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Scott Walker Says ‘It’s Working’ But Are His Policies Working for You?

Oct. 15, 2014
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On the campaign trail, Gov. Scott Walker and his allies keep insisting that “it’s working.” Is that true? Take a look and see if Walker’s Wisconsin is working for you.


If you’re the 1%…

The top 1% of Walker’s Wisconsin scored big in his tax cuts. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state’s wealthiest residents will get a $2,518 tax break annually. But the average taxpayer will see a mere $11 tax cut per month, and if you’re in the bottom 20% with an average annual income of $14,000, you’ll see a meager $48 tax cut per year, just $4 a month.

 

If you earn the minimum wage…

Minimum-wage workers earn just $7.25 an hour; for a full-time worker, that’s just $290 weekly and $15,080 annually. That doesn’t even come close to supporting a single individual, let alone a family. Sadly, Walker doesn’t seem to care about raising the minimum wage, even though state law requires him to ensure that workers are paid a living wage. When Wisconsin Jobs Now presented him with a complaint about his violation of the law, he denied it. (More on this in the Issue of the Week, page 14.)

Apparently Walker is protecting low-wage employers like Walmart that don’t offer good wages and benefits to their workers. Instead, these corporations push their underpaid workers onto the public safety net for food and income assistance and medical care. Wisconsinites are ponying up $166 million for public programs each year just for our state’s low-wage fast food workers, according to the 2013 study Fast Food, Poverty Wages. Looked at another way, that’s $166 million annually in taxpayer-funded corporate welfare for low-wage fast-food employers. That doesn’t even include non-fast-food employers, such as Walmart, the company with the most employees on BadgerCare. Walmart just happens to be helmed by the ultra-conservative Walton family, major Walker donors.

 

If you’ve just lost your job…

Losing a job is incredibly stressful, even more so in a state that’s dead last in the Midwest in job creation. Adding insult to injury, in 2011 state Republicans and Walker added a “waiting week” for unemployment insurance so the state could buy a little time before paying out benefits. And if Walker wins re-election, he’s hell-bent on requiring drug testing for those who receive unemployment or other safety net benefits—even though the mandatory drug tests may jeopardize federal funds for the state and Wisconsin businesses.

 

If your child goes to public school…

Walker famously slashed $800 million from the state’s K-12 schools in his first biennial budget, the largest cuts in Wisconsin history. But the cuts weren’t distributed evenly. A Wisconsin Budget Project analysis found that Walker’s cuts hit high-poverty districts the hardest, with $703 less state support per pupil in the 2011-2012 school year. In contrast, low-poverty, high-income districts saw a reduction of just $319 per pupil.

 

If your child goes to private school…

Families of private school students got lots of goodies during the Walker administration. Republicans expanded the taxpayer-funded, publicly unaccountable voucher program statewide and increased the amount of a voucher as well as the income level of parents whose kids use vouchers. Instead of only funding vouchers for students from low-income families, a married family with two children can now earn up to $76,801 and still receive a taxpayer-funded voucher. Studies have shown that these “reforms” are simply paying for students’ tuition at private—typically religious—schools they were already attending. The voucher program will cost state taxpayers $385 million in the 2013-2015 biennium, thanks to Walker’s reforms. Walker recently said that he wants to expand vouchers even further if he’s re-elected in November.

In addition, in the most recent budget Walker and GOP lawmakers signed off on the most generous tax break for private school tuition in the country—a $10,000 tax break per child who attends a private school. The kicker is that there’s no income limit on this tax deduction, which means that millionaires and billionaires who send their kids to exclusive schools get this taxpayer-funded perk, which is estimated to siphon $30 million from state coffers per year.

 

If you have student loan debt…

Then you won’t get any help from college washout Scott Walker. Although 800,000 Wisconsinites are paying off their student loans, usually making great sacrifices to do so, Walker and his fellow Republicans completely ignored the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill, sponsored by legislative Democrats, that would have allowed individuals to refinance their student loans and deduct their payments from their taxes.

