Bruce Murphy
Feature Story

The Battle Between Walker and Burke

They are two wildly different personalities with quite different agendas. A frank look at both candidates for governor.

By - Oct 24th, 2014 03:20 pm
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Mary Burke and Gov. Scott Walker.

Mary Burke and Gov. Scott Walker.

November 2, 2010 was quite a day for Scott Walker. It was his 43rd birthday and the day he won election as governor, an ebullient, still-youthful looking politician whose victory speech to his joyous crowd of followers was punctuated repeatedly with the rhythmic message: “Wisconsin is open for business!” Walker had run as the man who would ramp up the state’s depressed economy and jack up employment by delivering a quarter million new jobs. His first act would be to work with both parties to create a jobs agenda, he promised the crowd, which by the end of this speech was chanting his slogan, “Wisconsin is open for business!”

In fact, Walker has fallen fall short of delivering 250,000 jobs, and the state has badly trailed the nation on most measures of economic development for four years. And no, Walker’s first act wasn’t to create a bipartisan jobs agenda, but to pass a law — bitterly contested by Democrats — that all but abolished public unions. The man who promised he would be “a governor for the entire state,” even for those who voted against him, now governs over what polls show is the most politically divided state in America.

If Walker turned out to be an entirely different governor than he promised, his aggressive style and audacious policies have turned him into a national star among Republicans and convinced the majority of state voters he’s a governor who gets things done. Yet he is by now so controversial, so loathed and so loved, that his reelection effort is really just about a small percentage of Wisconsin voters who haven’t already made up their mind about Walker.

Into this overheated cauldron of political passions has stepped one Mary Burke, a quiet, mild-mannered businesswoman who has spent her life avoiding public controversy. If you were scripting a movie to create a character that’s the sheer opposite of Scott Walker, you could hardly do better than Burke.

Walker is an extrovert who loves the limelight, Burke is an introvert who seems out of place in a crowd. Walker is a college dropout, Burke has a masters degree from Harvard. Walker is from the middle class, Burke is a millionaire. Walker has been married for two decades and has two adult children, Burke has always been single. Walker is a career politician, Burke is a career businesswoman.  Walker is an intensely conservative Republican, Burke was a political independent for most of her life.

As for their political positions, there is little they agree on, whether its Walker’s restrictions on abortion, his elimination of collective bargaining rights or the kind of tax cuts he has passed — all of which Burke opposes. There may never have been a race for governor in Wisconsin where the two candidates were so diametrically opposed is so many ways.

Beginnings

The two had quite different childhoods. Walker was the first-born son with just one other sibling, younger brother David. Mary Burke was the second oldest of five children. Walker is the outgoing extrovert you’d expect of the first-born, Burke is more the introverted middle child

Walker’s father was a Baptist minister and Scott was three when his family moved from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Plainfield, Iowa, and ten when they settled in Delavan, Wisconsin. Burke had a more settled life, growing up in rural, Republican-leaning Waukesha County and attending Swallow elementary school. “The big fun was when the cows got loose from the nearby farm and came on the school grounds,” she recalled in an interview with me.

Delavan has a population of 8,500, so Walker, too, grew up at a remove from urban areas, but there the similarity ends. Burke’s father Richard worked at Roth Distributing, an appliance company in Milwaukee, and the family was comfortable enough they could afford to send Mary to University Lake School, a pricey private high school. (Only after Mary had moved away to college would her father begin to make his real fortune as founder and CEO of Trek Bicycle.)

Walker attended public schools. He’s always been described as having an average upbringing, but he has recently sketched a more dire tale. “We didn’t realize it until later in life,” Walker told the National Journal in a June story, “but we were poor.” The family, he noted, didn’t even own a TV until he was nine. “But most of the members of the Baptist church where Walker’s father, Llewellyn, was the pastor were farmers,” the story noted, and “because of that, Walker says, ‘we ate like kings.’”

Walker joined “practically every sports team and extracurricular organization that Delavan-Darien High School had to offer,” the National Journal noted, including the foreign-language and library clubs, pep band and symphonic orchestra. He also played football, ran track and cross-country and played basketball. “He was a very competitive person,” Tom Scharfenberg, the high school’s athletic director, told the magazine.

So was Burke, who played five sports a year in high school: field hockey, volleyball, basketball, softball and on the boys tennis team (“they didn’t have enough boys on the team,” she told me).

“Mary doesn’t like to lose,” her brother John noted in an Isthmus story. “[She] was definitely the hardest working [of her siblings]; she got the best grades; she was a great athlete and a very good basketball player.”

Walker was heavily influenced by his father. At age seven, he helped form a Jesus U.S.A. club, and “from a young age, he took part in his father’s worship services,” the National Journal noted, “starting with Scripture readings and call-and-response rituals. As he grew older, he occasionally… preached full sermons in his father’s place.”

As a result, young Scott was seen by parishioners as a future preacher, but he also began to pepper his father with questions about politics. In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, Walker recalled standing at the back of the church with his dad on Sundays, watching his father interact with parishioners. “He’d remember things about people,” Walker recalled. “I was always enamored with that.” It’s clearly a skill Walker has cultivated.

Walker got involved in Badger Boys State, which brought together high school students from across Wisconsin for a seminar on government. He was selected as one of two two boys to serve as Wisconsin’s “senators” at the Boys Nation event in Washington, D.C. He was just 17, and already envisioning a career in politics.

Walker’s conservative views and strong religious bent arise from his strait-laced upbringing. Burke and her siblings had more room to develop in different ways. One family friend told the Journal Sentinel the Burke kids were “like the solar system,” all with different personalities orbiting around their parents. The message from their father was simple, Burke recalls: “He wanted us to do good.”

Still, her dad, too, was a big influence. Burke loved math as a kid. Both parents got business degrees at Marquette University and Burke says “I wanted to be just like my dad.” In high school, she had a part-time job with an accounting firm in Milwaukee. She got her undergraduate degree in finance from Georgetown University and was the top student in her class.

