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Walker: State must cut its own costs

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker addresses a gathering at Valley Cartage on Monday.

Just as Wisconsin families are getting by with less, state government must learn frugality, said Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker Tuesday.

Walker - who faces Mark Neumann and Scott Paterick for the GOP nomination in the Sept. 14 primary election - addressed a group of about 40 gathered at noon in the loading dock of Valley Cartage in Hudson's industrial park.

Paper lunch bags, a symbol of his "Brown Bag Movement," awaited audience members as they took their seats on metal folding chairs.

Walker, the son of a minister, said as he paid his way through school working odd jobs, he carried his lunch and today still saves money by packing his own sandwiches before heading to the office.

"A lot the stories I got from my grandmother shaped who I am today," said Walker, has been Milwaukee County executive since he was first elected to the job in 2002.

He said his grandmother, who was raised during the Great Depression and later widowed, was self-sufficient and frugal. When she took her grandchildren out to eat, she took them to McDonald's and used coupons, said Walker.

"I swear to God, she had so many coupons with her, they paid us to eat there."

Those lessons in frugality are important in these times of economic downturn, said Walker.

"I for one like a government that tries to save money just like the rest of us," he said. "Too many politicians have that flip-flopped around."

He said he will apply to state government the same small town values and common sense ideas he uses in his own life: Don't spend more than you have, smaller government is better government, and people, not government, create jobs.

When he started campaigning for governor, said Walker, he toured Wisconsin businesses but soon realized he was meeting only with general managers.

As he made an effort to talk one-on-one with workers and the public in general, he has learned about their concerns, said Walker.

"What I'm finding is pretty universal: people are scared," he said, explaining they are afraid of losing their jobs or of having family members lose jobs.

"You don't have to be afraid anymore because help is on the way," said Walker, promising that if he's elected governor, he will work to implement changes that help employers create jobs.

A better business climate

Walker said lower taxes, fewer regulations on business creation and expansion and "true tort reform" are needed to improve Wisconsin's business climate.

He promised that his first priority as governor will be to help the people of Wisconsin create 250,000 new jobs by the end of his first term.

Those skeptical of his ability to do that should look at his record as Milwaukee County executive, said Walker.

When he was elected, he said, Milwaukee County was close to an organizational and financial meltdown. Since then, he said, he has introduced eight consecutive balanced county budgets that didn't increase the property tax levy from the year before, cut the county's debt to raise its bond rating and encouraged Milwaukee airport development that resulted in 1,000 new private sector jobs.

Gov. Jim Doyle has taken the state down the wrong path, said Walker. "It's about time we put somebody in who's going to fix that."

Walker said employers "beg me" to get government out of their way.

There is no better place to grow up, live or retire to than Wisconsin, said Walker.

"What's failing us is not our people or our place," he said. "What's failing us is our government."

Walker said he would support a constitutional amendment to assure that the state's transportation fund is used solely for transportation and not diverted to cover other deficits.

Education, health care

Wisconsin needs to continue to improve its educational system, said Walker. He suggested allowing school districts to reward teachers who do well.

"Everywhere else, we pay for performance," said Walker, who believes that will work in schools too.

As for the University of Wisconsin system, he advocates giving greater autonomy to campuses, decentralizing power, allowing universities to operate more like businesses and tying campuses into regional economic development plans.

When it comes to health care, Wisconsin consistently ranks high in access and quality, said Walker. "What's killing us is cost."

He suggested "getting government out of the way," providing more disclosure and transparency when insurance coverage is purchased and expecting consumers to take more responsibility for their health care.

"Ultimately all of as consumers need to have more skin in the game," said Walker. "The more we play an active role in our health ...the better off we're going to be."

The recently adopted federal health care reform gives people no reason to do that, he said.

For more about Walker's campaign, visit

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.