Editor's Note: Governor Scott Walker was campaigning in northwest Wisconsin this past weekend and I had the opportunity to chat with the Guv for about 20 minutes on the phone Saturday morning. You can read the synopsis of our conversation below.
[Ben Dryden - DrydenWire.com]: Hello Mr. Governor, how are you?
[Scott Walker]- Good!
Thanks for taking the time to do this phone interview with us and let me start by asking where are you?
I’m on a bus. I just got diverted off the interstate just past the Dells. There was an accident, and the interstate was closed down. We heard it was pretty serious.
Uh-oh. That’s not good. Since you are on a bus that is actually a good analogy for our chat. Instead of me asking you specific questions, I want you to drive the bus and share what you want to share with our readers.
One of the things I love best is traveling the state and seeing the amazing turnaround we’ve seen in the State, and how proud people are of their communities, of their homes, of their families, and how proud we are of the State of Wisconsin. I know I’m proud to be Governor, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together.
When I think about 8 years ago when I first took office, I was concerned because Wisconsin was a mess. My kids are 23 and 24 now so 8 years ago they were still in school and we were worried as parents that our kids wouldn’t have a job, let alone a career when they graduated. Things were that bad with the State's economy.
Now, in 2018, we have more people working than ever before. We have record low unemployment this year, and we’ve got more career opportunities than we have people unemployed to fill them.
Our goal the first term was about jobs. in our second term, it's about our workforce. During our third term, it will be about keeping and growing that workforce. We want to finish the job and pass the State on in much better shape than we found it.
Is this what you are talking about on your tour this weekend? What stops are you making?
Yep. We are doing a bunch of stops today. We are stopping in Eau Claire, then up to Hayward, then we’re on to Superior. We finish up in Ashland. We’re back at it again on Sunday as we have a rally in Ashland, then over in Eagle River, then to Tomahawk, and Marshfield, and then we ultimately make our way down to Plover. On Monday we’ll be crisscrossing the State again so we can be in Stevens Point, Shawano, Green Bay, and then down to Milwaukee. Tommy Thompson is going to join us for part of that day as well.
I’m presuming you have a bed on your bus.
There are long chairs, and we nap if we need to, but there is a lot of adrenaline, so sleep is sometimes elusive. We’re staying overnight in Ashland tonight, and it’s fun to get out on the trail and meet with the people.
This time of year is beautiful with the leaves changing, and it’s also personally nice for me because I like doing this anyway. My father passed away this last Sunday, so I have my mother with me. I invited her to come with us on the tour, so she’s with us on the bus today and tomorrow. She's pretty well known because a lot of volunteers over the years have eaten her great chocolate chip cookies, and I know they’ll be loving her up at each stop.
I’m sorry to hear about your father.
Thank you. He was a good man. He lived a good life.
Going through these stops and everywhere that you’ve gone, what are the things that you’re hearing the most?
People are pumped. Oftentimes we stop on the bus and people are shocked to believe that we are in a real race. They will say that there are more people working now than ever before, and our schools continue to be some of the best in the nation.
We also hear the comments that their property and income taxes are down from when we started and, they’ll say to me: ‘How do you even have an election?’ So part of my reason for being out on the bus is to remind them that this is just a tough political year in a very competitive state. It’s critically important for us because unfortunately, the left is angry, and their rhetoric is filled with hatred.
We’ve got to counter that with optimism and organization. We’ve got a great optimistic story to tell, not only all that we’ve accomplished but our big bold plans for the future. We’ve just gotta be more organized than we’ve ever been before because there are millions of dollars coming in from outside of the state to attack us, and the best way for us to get the truth out is person to person.
I saw that you were going to be advertising on gas station pump video screens. What was the decision for that? I’m assuming that ties into what Tony Evers had said about gas taxes.
Exactly. We thought it was kind of fun to be a bit more creative these days and try different things, and different approaches.
I remember the first time I pulled up to one of those pumps I was filling up my motorcycle. I did kind of a double take wondering who was talking to me, and what was going on. Or was I hearing voices? Now, these gas station pumps with video screens are commonplace. Not everywhere, but a lot of stations have them.
One of our staff mentioned that since we are talking all the time about how Tony Evers is gonna raise taxes, property, income, or gas taxes, we decided that a gas pump was the perfect place for us to put out ad letting consumers know that they could potentially be paying another $1 for every gallon of gas they buy. That would be just ridiculous. For a typical family, that would be $1,200 more a year, and I just love how we pointed this out.
The media asked Tony Evers about this tax the day after the primary, and he said everything is on the table. They asked does that mean $ 1-gallon gas tax increase and he said everything's on the table. A couple of hours later, presumably after he talked to his political consultants, they said oh no, no, you can’t say that. So he said it was a lie. He’s said since then that it’s ridiculous, but he refuses to tell us how much he is going to raise the gas tax. In fact, he won’t tell us what his transportation plan is until the inauguration after the election. But when a Madison bureaucrat says he’s not gonna tell you how much it’s gonna cost you until after the election, boy, hold onto your wallets because your taxes are going up.
We recently hosted a live a debate on Facebook between Rep. Romaine Quinn and his opponent Ali Holzman. We received several emails following that debate stating that it is easier for the incumbant to win re-election since they have a track record of accomplishments. We also received emails stating that it is easier for the challenger since they can promise whatever they want regardless of a plan how to do it. Now that you’ve gone through a couple of elections, do you think it’s easier to be the incumbent?