Yet Burke didn’t have a clear view of where this would take her. “I’m not just a person who sees this is the path and I’m following it,” she told the Journal Sentinel. Walker, by contrast, would win a position as senator in the Marquette University student government while just a freshman.

The Endless Campaigner

State Republicans joke that Walker has been running for president since he was teenager at Badger Boys State. Walker was just a sophomore at Marquette University when he ran for Student Council president. Walker lost, after accusations his supporters emptied racks of the student newspaper, which had endorsed his opponent. In senior year, he dropped out of MU, leaving him 34 credits short of what was needed to graduate. He never returned to the scene of his defeat to finish his degree.

But he was already running again, for state assembly in a Democratic-leaning district in Milwaukee, but lost (in 1990) to Gwen Moore. Undaunted, and now working as a marketing person for the American Red Cross, he told his future wife Tonette Tarantino, not long after they started dating, “Someday I’m going to be governor.”

In 1993, the same year they married, Walker won a race for assembly in a Republican-leaning district in Wauwatosa. As a legislator he was seen by fellow Republicans as ambitious and always seeking media attention. Walker began amassing a campaign chest to run for higher office. The opportunity came after a pension scandal rocked Milwaukee County and County Executive Tom Ament resigned. Walker ran as a reformer in a special election and won in 2002.

He won reelection in 2004, but as already plotting a run for governor. “The whole time he was here, he was running for governor,” says former county board chair Lee Holloway. In January 2005, less than three years after becoming county exec, Walker announced his run for governor in 2006. The state’s Republican establishment favored Congressman Mark Green and many felt Walker was too young and hadn’t paid his dues. Ultimately, Walker dropped out of the Wisconsin primary, which won him points with the party.

“After Mark Green lost,” former Republican Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald told GQ magazine, “Scott Walker never stopped campaigning. It shows you the kind of political animal he is.”

“His whole life revolves around politics,” Tonette told the Journal Sentinel.

Burke’s Restlessness

Mary Burke took a more meandering career route. After graduation from Georgetown, she worked for a management consulting firm, Strategic Planning Associates, in Washington D.C., for a year. She next attended Harvard Business School for her masters, where she also excelled academically. Upon graduation, she worked as a consultant again, for McKinsey in New York City, but lasted less than a year. “I wanted to work in a company rather than give advice to one. And there was the pull of coming home and working for my father.”

But her father believed you had to earn everything, and didn’t immediately offer a job. By the time he did, Burke and a business partner had launched a new company based in New York, Manhattan Intelligence, a kind of resource guide to the city for upscale newcomers.

Burke ended up working for Trek and her start-up company at the same time. “I was working like 100 hour weeks,” she says. After nearly two years, she decided to give up on Manhattan Intelligence. “Frankly, I think I underestimated how much  [money] it would take to succeed.” The failure, she once confessed, “was a huge blow to my ego.”

Burke went on to become Director of Operations in Europe for Trek. “You’re dealing in all these different languages, setting up in new countries from scratch, setting up an office and warehouse, hiring people,” she noted. “The markets in each country are very different, you are creating materials in different languages and setting up a network of independent bike dealers who will sell our bikes.”

Steve Lindenau ran Trek’s German operations at the time and quickly decided she was one of the smartest people he’d ever met. “She worked tirelessly and was very good at analyzing the numbers and coming up with a strategy based on that. And really enjoyable to work with. I learned a lot from her.”

Once she had solidified Trek’s European operation, Burke quit her job — at age 35 — and took a nearly two year hiatus:  she traveled a lot, moved to Colorado for some time, snowboarded and taught snowboarding. She wanted a break from the long hours, she says.

She came back to Trek after this and worked for about 10 years, mostly as head of forecasting and strategic planning. She reported to her brother John Burke, who told the Wisconsin State Journal that she “came in and ‘tore the process apart’ using data analysis to reduce inventory levels and increase profits… ‘It went from one of the worst things we did as a company to one of the best.’”

But she remained restless and left the company to spend her time as a philanthropist. Burke worked as a volunteer tutor for Madison Boys and Girls Club and served on the group’s board, “reviewing financial statements on weekends, generating fundraising ideas and laying the groundwork for transforming the South Side neighborhood club into a citywide organization,” the State Journal reports. She was elected board president and led the Boys and Girls Club’s $6.25 million fundraising effort to build a new facility.

Then came the call from Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle asking her to take a job as Commerce Secretary. She was intrigued by the challenge of managing 400 employees and a $221 million budget. Aaron Oliver — her deputy secretary — told the State Journal that Burke “introduced lean manufacturing principles in the department, seeking to reduce waste and improve efficiency” and “created employee labor management councils to help solve problems in the department.”

But she quit in October, 2007, after less than three years. Burke says she accomplished all she could and wanted to return to philanthropic work.

Very Different Styles 

Walker’s political views have been the same since college, when he ran for student government as an avowed opponent of abortion.  The words he typically uses to describe his style are “aggressive,” “bold” and “unintimidated,” but never as a unifier or compromiser. His first race, for Marquette student government, “divided the campus and broke voter turnout records,” the Journal Sentinel reported. His recall race for governor did the same statewide.

As a legislator, Walker was to the right of most Republican lawmakers and wasn’t seen as team player by the party’s leaders. As a County Executive, he rarely compromised with the liberal-leaning Milwaukee County Board, using the veto 204 times, about 25 times a year, and seeing them overridden all but 65 times. And as governor, with Republicans controlling the legislature, Walker has largely ignored any Democratic ideas. “Once his mind is made up, he doesn’t give an inch,” Assembly minority leader and Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) told the National Journal.

He’s been just as rock-sure of his personal life. He decided he wanted to marry Tonette shortly after their first date, they quickly had two sons and Walker frequently mentions his wife, offering an automatic contrast to Burke. She told the Journal Sentinel “I grew up just thinking I’d meet the perfect guy, get married, have kids…Life doesn’t always turn out the way you think it’s going to.”

