His jobs record — crushing public-sector unions with Act 10,
“right-to-work,” watering down prevailing wage requirements, and gutting
attempts by local governments to require that employers provide living
wages or certain benefits to employees — has worsened working conditions
or depressed wages for working people.
Walker has mismanaged the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation,
which he created, and has been roundly criticized in at least two state audits
for, among other things, failing to properly track how many jobs are
created with state assistance and for having a high percentage of
delinquent loans. Much of the money flowed to corporations that provided
Walker with campaign contributions.
Under Walker, conditions for women have worsened. He and GOP allies
eliminated all state funding for women’s health centers and for family
planning services, despite birth control’s role in helping women avoid
poverty and dependency on state welfare programs. The Walker
administration made it harder for women to sue to enforce equal pay
provisions. And it was slow to act to end an unconscionable state Department of Justice backlog in the testing of 6,000 sexual assault kits.
Walker has deferred to industry “experts” regarding safe levels of
chemicals in our water, air and food, eliminating most science positions
in the Department of Natural Resources and letting regulated entities
hire consultants to write their own pollution permits. His
industry-first approach is also apparent in removing references to
climate change from the DNR’s website and trying (and failing)
to stop publication of a self-supporting and popular natural resources
magazine, apparently because it might cast his policies in a bad light.
The governor has pulled money out of the state parks account and forced
parks to raise fees and sell naming rights to operate. Never mind that
parks face a big funding shortfall, or that higher admission fees will
prevent some people from visiting.
the DNR to provide a $500,000 grant during 2013-15 to the United
Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation. The grant application was later
determined to have errors, didn’t meet certain grant criteria, and the
group itself (which has raised money for Republican politicians) had
little experience in hunter training, one of the purposes of the grant.
The grant was later rescinded
after it was reported that United Sportsmen had misstated its
tax-exempt status and its president had been cited for shooting a bear
in 2005 without the proper license.
sought by business and large-scale agriculture directing DNR to no
longer take into account the cumulative effects of high-capacity wells
on streams, rivers and lakes when reviewing applications for changes to
existing wells. This meant that basic information that could
significantly impact whether a well permit is granted is excluded from
the decision-making process, delighting Walker’s big-money backers.
Those also include the owners of factory farms, pollution from which has
tainted many smaller wells, particularly in northeastern Wisconsin.
Walker reduced state public school support by a record $830 million in
2013-15, while ramping up to almost $250 million a year the amount of
state tax money given to for-profit and religious choice schools. These
actions were encouraged by campaign contributions to Walker from donors
such as Betsy DeVos, the new and highly controversial head of the U.S.
Department of Education under President Trump.
Walker has harmed the reputation of and therefore the economic benefits
generated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison — a major state asset
and world-renowned research institution. Walker has attacked it by
reducing state funds, trying to curb cutting-edge stem cell research,
freezing tuition, alienating faculty by gutting tenure and making an
ill-fated attempt to scuttle the Wisconsin Idea and its mission to search for truth.
Walker continued to allow revenue generated by the state Veterans Home
at King to be transferred for use in other veterans programs — rather
than addressing a veterans fund that is out of balance — ignoring
complaints about the care at the home and deterioration in the
infrastructure there, as noted in a critical state audit following an investigation by the Cap Times.
and transportation system deteriorate, ignoring his own Transportation
Finance and Policy Commission, just to meet a simplistic pledge to not
increase taxes, instead increasing state highway debt to unsustainable
levels. And during his tenure, an audit found that the Department of Transportation significantly underestimated road construction costs.
Walker turned down $810 million in federal stimulus money to build a
high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison. Not only did the
state’s residents lose out on the benefits that the train would have
brought for business and travel, but the state had to pay almost $50 million for rail cars that were to be built and used in the state under a contract Walker broke with the Spanish company Talgo.
The train example is sadly not the only instance in which Walker has
failed to capture available federal dollars, despite the fact that the
state has, for years, received less money from the government than it
sends in taxes. Another egregious example is his decision to reject
federal money — hundreds of millions of dollars worth — to pay for the
expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the state is unique nationwide
in having used the ACA to expand Medicaid coverage while also rejecting
the additional federal money made available to pay for the expansion.
more than 80 percent of the $31.6 million awarded to Wisconsin by the
U.S. government in a settlement reached with major lending banks for
illegal practices they used in foreclosing on homeowners during the home
mortgage financial crisis. The settlement penalized lenders and
returned money to each state to help consumers harmed by the unfair
practices. Walker and a former GOP attorney general agreed to use most
of the money to help the state’s general fund instead of helping
homeowners in foreclosure.
And that is not the only time that Walker has robbed Peter to pay Paul
with state funds, something he criticized prior governors for doing. He
has also repeated those tactics by taking $160 million from the general fund to help the transportation fund and tens of millions from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to put into the general fund. What’s more, Walker’s proposed budget for 2017-19 is projected to result in ongoing general fund spending exceeding ongoing revenue by more than $1 billion by the 2019-21 biennium.
replacing it with one enabling significantly more patronage jobs,
basing hiring not on proficiency exams but on resume screening.
Walker’s inaction has enabled the federal Department of Justice to
freeze more than $1.5 million in unspent federal grants otherwise
available to Wisconsin between 2011 and 2015 because Wisconsin lacked an
adequate system for monitoring juvenile detention facilities, such as
local jails. A 2015 federal audit concluded
the state had insufficient oversight of juvenile facilities and failed
to comply with federal rules for inspection and monitoring.
Finally, Walker has a long record of crony appointments to high-level
state positions. (Perhaps that is not surprising given that six of his appointees
while he was Milwaukee County Executive were indicted for campaigning
on work time and setting up a secret email system in Walker’s office to
mask their activities). Nepotism and political connections have been
hallmarks of Walker-era hiring in Milwaukee and Madison.
sum, Walker has been so single-minded about the purity of his political
brand that he has been unwilling, incapable, or both, of actually
managing Wisconsin’s government in the best financial interests of even
those in his political base.