Steven Walters
The State of Politics

12 Issues Where Burke and Walker Disagree

From abortion to iron mining, and from public unions to public schools, the candidates differ greatly.

By - Nov 3rd, 2014 09:38 am
Mary Burke and Gov. Scott Walker.

Mary Burke and Gov. Scott Walker.

Been too busy to focus on Tuesday’s election for governor? If so, you may find this helpful: a list of 12 major issues where the two candidates for governor disagree:

*Affordable Care Act: Two issues here. First, Democratic candidate Mary Burke promises that, if elected, her proposed 2015-17 budget will request federal cash to expand the Medicaid program that provides health care for elderly, poor and disabled adults. Republican Gov. Scott Walker says a federal government that is $17 trillion in debt cannot be trusted to pay its share of expanded health-care costs, so he won’t seek that federal cash. State government’s Medicaid costs have more than doubled over the last five years.

They also disagree on whether Wisconsin should have set up its own health-care marketing exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act. Burke says yes; Walker refused to do so.

*Private School Choice/Vouchers: Walker wants a 1,000-student statewide enrollment cap on the Parents’ Choice program (outside Milwaukee and Racine) removed in the next state budget. Burke says she would keep Choice in Milwaukee, where it started in 1990, but would push to end the program statewide. She says state payments for Choice students weaken public schools.

*Common Core standards: Burke supports the national Common Core educational standards movement Wisconsin joined in 2010. Walker has called on legislators to withdraw from the Common Core movement, so Wisconsin-based academic goals can be drafted.

*Minimum wage: Walker opposes raising the $7.25 per hour minimum wage, saying an increase would hurt still-struggling businesses and deny teenagers a chance to learn first job skills. Burke wants the minimum wage raised to $10.10 in stages. She says the working poor need to earn more.

*Drunken driving: Burke says first-offense drunk driving should be a crime, saying it is often a deadly mistake. Wisconsin is the only state where it is treated like a traffic citation. Walker notes that new laws have toughened penalties for repeat drunk drivers, and first-time offenders face suspension of their drivers’ licenses and many other sanctions.

*Photo ID to vote: Walker signed a law requiring voters to show a photo ID, saying it would prevent fraud. The U.S. Supreme Court recently stayed that law, so no voter will have to show an ID on Tuesday. Burke says a photo ID is an unnecessary burden on the poor and minorities, whose votes Walker and Republican legislators want suppressed. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, she adds.

*Same-sex marriage: Walker says his personal definition of marriage is between a man and woman, but that no longer matters because federal judges have legalized same-sex marriages in Wisconsin. Saying adults should be able to marry those they love, Burke welcomed judges’ orders striking down the Wisconsin Constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage.

*Collective bargaining: Burke says the Act 10 law Walker signed in 2011 properly made public employees pay more for their health care and pensions, but it went too far when it all but abolished collective bargaining by most public workers. She wants collective bargaining for government workers restored. Walker says the old collective bargaining system cheated taxpayers who pay for local government services and gave public employees lavish fringe benefits for too long.

*Economic development: Walker says he missed his 2010 campaign promise – creating 250,000 new private-sector jobs by 2015 – partly because the Act 10 controversy created too much uncertainty for business leaders. But Wisconsin’s economy has seen a “comeback” because of his policies, he adds. Burke says Walker tax cuts and other policies favored the wealthy, hurt  middle-class workers and their families and, as a former Trek executive, she knows how to work with businesses to retain and add jobs. Since 2011, about 111,000 new private-sector jobs were created in Wisconsin.

*Abortion: Walker personally opposes abortion and signed into law an end to tax funds for Planned Parenthood and new requirements before a woman can have an abortion. Burke supports a woman’s right to reproductive choice.

*Gogebic iron mine: Burke says Walker and Republican legislators weakened environmental protections when they rewrote state laws in 2013 to allow Gogebic Taconite to apply for an open-pit iron mine in Iron and Ashland counties. Walker pushed for those 2013 changes, saying the mine could bring good jobs to northwest Wisconsin without degrading environmental standards.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the non-profit WisconsinEye public affairs channel. Contact him at


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