Burke’s life has been far more unpredictable, with a career path that certainly never pointed to a run for governor. She seems drawn to challenges, and with the benefit of her inherited wealth, has had the freedom to pick and choose  them.

For most of her life, Burke was a political independent who says she voted for some Republicans. As a business person, she has had to be a team player. Yet she can come across as stern on the stump. When she sat down to talk with a reporter from Mother Jones, “a handwritten note on the table reminded her to ‘Emanate strength and warmth.’”

The numbers crunching business woman is hardly a natural campaigner. “The day after our interview,” the reporter noted, “Burke spoke at a campaign fundraiser” and “flubbed her applause lines… and she looked ill at ease in front of a large audience.”

Yet Burke, in her dogged fashion, has worked tirelessly to improve. Many expected Walker, the consummate speaker and debater, to crush Burke in their two debates. Surprisingly, she held her own.

The Issues Clash

GQ mag called Walker “arguably, the most conservative governor in America.” He’s certainly taken many unpopular positions. Walker refused to accept hundreds of millions in increased federal funding for Medicaid, opposes raising the minimum wage, supports a big increase in private school vouchers, opposes legalizing medical marijuana, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and signed a law requiring women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound.

Polls show a majority disagree with every one of these positions, as does Burke. Walker argues the federal government may some day cut back Medicaid funding; Burke says that’s no reason not to take the money now, and that any private sector CEO would be fired for such a decision. On the minimum wage, Walker contends it could lead to job layoffs, Burke says it hasn’t in states that raised it. On private school vouchers, Walker argues it gives parents choice, while Burke says it takes money away from good public schools. On medical marijuana, Burke argues it has benefits for those with debilitating illnesses, while Walker calls pot a “gateway drug” that leads to harder drugs. On abortion, Walker has argued the restrictions he passed will make women safer, while Burke calls this “ridiculous” and says women should make decisions about their health care.

But the issue Walker is best known for is Act 10, which largely eliminated public employee collective bargaining rights. State voters remain almost evenly divided about it. Walker touts the tax savings and flexibility that resulted. Burke says she supports requiring public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care, but favors restoration of collective bargaining. But as Republicans have noted, she gets a free pass on this issue, as the GOP-led legislature isn’t about to overturn Act 10

Walker promised to grow 250,000 private sector jobs, but fell far short, delivering just over 102,000. Wisconsin has trailed the nation in job growth through his entire term and trails 44 states in new business startups. Burke proposes to increase venture capital funding for new businesses and reduce the waiting list for tech schools in order to help boost the economy.

A key part of Walker’s jobs approach was to replace the Commerce Department with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). But the new agency has struggled with turnover, suffering a 25 percent turnover in all staff, and losing two CEOs, two COOs and four chief financial officers. The WEDC has lost track of $12 million in state loans and didn’t follow state standards for ensuring proper use of state money, a JS story noted.

While some business leaders say the agency has become more responsive to businesses, the Walker administration has never offered statistics as to the total number of new jobs it has created. The liberal magazine The Progressive reviewed WEDC records and concluded just 5,840 jobs have been created, and the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now found that  nearly 60 percent of some $975 million in assistance distributed by WEDC went to firms that had contributed to Walker or the Republican Governor’s Association. 

Burke has refused to take a stand on the WEDC versus the old Commerce Department she once ran, saying the organizational framework is less important than the results and the results need to be better.

Walker may be most popular for delivering tax cuts, which have averaged $322 per family. Burke actually opposed the most recent of these cuts, arguing it would increase the state’s deficit. This has prompted arguments back and forth over the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis of the state’s “structural deficit.”

Arguably, a more accurate measurement uses a generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, analysis. According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Analysis, Walker cut the state’s GAAP deficit from $2.99 billion to $2.21 billion in 2012, but under the governor’s second budget, that figure was forecasted to increase to $2.36 billion by 2014 and $2.64 billion by 2015.  (WisTax leader Todd Berry says the forecast through 2015 could change depending on various factors.)

Walker has greatly increased the state’s rainy day fund — to $279 million — but has also increased the state’s bonded indebtedness to its highest level since at least 1970, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. On balance, the state is in a better long-term shape, fiscally speaking, but not by all that much.

Burke has also argued that Walker’s tax cuts deliver more relief to the wealthy. In fact, the wealthiest 20 percent of state taxpayers — those earning $119,000 or more annually —  have gotten more than half of the tax cuts, according to an analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project. Meanwhile, Walker’s cuts in the Homestead Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit resulted in low-income individuals and families paying $170 million more in taxes.

When you add in the $3 billion which Walker says he saved by requiring government workers statewide to contribute more to their benefits, that’s billions more taken from the mostly middle class public employees, which helped fund the tax cuts that were more helpful to upper-income taxpayers. Walker has been a governor who promised to be about jobs creation but instead has been about decimating public unions, and a leader who claims to help the middle class but has on balance achieved a huge wealth transfer from the middle class to the wealthy. Should he win reelection, he’ll soon be peddling that approach to the nation.

A version of this story also ran in two alternative weeklies: Madison’s Isthmus and Wausau’s City Pages.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

70 thoughts on “Feature Story: The Battle Between Walker and Burke”

  1. judith ann moriarty says:

    Where do these candidates stand on our involvement in the Middle East mess?

  2. Observer says:

    Since a Governor deals with local issues, I’m wondering where the candidates stand on “Right To Work” laws and if police and firemen should be lumped with other public employee rules. Would either or both be willing to pass a law that requires any disability claims be reviewed by an independent doctor with biannual reviews to see if the disability has disappeared? Will either or both agree that for the next ten years no new freeways be built and the transportation budget be used primarily on road and bridge maintenance? Would either or both agree that charter schools be monitored by the same standards as public schools and funding be done via local property tax increases. Would either or both agree that Supreme Court Justices be an appointed position and not elective. Would either or both agree that Congressional districts be made up of equal numbers of voters using the last Presidential election as a guide?

