …

“They have to be able to pass a drug test, and we put money behind rehabilitation programs if they fail. Because we believe when we get someone healthy and clean and we get someone with basic job skills, I can find a job for anybody in this state.”

Reconnecting with the rural heartland

Rural areas have been under the microscope since President Trump’s election victory, in part because voters there turned out in large numbers for him.

For decades, manufacturing and population declines and rising poverty in rural Midwestern states had gone underreported by national news media. They were regarded as stable. It was urban areas that needed more help, or so it was assumed.

Concern for urban issues led experts to miss rural collapse that was occuring under their noses. Rural decline can be attributed to several factors: The manufacturing base slipped away, so male labor force participation fell and poverty rose.

Families broke up, divorce rates increased, and reliance on federal entitlements and disability payments increased.

Then came drugs.

“It is a crisis across America,” said Walker, who points to the leading advocate for addressing the problem in the state, Rep. John Nygren, whose dealings with opioid addiction are personal.

“His daughter has struggled with addiction,” Walker said.

Nygren, who co-chairs the Joint Finance Committee, has introduced a series of bills called the HOPE Agenda, for Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education.

Wisconsin, like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Iowa, has seen its rate of drug-related deaths nearly double from 2004 to 2012, according to the state Department of Health Services. Opioid-related overdoses were the leading cause of those deaths.

“Nygren points out if we get them healthy and if they take job training, we can help them, and part of being healthy doesn’t mean just quick detox; it means ongoing assistance to keep them clean,” Walker said. …

Another big problem for rural areas is the lack of Internet broadband connection. It’s an essential tool for farmers, small businesses, school districts and entrepreneurs. More often than not, their connections are painfully slow, weak or nonexistent.

The digital divide from urban areas is placing rural commerce at a disadvantage, Walker said.

Nearly 40 percent of the rural population of America lacks broadband, as compared with only 4 percent for urban areas.

This drastically limits rural populations’ ability to engage in a critical component of modern life, Walker said. “I did a listening session in all 72 counties, and in every one of them but one, Milwaukee, every county brought up broadband access,” he said. …

“I want to make sure every part of my state over the next two years of the budget is covered with broadband access. It has access to high-speed Internet connections.” …

“It all comes back to my foundation in believing in small government in just about everything we do. We get people up and wired, and then we get out of the way and let the private sector work.”