Why recall target Gov. Scott Walker is taking his message to Illinois
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is facing a recall, but he still found time to visit Springfield, Ill., Tuesday to take on one of his favorite targets: Illinois' $8 billion budget deficit.
Embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has his tried-and-true talking points – pushing back against public-sector unions and advocating private-sector job growth – as he makes the rounds ahead of a recall election in June. What was unusual Tuesday was where Governor Walker took his message: Illinois.Skip to next paragraph
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Walker frequently bashes Illinois, Wisconsin's southern neighbor, for its ballooning budget deficit and oversubscribed pension obligations, saying voters need to keep him in office to prevent such fiscal woes from besetting Wisconsin. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in February, Walker described Illinois as “no greater example of the failed policies [he’s] running against.”
Walker appeared Tuesday in Springfield, Ill., the state capital, at the invitation of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which supports his approach to fiscal reform. His keynote speech was timed to coincide with the start of a new seven-week legislative session, in which Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and the state’s Democratic majority face a number of troubling economic burdens, including an estimated $8 billion budget deficit this fiscal year.
Walker's message, says chamber president and CEO Doug Whitley, makes him “someone whom we should be paying attention to” in Illinois.
“Scott Walker represents the bold approach – swallow the castor oil today and you’re going to be better in the long term," says Mr. Whitley. "In Illinois, we’ve been doing the incremental approach. We’ve been doing right things but haven’t been bold enough to move the needle.”
Illinois raised income taxes last year, but the state Chamber of Commerce complains it did nothing to solve the state’s financial crisis. Instead, Whitley says, Illinois needs to look for solutions in restructuring Medicaid benefits and the state’s five public pension systems to make them more sustainable.
Walker could stand to benefit from his appearance if Illinois business people opt to contribute to his campaign to defeat the recall, but he didn't rally the Chamber of Commerce audience to financially support his campaign Tuesday.
Governor Quinn did not comment on Walker's appearance in Springfield, but his office did issue a handout to reporters that was meant to contradict many of Walker's assertions. It said, for instance, that Wisconsin lost 21,000 jobs last year and, in the first 13 months of Walker's tenure as governor, ranked last in job growth, citing the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Walker, for his part, likes to emphasize job growth in the private sector, saying 17,500 such jobs were created in January and February, and noting that Wisconsin's unemployment rate has been falling.
About 2,000 protesters, primarily representing labor organizations, gathered outside the hotel where Walker spoke Tuesday.