  3. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I keep asking everyone what are the great ideas that mary has to enhance our economy nd fix the problems in MPS, crime and Madison schools? she has none. What issue that Mary is pushing makes you want to vote for her and they have none. I know why people are voting for Scott but no one seem to know why they are backing mary except she ain’t Scott.
    I am always leery of people that thav never had family and were born with silver spoon in month. How can they relate to the average Wis. family. Scott can.

  4. “I am always leery of people that thav never had family and were born with silver spoon in month. How can they relate to the average Wis. family. Scott can.”

    Really? That’s it?

    Silver spoon….. All of the Bush boys, Mitt Romney, the Roosevelts (neither of whom raised their own kids)

    No silver spoon with family…. Bill Clinton, LBJ, Harry Truman

  5. PMD says:

    I think an issue for Walker is that he doesn’t present himself as someone who can relate to the average family. I have never gotten that impression from him. He aligns himself with mega donors and the wealthy and groups like WMC and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, he answers the phone when he thinks it’s a Koch brother on the line, he passes tax cuts that hugely benefit the rich. He does not seem like someone who spends much time thinking about average families.

  6. PMD says:

    And for the record, I think both parties struggle with this, clearly communicating that they care about and are working for average families. And not just saying so at a stump speech, but backing that up with actions.

  7. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    PMD, congrats on the dumbest sequence of illogical statements I have ever seen. Babble on. Tell us how great Burke will be for the families of Wis. with what program?

  8. Observer says:

    Bob, Burke’s job plans are spelled out in great detail if you go here. http://action.burkeforwisconsin.com/page/-/Burke%20for%20WI%20-%20Invest%20for%20Success.pdf

  9. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    When I was one of the leaders of the WA CofC we had a economic development committee which I chaired. We worked on lots of thing with John Stibal, Tom Campbell and others to do a lot of things that worked in WA. Those things that she is pushing are worth less. Go to Reagan: corporate tax reform, regs, capital, credits to keep our manufacturing, etc, then you have something. Look at Texas. Attitude is major. Every year under Doyle things went downhill just like when Kimberly Clarke left cause of stupidity by the dems.

  10. Bruce Thompson says:

    Calling Scott Walker the most conservative governor seems like a stretch to me. Sam Brownback of Kansas seems like a better candidate–too conservative for many Republicans apparently. Or a slew of governors across the South. Compared to Rick Perry who apparently is pleased that Texas has the largest number of people with no health insurance, Walker’s plan to cover everyone through moving a bunch off to the exchanges seems like rampant liberalism.

    The shocker is that it is happening in Wisconsin, not Mississippi.

  11. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Walker has saved the taxpayers billions by dumping the halfast train, the exchanges and the Medicaid mess. When the three years tun out of free Medicaid the costs would push out school funding.

  12. PMD says:

    WCD, it’s really sad that at your age you’re still calling people names and attacking the person and not their opinions. I shared my impression of Walker and why I don’t think he cares much about average families. So instead of lashing out at me, tell me why I’m wrong. Give me examples that support your belief that he cares about average families.

    And when did I say Burke will be great for families? Do you even read my posts or just wait to attack? I said “I think both parties struggle with this, clearly communicating that they care about and are working for average families. And not just saying so at a stump speech, but backing that up with actions.” Notice I did not state anything about Mary Burke.

  13. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Are you hallucinating. you are not worth my time to attack.

  14. PMD says:

    That’s too bad. I presented arguments and didn’t attack you. Your rebuttal is just personal attacks. If Walker is such a champion of the average family, I’d think it would be quite easy for you to offer up some specific examples of this. It’s odd and unfortunate that rather than do that, you just throw bombs. Sadly that’s been my experience with most conservatives on the web. They spend far more time calling people names than reasonably stating their case.

  15. Kyle says:

    PMD, I think part of the issue is defining the ‘average’ family. Census.gov says the home ownership rate in Wisconsin is 68.6%, so let’s call owning a home ‘average’. It has been a nice change of pace that property taxes have remained mostly flat during Walker’s term. Yes, there are always consequences to actions, but this is the point that sticks in people’s mind.

    Let’s also say that the ‘average’ family has children, and worries about their schools. You’d think this would go against Walker, and for a lot of people it does. But the prediction was that everything would implode under Act 10 and it hasn’t (yet). That makes it seem not so bad. It doesn’t help that teachers don’t seem to be winning the national conversation right now. There are a few anecdotes about bad teachers that make the reforms seem reasonable. It’s also muddied by the anecdotes about bad worksheets for Common Core materials. Making the case for Common Core, or against Value Added model for teacher evaluations takes a lot of time. The case against those things doesn’t. So for families that are worried about schools, Walker has some comforting (if short-sighted) points.

    Sticking with school, the ‘average’ family also keeps higher education in mind. Walker’s stand against raising tuition is comforting, and the UW system lost this conversation when they forgot to report a billion dollars in slush funds. Yes, most of those funds had legitimate uses, but failing to report them looks really bad when you’re asking for the maximum legal increase in tuition every year. Again, eventually there needs to be a longer conversation about funding for higher education, but this is another comforting (if short-sighted) position.

    Let’s wrap it up with crime and safety, because on some level everyone worries about that. Honestly, I don’t know much about Walker’s specific positions regarding this. But, he’s endorsed by the Police and Fire unions, and traditionally Republicans are considered tough on crime. Again, the Republicans are using anecdotes far more effectively, because the two examples I can think of right now are the land contract Happ had with someone she was prosecuting and the acting classes instead of prison program that Clarke loved to rant about. A long national conversation needs to happen about what should and shouldn’t be a crime regarding minor drug possession, but we aren’t there yet.

    The trouble is that Mary Burke hasn’t really made a case for why she’ll be better. She does have a detailed jobs plan, but it’s not usually long documents that win a campaign. (It occurs to me I left off jobs. Honestly, this could go either way, but the general line of apologist thinking toward Walker is that he made it halfway on his promise, but half his time was wasted with protests and recalls. If it hadn’t been for that long tantrum, things would be better. Also, some growth is better than what he inherited.) For people who haven’t been directly harmed by Walker (and he’s done a good job of only harming those who generally oppose him anyway), Burke hasn’t made a strong case for why she’d be better.

