Scott Walker, Master of Deception
Whenever the governor insists a policy is “not a priority,” you can probably assume the contrary.
The Republicans are feeling their oats. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says he wants the legislature to quickly take up a right-to-work bill in the upcoming session. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) says he has “long been a supporter” of such a law, which would would greatly reduce the power of private-sector unions.
But Gov. Scott Walker is holding up a stop sign. He’s repeatedly said the issue is a distraction, and he doesn’t want to take the focus off his priorities including cutting taxes and consolidating government services.
So will this stop Republican legislators from pursuing the issue? It might if Walker privately urged Fitzgerald and Vos to back off, but I doubt he has. Because it’s quite likely the governor actually wants to sign the bill.
Indeed, history tells us that when Walker says a policy is distraction or isn’t a priority, he fully intends to sign the legislation.
When the State Assembly passed a bill that would end early voting on the weekends, Walker told the press, “it’s not at the top of our list of priorities.”
But once both houses of the legislature passed it, he signed the bill that wasn’t a priority, doing it privately, with as little fanfare as possible.
When legislators pushed a bill making it more difficult for the state to force schools to drop their Indian team names, Walker all but ran away from the legislation. “I have nothing to do with it,” Walker told the press. “It is nothing that I have advocated. In fact, all the while they were debating it I was asked at press conferences what I thought about it, and I would say, ‘It is not on my radar. If it is not about jobs, lower taxes, improving schools, it is not on my priority list.’”
When Republicans were pushing a bill to that would require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and prohibit doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing the procedures, Walker, a lifelong abortion opponent, wasn’t outfront on the issue. In fact, he has repeatedly told the media the abortion issue was not one for Republicans to emphasize. “I don’t focus on that; I don’t obsess with it,” he told the Christian Science Monitor. “For us politically, it doesn’t make sense … not to be focused on the fiscal and economic issues,” he told The Hill newspaper.
But once the legislature passed the bill, the governor signed it as quietly as possible. The bill was passed in mid-June, but Walker waited until “Friday in the middle of the long 4th of July holiday weekend” to sign it, as Talking Points Memo noted. “The measure’s opponents accused him of trying to bury news of the signing… Walker did not sign the bill in public, instead issuing a press release early in the afternoon including the bill in a list of 17 other measures he signed.”
When Republican legislators talked about reshaping the Government Accountability Board back in December 2012, Walker offered some familiar words. “That’s one of those issues that really hasn’t come up on our radar screen…. that’s not a priority for us. It’s not something we’re going to be focused on.
Then, when legislators made it clear they didn’t like the judge who ran the GAB — former Republican legislator David Deininger, who apparently wasn’t pro-GOP enough — Walker decided to dump Deininger. Had legislators pushed Walker to do this or was it really Walker’s decision? Hard to say, but we can all be sure of one thing: the issue was simply not a priority for the governor.
When it came to a bill to end same day registration in Wisconsin, Walker declared, “This is a ridiculous issue. My priority is about jobs, creating jobs.”
But this ridiculous non-priority was actually something he had championed in a national speech meant to burnish his bonafides as a presidential candidate. Odds are this was another bill he wanted passed, but after a report by the GAB estimated it would cost the state $5.2 million he reversed course and opposed it.
During the fall gubernatorial candidate debates Walker was asked whether he intended to run for president and the governor made it crystal clear his only priority was to finish all four years of his second term as governor. And as soon as he was elected, he began giving signals he would be running.
In short, when Walker talks about his priorities and opposes any distraction to them, it’s usually a signal he intends to proceed in a quite different direction.
In the case of right to work, this has long been a favorite issue of his. Rep. Walker sponsored a right-to-work bill in 1993 and has said his position in support of the issue has not changed. And in a video of a one-on-one conversation Walker had with businesswoman Diane Hendricks, who asked about making Wisconsin a right to work state, he answered that the law targeting public employee union rights was a “first step” and then “you use divide and conquer.”
In reality, Walker has supported such a measure for two decades. And its passage would make him a hero to conservatives nationally, and win him votes in the Republican presidential primaries. A right-to-work bill is one more of those pesky, distracting, non-priorities that Scott Walker, with his entire heart and soul, would love to help become law.