It’s easier as long as people don’t ask the kind of legitimate questions you’re asking. Unfortunately, a lot of the media in Milwaukee and Madison just kinda sit back and let people like Tony Evers, and other opponents out there get away with it. That's all the more reason why it's so critically important to get people pumped up to go door to door and share the real message. I mean, Tony Evers has made promises to just about every group out there, every special interest group and he's talking about billions and billions of dollars in spending. He won’t say where it’s coming from other than the fact that he is going to lift our reforms on schools and local governments. This means he will allow property taxes to go up.
Before we put our reforms and caps in, property taxes went up 27% in the decade before we took office. My opponent will raise taxes on some and lower them for others, but he won’t tell you who those people are and how he is gonna do that other than simple things like saying, he’s gonna get rid of one of the tax credits we have that would ultimately raise taxes on manufacturers.
We’ve seen in the last year alone an increase of more than 22,000 manufacturing jobs. Raising taxes on manufacturers is a really bad idea because it will cost us jobs.
Then he wants to raise taxes on farmers. The farm economy is hurting all across America. It's particularly important here in the State of Wisconsin. Raising taxes on farmers is a bad idea and as we just talked about raising the gas tax by as much as $1 gallon, which could easily wipe out the family vacation and it would seriously affect college savings.
Someone like my mother. living by herself with one vehicle. could pay an extra four to six hundred dollars a year in gas taxes. That's something our senior citizens just don’t have. Even so, Tony Evers is making all these promises. The only thing he’s made clear is he’s going to raise taxes to accomplish his goals. I think that should concern people all across the State.
What was the deficit when you took office. Something like 3 billion?
It was 3.6 billion when we came in, and I'm pleased to say that we have had a surplus every year since.
Is that something that you remind people of?
Act 10 was controversial and much-talked-about when it happened. I was speaking with someone recently and they stated they had spoken with you about Act 10 and you stated that it wasn't something that you didn't want to do, but had to do.
That’s exactly right. In fact, Tommy Thompson is going to be campaigning with me on Monday and he’s pointed out in a new radio ad what he’s done for us when he was Governor. He had to make tough choices to turn things around and it worked. We’ve done exactly the same thing.
When I took office eight years ago, unemployment was 9.3 percent. We had lost more than 133,000 jobs in the state. There were a lot of people in the plants I visited that had taken pay cuts, these were the ones that didn’t get laid off, just to keep working. It was a tough, tough time in this state. Many of our graduates were leaving the state to pursue their careers elsewhere.
Today, in 2018, there are more people working than ever before. We’ve had seven months of 3% or below unemployment. That’s a record low. Most impressively, we have more career opportunities posted this week, over 100,000, then we have unemployed people in the state.
Add to that a 3.6 billion dollar budget deficit, with surpluses every year since. We’ve had such a surplus we were able to put more actual dollars into schools than ever before. That means an extra $200 in every school, for every student.
At the same time, we were able to again reduce property taxes and income taxes so that in 2018 they are lower than before we started. We have shown what some in Madison don’t get, and that is that you can do both of those things, but you do it by reforming the government, and you do it by helping the private sector.
The people of the State grow the economy and because we’ve done that, it’s been a big winner. My opponent wants to undo almost every one of those major reforms, and that would take us backward, back to the day of double-digit tax increases, billion dollar budget deficits, and record job loss.
How do you explain that to people without appearing as though it’s a political thing? How do you let them know the facts without having it appear as though you are just ripping on your opponent?
We put a chart on social media; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere, that I love for people to hand out to their friends, their family, their neighbors, and their co-workers. I love having small business owners print it out, give it to their employees, because it's an insight into the facts. It that shows where things were in 2010, and where they’re at in 2018. Unemployment in 2010-9.3 %. In 2018? It’s 3 % or below, down 7 straight months.
When you look at budgets, there was a 3.6 billion dollar budget deficit in 2010. Now, education spending is up and taxes are down. Support for the University of Wisconsin system, our overall budget is up. Tuition had gone up 118% in the decade before our freeze. In 2018, we’ve had 6 consecutive years without a tuition increase so out tuition freeze is in place.
This holds true with issue after issue. It is hard to argue against the black and white facts. Part of our campaign is getting those facts out to the voters, and the other part is in the comparison between Evers and me concerning raising/not raising property taxes, or income taxes, or the gas tax by as much as $1 gallon.
We saw how that happened when Jim Doyle was in charge. We don’t want to go back to those days, and I think what we’ve found is when you show thinking people those facts, we will win over the independent, persuadable voters. Which means we will win the election.
But the key is getting enough people pumped up because the challenge is that people, particularly small business owners, farmers, and others who are working hard every day, know what's happened in the State. They see what we have accomplished, and they say to me, 'You don’t have a real race, things are too good, there's no way you can’t win.'
We just have to remind them that there people out there who, no matter what the facts are, that if it’s a Republican who is responsible for it, they don’t believe it's true. We’ve gotta find ways to independently validate that to them, and I think that will make a difference.
I believe you know my father and that he is retiring after 28 years as the Washburn County Sheriff. Anything you would like to say to him?
Absolutely, oh, absolutely. For all the years at Badger Sheriff’s events and other activities, I just want to state to Terry that we appreciate all his good work. We appreciate all the devotion and dedication, not only to people in your county but to people all across the State. And boy, nearly 3 decades of protecting and serving the people of your county and of your state. We say thank you for a job well done.
Mr. Governor, thank you for speaking with me this morning. Best wishes to you and your family this November.
Thanks so much.