  16. PMD says:

    Kyle, I don’t really have much of a counter to your points about Burke. I agree with the gist of what you say about her. But I don’t think anything you write about Walker proven even a little bit that he truly cares about the average family. If teachers and other school personnel are members of average families, he has enraged many if not most of them. He has worsened the divide in this state and almost seems proud of that. I don’t think endorsements from unions that always endorse GOP means much, if anything.

    In my mind there is far more evidence (some of which I mention above) that he doesn’t care much about the average family. My wife and I own a home. We’re average. Neither of us believes Walker cares about us.

  17. Kyle says:

    I have no doubt that he’s enraged many or even most teachers. Nor am I disputing that teachers are a part of the ‘average’ family in Wisconsin. But there are roughly 56,000 public school teachers in Wisconsin, or maybe 1% of the state population. There are roughly 870,000 public school students in the state, or 14.5% of the population. That’s why I suspect that school reform resonates a bit more. It would have been great if it had been a more collaborative process, but the Democrats in the State Senate left the state and refused to work on a compromise deal, and the Milwaukee teachers showed us a few times that they had no interest in actually negotiating a deal on their own. Sure, that’s anecdotal, and probably not the way all school districts would have reacted, but we only have one case, and they overwhelmingly voted against compromise.

  18. PMD says:

    It’s pretty disingenuous and not at all accurate to blame just Milwaukee teachers and Democrats in the State Senate. Walker didn’t have to move forward with Act 10 at all, especially since he didn’t campaign on it (thereby earning himself explicit voter approval), or he could have included public safety unions, arguing for fairness and not singling out the unions that endorsed him. He is as much to blame as anyone else for the mess that followed.

  19. Kyle says:

    I never said Walker was blameless. He proposed controversial legislation when his political party had the opportunity to push it through. But the Senate Democrats had a chance to make it better and didn’t, so they aren’t blameless either. I think, at the time, most people actually thought the teachers’ unions would have negotiated in good faith if asked to. Then MPS had a chance to show us how that negotiation would have gone, and voted 2-1 against negotiating. It was absolutely within their power to chose that path, but it wasn’t good for public opinion. As for the protests, I suspect it depends mostly on each individual person if they remember the large (mostly) peaceful protests early, or if they remember the fake doctor notes and interrupting a special olympics.

    This topic always gets me frustrated, because inevitably most of the same people who say elections have consequences to excuse either the passage of the Affordable Care Act or Act 10 take the exact opposite stance with the other party’s legislation. In both cases, the party in power used that opportunity to pass a big part of the party platform without bipartisan support. That’s what happens when one party is handed all the power in an election. I can never figure out why that surprises so many people. If Walker/Obama didn’t end up with the majorities they did, neither would have happened.

  20. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Kyle, someone had to solve the problem of overspending and bad business polices of /doyle and co. If you read where we were in 2009, in the same boat as Ill. and Ca. then you realize how fr Scott took us and how much he saved us form having to cut. anyone that believes that the unions would have negotiated those salaries and bennies away, 429 districts is smoking cornsilk or something else. He saved us more money by not buying into the disastrous halfast train, exchanges and medicaid explosion. Finally: “Why should public employees have better salaries, pensions, health, dental, vacations, days off, sick days, holidays and on and on plus you cannot fire the incompetent ones, thant the rest of us have”?

  21. PMD says:

    Fair points Kyle, but I believe there are two major flaws that need to be mentioned.

    1.) Prior to the 2008 election, Obama campaigned on universal health care coverage. He was elected after being open about this. Walker did not campaign on Act 10. He shocked members of his own cabinet when he announced it.

    2.) Walker exempted unions that endorsed him. It is perfectly reasonable for other unions to feel slighted by that.

  22. Andy says:

    Why I believe each candidate is good for the “average” Wisconsinite.

    Walker touts all the taxes he’s cut or held the line on, froze tuition, and attempts to create jobs (with varying success and influenced by myriad of other factors which we don’t need to rehash).

    Burke… I have absolutely no idea.

  23. PMD says:

    If you don’t know Andy, it’s not because she hasn’t mentioned those issues. A quick Google search results in a story from The Capital Times where Burke talks taxes, public education, and more.

  24. Kyle says:

    Oh fun, I get to play against both sides…

    PMD, yes, Obama campaigned on universal health coverage, but failed to mention just how much that would cost. He mentioned how much the ‘average’ family would save an awful lot, but those numbers weren’t anywhere close to true (and predictably so). He wasn’t exactly open and honest about what he was planning. Walker said he would fix the budget (which was obvious since it’s required by law), but he didn’t mention exactly how he’d do it. You can choose to see worlds of difference between the two, but they’re closer than you want to believe.

    WCD, yes there was a projected budget deficit that needed to be fixed, but that was going to happen regardless. It’s nice that he did it without raising taxes by $3.6 billion. Even at the time, lots of people were skeptical that the unions would negotiate, but they were talking the talk and people wanted to believe it could be worked out that way. You don’t need to be smoking something to hope two sides could work out a reasonable compromise. Then they demonstrated in MPS that they wouldn’t compromise, and that mostly settled the issue. No cornsilk required. Also, be careful. Your last line sounds an awful lot like communism. Why should he get something I don’t have?!? Everyone in the same, crummy boat! It’s probably not “fair” that Costo employees make twice what a Wal-mart employee makes (more, with benefits), but I don’t see you calling for legislation to take that away from the Costco employees.

    Finally, yes, Burke has an official stance on these issues, but she has little record. On the Madison school board, she regularly voted for the maximum increase in property tax levy allowed by law. That’s the recent record she has on these issues.

  25. Observer says:

    “Kyle, someone had to solve the problem of overspending and bad business polices of /doyle and co”
    Bob, don’t you mean Tommy Thompson and company? After all he left a huge deficit for the next administration.
    I’d like to ask all of Walker’s supporters one question. Had you ever heard of Sue Burke “back in the day”? I confess I resisted supporting her candidacy because she was an unknown to me. If you believe the TV ads she was co-Governor with Doyle. Anyway if you want to blame someone for Wisconsin’s budget woes under Doyle look to Tommy “Stick it to Milwaukee” Thompson. The last three administrations have been in the hip pocket of the new highway construction lobby which is bankrupting this state. I can only hope that a Governor Sue Burke will break that chain.

  26. Observer says:

    Barack Obama did want Universal Healthcare but he didn’t get it. We all would have save big $$$$$ had he achieved that. Wisconsin, under Walker, has a $1.8 billion shortfall so Kyle he didn’t “fix” anything. Let’s not forget that in this euphoria of lower taxes he’s had to take out bonds to pay the current bills. Presumably after he becomes President you can tell your grandchildren why they are still paying those bonds off.

  27. Andy says:

    PMD, is that the article that talks about how she voted against the large budget increase? The vote where she was the only one opposed so she could look good for elections but know the budget would pass anyway?

    The same one that doesn’t touch on the fact that the Madison School Board is the only one left in the state that isn’t using the flexibility of ACT 10 to actually save tax payers money?

    She blames rising taxes the last few years on Walker, yet she and the rest of the school board blatantly ignored ACT 10 and using it’s design to lower taxes for the residents of Madison. How is that looking out for the average Madison family? Then again, it’s Madison… perhaps the “average” Madison family actually does desire tax increases… The way they vote it wouldn’t surprise me.

  28. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Tommy left nothing, he was gone two years before Doyle took over. 9/11 intervened and caused recession. McCallum should have cut budget but did not.

  29. PMD says:

    Nope that’s not it Andy.

    Look out for those Madison voters. They hate America, freedom, liberty, baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. They only vote out of anger.

  30. Kyle says:

    Observer, please try to be fair. There is a projected shortfall of $1.8 billion in the 2015-2017 budget, which will have to be addressed during the budget process at the beginning of 2015. The current budget is projected to have a surplus. Maybe fixed isn’t exactly the right term, but a surplus and a smaller projected shortfall are at least a step in the right direction. Should Walker be using different accounting practices? You could argue that, but then government very rarely uses the accounting practices you want him to use. That’s a broader issue that’s hardly specific to Walker. If I want to explain to my grandchildren about paying off public debt, I’ll point them to the works of Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who advocates for never paying off public debt.

    Also, I feel like I’m missing an inside joke about Sue Burke. Despite the attack ads tying her to Doyle, I’ve tried not to make any of points reference that at all. Now, if you tell me I should vote for Mary Burke (it IS Mary, right? Not Sue?) because of all the great things she did as commerce secretary, then I’ll take a closer look at the policies of the Doyle administration.

    It will be interesting to see how/if she votes on the Madison school board budget the day before the election. 4.2% levy increase and an extra 1% increase to teacher pay above the regular increases due to education, training, and experience.

  31. Andy says:

    PMD, you’re getting sarcastic and negative like WCD… and also referencing things you’re refusing to cite, just as he does. I’m not going to chase all over the internet to try to find an article you say exists.

    Either point me to it or I’m going to have to start putting you in the category of WCD and ignore you… which would be unfortunate because usually I enjoy debating these things with you.

  32. PMD says:

    You get pretty snarky Andy, this thread included. If a little sarcasm causes you to ignore me, I’ll find a way to pull through. But you know, stones and glass houses man.

    I did not and am not refusing anything. The article is right here: http://host.madison.com/news/local/writers/todd-milewski/scott-walker-mary-burke-talk-taxes-school-vouchers-in-statewide/article_6d72097e-5d55-11e4-8a12-5f4ae8a71614.html

  33. Kyle says:

    PMD, did you know that Google actually tailors your search results based on previous search and browsing history? It’s entirely possible that Andy won’t find the same exact article you find with a quick Google search.

    Also, I thought we were trying to keep this an actual discussion. The jump from Madison voters supporting tax increases to hating everything is a bit much.

    “That’s too bad. I presented arguments and didn’t attack you. Your rebuttal is just personal attacks.” – PMD

  34. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    We have nice fat surplus, pus rainy day fund plus what ever new revenue comes in will make that proposed deficit disappear plus new revenue for tax cuts. I have studied the budget for 50 years and that is correct. those projections do not take into account any changes in budget plus any new revenue. Walker fixed the mess that the Left usually makes.
    Want to see deficits, look at Obamas budget and then figure out how my kids will pay that back.

  35. PMD says:

    Cripes almighty Kyle the post about Madison voters was a joke. I thought that was perfectly clear. I guess you have to be careful on the Internet. So again, for the record, it was not a serious post. Man alive.

  36. Kyle says:

    So, having read that article, I’m not sure I have any more idea what Mary Burke would actually do. It sounds great to say you’re going to focus on education spending without eliminating the tax cuts, but the extra money you want to spend on education has to come from somewhere. I’d understand if that was the plan for the surplus created during Walker’s term, but I keep hearing how he hasn’t fixed anything. If there’s still a mess financially, where is the new education money coming from? If she’s taking that money from something else, should we recall her for not campaigning on that? Seems to be the precedent set recently…

  37. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Reference alinsky: Stupid arguments deserve sarcastic degrading replies.

  38. PMD says:

    For the record I did not sign a recall petition. And I did not mean to suggest that the article contained a comprehensive tax plan, just that she has talked about taxes and education funding, and recently at that.

  39. Andy says:

    Bah, all my anticipation was all for that?? Well now I’m disappointed.

    All I got from that blurb is that she’d like to end statewide vouchers, she’d keep Walker’s tax cuts in place, and “make schools a priority” but offers no details on that. Meanwhile Walker lists specific and measurable changes he’s made during his tenure and says he plans to continue those.

    Following the link to the “Up Front” video’s, she certainly seems to be all over the place. She criticizes tax cuts because they don’t create jobs but can’t give a good reason on why she wouldn’t roll them back. She says she’s against statewide vouchers but doesn’t articulate why she’d keep Milwaukee’s except that there’s good examples of those schools in Milwaukee… so why can’t that same good model be used elsewhere?

    When asked how she’d fund transportation she said “It’ll take leadership” and “There’s a commission that gave us ideas on how to fund it” yet she can’t cite those.

    Those are only a few things I’m confused by in her answers.

    Point is, how can I feel she cares about the average person when she doesn’t seem to have substance that helps anyone?

  40. PMD says:

    It’s a fair question. As I stated above, I don’t think either candidate has a made a compelling case that they truly care about average families. My initial intention at the start of this thread was to dispute the notion put forth that Walker is a friend of average families, and ask for evidence of that, not defend Burke.

  41. Andy says:

    You’re right… I guess we got derailed.

    I did answer that question in regard to how I feel Walker cares about and helps the average family. I stated “Walker touts all the taxes he’s cut or held the line on, froze tuition, and attempts to create jobs (with varying success and influenced by myriad of other factors which we don’t need to rehash).”

    But we’re all entitled to our opinion.

  42. PMD says:

    All governors try to create jobs. I don’t think that fact is proof they care about average families. And a tax cut that benefits the wealthy more than anyone else is also not proof of caring about average families. One could say it proves the contrary. I know our lives didn’t change for the better because of it. If that’s the best proof for the claim that Walker cares about average families, then yikes, that’s pretty bad for Walker.

  43. Observer says:

    Sue, Mary, whatsit matter? My point exactly. I may vote for her because she isn’t Walker, a man surrounded by corruption. I also don’t think Wisconsin can afford 4 more, or is it 2 more years, of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. When you borrow money, you do not have a surplus. I think that is accepted in most financial circles.

    Bob, you say things about Obama that you praise Walker for. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/04/01/318392/-Tommy-Thompson-s-Legacy-in-Wisconsin-Was-Deficits# You must have a statue of Clinton in your living room for him fixing the huge gaping deficit hole he was left. Or maybe you have an order for an Obama one for shrinking it so rapidly. Maybe you want Walker to pull a Sam Brownback so we can beat Kansas.

  44. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Actually I have written and said on numerous occasions that Ronnie and Tip plus bill and Newt did the best jobs for this countries fiscal problems..
    If Obama would have sat down with Boehner we could have gotten a lot done plus changed the whole racial mess in this country. He did not.

  45. Kyle says:

    Observer, you’re advocating that she run the state, but you don’t even care about her name? You have no idea what she’d do as Governor, you just hate Walker so much that you don’t care? Surrounded by corruption? Would that be from the first probe, which he started, or the second, which according to the Supreme Court is investigating activity that isn’t illegal?

    PMD, I’m having trouble finding the information right now (what with Google showing me the wrong things), but what’s your evidence that the tax cuts benefit the wealthy more than anyone else? Are you use the raw dollar amount of the tax cut, or the overall tax burden by income? As best I recall (and again, I’m still searching for the data), the top income bracket receives the most money, but their overall tax burden (as a percent of total tax revenue) increases.

  46. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    This corruption thing is crap. Walker is most honest person I know. he turned in Russell. he did not know that Wink was making blog entries in the Journal blogs on her lunch breaks. Kelly was sending a few emails to Brett Davis during office house about politics, wrong, but something like that is done daily all over state..
    These other people were convicted of voter fraud,had nothing to do with Scott,. something I have been campaigning against for years to get voter ID. They would not have been able to do that with ID. So you are talking about one person who was turned in by Nardelli and Scott.

  47. PMD says:

    http://host.madison.com/news/local/writers/mike_ivey/report-upper-percent-got-biggest-savings-from-wisconsin-tax-cuts/article_67382fc8-ecd2-11e3-adc1-001a4bcf887a.html

    http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/top-wage-earners-taxpayers-get-biggest-benefit-from-walker-tax-cuts-b99191408z1-241905661.html

    http://www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org/do-all-taxpayers-get-the-same-benefit-from-the-governors-income-tax-proposals

    -A collaborative report from the Council on Children and Families and the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy found the top 20 percent of Wisconsin households earning more than $90,000 annually benefit from more than half of all Walker’s tax cut.

    -Another report from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau confirmed those making six figures or more make up less than one-fifth of those receiving a tax cut, yet they would save on more than 49 percent on the $170 million proposed yearly tax cut. The bureau’s analysis added average state taxpayers would save $83 in 2014.

  48. Andy says:

    Dang PMD, at least do a little more homework. There’s a bunch of tax cuts you have to combine. Plus, the top percentiles pay by far the most in income taxes… with something like a third not paying any at all. Even that LFB report you cited also said this:

    On average, taxpayers with AGI between $15,000 to $20,000 would experience the largest percentage reduction in net tax liability (10.4%), but that percentage
    decreases as AGI increases. The percentage reduction for taxpayers with $300,000 or more of AGI would be 0.07%.

    The tax cuts he made effectively shifted the tax burden up the income ladder. Of course you’ll see biggest cuts at the top, they’re paying by far the most in taxes. You can’t really cut income taxes for people who don’t pay income taxes… (well, you can add to those “Refundable ones” I guess….)

  49. PMD says:

    No need to be condescending Andy. I get that the top percentiles pay the most in income taxes. Did they really need a big tax cut though? Does that spur economic growth and help middle class families?

  50. Andy says:

    These things don’t build themselves for free:

    http://www.jsonline.com/business/in-uncertain-times-yacht-industry-keeps-afloat-b99330983z1-271768081.html

    I’m just joking, not condescending. This time. 😉

  51. Kyle says:

    I’m willing to admit that the exact numbers I want are proving too difficult to find for the time I have to invest in this. The closest I can find to the number I want is in this politifact article about the tax cut plan: http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2013/jun/02/dale-kooyenga/kooyenga-says-wisconsins-income-taxes-stand-out-na/

    The bulk of what they rate as mostly true is that the top 10% of earners in Wisconsin pay more than 50% of the income taxes. Based on the articles you cited, the top 20% received 50% of the cuts. So the upper 20% received a lower percentage of the cuts than their percentage of the income tax. That means everyone else (as a whole), received a higher percentage back than they’re paying in. The Walker tax cuts effectively made the Wisconsin tax code more progressive.

  52. PMD says:

    True that Andy. I’ve seen some of those yachts under construction in Sturgeon Bay. A sight to see.

    I’d have rather had the $8 we got back go to the local school district.

  53. Kyle says:

    As an aside: Bruce Murphy, if you’re paying attention, tell your web designers to fix the “Older Comments” link so it works with all web browsers. Please and Thank you!

  54. Kyle says:

    I amend my request Bruce: Please make it work with any browser. I can’t make it work on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or even IE. Don’t make me download and try Opera.

  55. Observer says:

    Kyle, I’m not a millionaire so yes, I am considering voting against Walker and not for whatshername.

  56. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    One thing that you all forget is the fact that the states that have more high earners have the best growth and most revenue. Our big earner are running down south and taking up residency in the no income tax states. Keep beating up on them the faster they leave and tax eaters take their place. Seniors bail out cause of income taxes to go south. My in laws and my folks did, saving thousands per month.
    Why anyone wants to just milk the cow instead of feeding it end up like Venezuela. Why have all the businesses left Milwaukee and gone to Waukesha?? Cause of the nutty Leftists that run the place.

  57. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I see another filthy rich democrat plows 5 million into her campaign. I have watched Obama destroy the middle class the last 6 years and so will Burke.

  58. Observer says:

    <>
    Funny, I always thought that was initially Ronald Reagan. By the time bush left office, the middle class was pretty much gone.

  59. PMD says:

    WCD does it also annoy you when a filthy rich Republican pours millions into their campaign? Or when a filthy rich Republican writes a check for $1 million? Cause they happen all the time. Just curious.

  60. Kyle says:

    Didn’t you know PMD? Rich Republican candidates earned their millions by building job-creating businesses. Rich Democrat candidates just inherited that money from their rich Republican families. That, or from Hollywood brainwashing the masses.

    That does lead to an interesting question though. Conceptually (read: not specific to Walker and Burke), should we prefer rich candidates who finance their own campaigns or should we prefer working/middle class candidates who get their money from special interest groups? Out of touch but not beholden to anyone, or understands your plight but owes others a lot of gratitude?

  61. Andy says:

    PMD, you may want your $8 to go to schools, but I have a differing- although more complicated- stance. Personally, I appreciate that my income taxes didn’t go up, and they in fact went down. I am pretty “average” of income, but I’m seeing more than $8… not to mention, my property taxes have held nice and steady. That’s a far cry from years previous.

    However, besides just seeing more money in my pocket, I want to make sure that they money I do give the government is actually used wisely. I do not believe MPS uses my tax money wisely, for example. I do not want to blindly hand out $8 or $500 extra to an organization that takes twice as much money to do the same thing as a voucher school for example. Yes, there are things we need to pay for and taxes is how we do that. But we must also make sure we are being prudent with how that money is spent. Milwaukee and Wisconsin are not entities that come to mind when I try to think of fiscally prudent groups.

  62. PMD says:

    Good question Kyle. I don’t have an answer. I just don’t think that more money is politics can possibly be good, especially when it’s often hard to find out where the money is coming from. It already seems like both sides only answer to big donors and special interests. I fear that will only get worse.

  63. Allison says:

    Good article, except turns out Burke was actually fired from Trek

  64. PMD says:

    She was if you believe a conservative giving an interview to a conservative publication funded by a Walker ally less than a week before the election. Yeah no reason to believe that’s suspicious. Totally passes the smell test.

  65. Allison says:

    PMD-I can understand your point regarding Gary Ellerman and the Wisconsin Reporter article. However, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is not a right wing publication. Tom Albers, yet another source, has no ax to grind and was actually very complementary in some ways of Ms. Burke. John Burke was complementary of him as well. Albers did not seek any publicity, the reporter came to him. She was let go from Trek due to poor performance and treating the employees poorly. Her whole campaign was based on Walker’s lousy job creation record and she was going to come in and do better, based on her work at Trek, This is now proven to be false. You can say you don’t believe it and it smells. That’s fine. But Mike Tate should have vetted this before he picked her as his candidate. Major screwup there.

    PMD-What makes Mary Burke qualified to be Governor? Most candidates have some kind of accomplishments doing something, don’t they?

  66. Kyle says:

    Okay, she wasn’t fired. She was downsized from her family’s business, since that’s her official position on the topic. Sounds so much better that way, doesn’t it? Yes, she was able to return a few years later, but in a non-managerial department of one (again, that’s her description of it).

    At least to voted against raising the property tax levy for the Madison school board. Though she voted for the teacher pay increase that required the tax levy in the first place. I’m sure she explains how that is going to work somewhere…

  67. PMD says:

    It’s weird how people turn statements into something that was never said or even implied. I didn’t say Burke is qualified to be governor. I questioned a story about her and said it reeks of politics right before the election. Which it does. Kind of like how Walker said last week’s release of Doe documents reeked of politics. You honestly believe it’s coincidence that this is making news now? If so that’s some blind partisanship right there.

  68. Kyle says:

    Of course it reeks of politics! No one cared that Burke got fired/downsized/bored when she’d been unemployed for years, and I have no idea if it came up when she ran for the Madison school board. And I honestly have no idea why no one bothered to question her work history or qualifications before this. But the week before an election is like sweeps week for political coverage. They always save “good” stories for now. They have to have something to talk about non-stop for the rest of the week.

  69. PMD says:

    No argument here Kyle. That’s why a healthy dose of skepticism is in order. Some people seem to take it as gospel and act like they worked at Trek during Burke’s tenure and have firsthand knowledge of what transpired back then. The whole thing seems like BS to me, another non-story in an election that has been full of them (thanks Daniel Bice and JS). I’ll be glad when this is over. So sick of the attack ads and nonsense.

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