 

If you’re a working woman…

On average, Wisconsin women earn just 78 cents for their white male peer’s dollar, slightly more (80 cents) if you’re a white woman, but far less if you are African American or Asian (66 cents), Native American (60 cents) or Latina (58 cents). Not only does this affect a woman’s current earnings, but her Social Security benefits and personal savings. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about the gender wage gap in Wisconsin, thanks to Walker and his fellow Republicans. In 2012, they repealed the Democrat-backed Equal Pay Enforcement Act, making it much, much more difficult for victims of wage discrimination to sue in court.

 

If you don’t have paid sick days at your job…

The vast majority of hourly workers don’t have paid sick days, which means that they must choose between working sick and spreading their germs or staying at home to get well or nurse a child back to health. That’s why Milwaukee voters overwhelmingly supported a paid sick days ordinance in 2008. Unfortunately, the ordinance wasn’t implemented because the Walker-supporting Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) fought it in court. Going one step further, in 2011, Republicans and Walker banned local sick day ordinances outright, and in doing so trampled on the will of Milwaukee voters and the state constitution’s home rule provision granting Milwaukee the right to conduct its own business as it sees fit.

 

If you need health insurance…

Walker has attacked the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at every turn, including supporting its outright repeal, which would, among other things, end the popular and very necessary provision that allows young adults up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance. Instead of fully implementing the ACA, Walker scrambled our state’s Medicaid programs in the name of “reform”—and attention from Obama-hating campaign donors. The end result is that 63,000 individuals were kicked off of BadgerCare and encouraged to sign up for insurance on the federally run health care exchange. Unfortunately, the Walker administration estimated that about 27,000 individuals did not sign up for insurance.

Nor has Walker’s “reform” saved anyone any money. Because he didn’t expand BadgerCare under the ACA, state taxpayers are on the hook for more than $200 million in this two-year budget alone and an estimated $315 million in the next two-year budget. And insurance premiums on the exchange and in general in Wisconsin are higher than they are in Minnesota, which fully embraced Obamacare, according to studies by Citizen Action of Wisconsin. Did we mention that Walker appointed a former insurance industry lobbyist to be commissioner of insurance? Or that, according to a new report by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the insurance industry contributed more than $1.26 million to Walker between 2009 and 2013, and that state insurance companies would reap $350 million annually in tax credits for covering former BadgerCare recipients?

 

If you’re a woman who wants to make her own health care decisions…

In 2010, Walker was the first governor to receive the endorsement of the fringe group Pro-Life Wisconsin, a 100% pro-life organization. That means that Walker—and all of the other Republicans who got this nod, including Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch—opposes abortion in all cases, including rape and incest, as well as most contraceptives, including condoms. This group also seeks to grant constitutional rights to fertilized eggs and opposes embryonic stem cell research.

Given this support from such an extremist group, it’s no surprise that Walker has signed off on a wide range of legislation that’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception and, frankly, anti-woman. This long list includes stringent hospital admitting privileges for abortion providers, mandating unnecessary ultrasounds before an abortion, banning medication abortions, eliminating state funding for Planned Parenthood’s breast and cervical cancer screenings, and supporting the repeal of the state’s Contraceptive Equity Law, which requires insurance policies with prescription coverage to include contraceptives.

These measures will hardly deter women from getting an abortion or using contraception. Walker’s policies simply add obstacles and costs to women who want to obtain them.

 

If you drive while black or brown…

In 2011, Walker and his fellow Republicans repealed a 2009 law requiring law enforcement to collect racial data about individuals they stop for potential traffic violations as a way to document racial profiling and racial disparities in our criminal justice system. The data was supposed to be sent to the state Office of Justice Assistance, but because the program was in effect for such a short time the OJA couldn’t analyze data and publish its findings. Apparently Walker was concerned about cops’ racial profiling—so concerned that he didn’t want the truth to come out.

 

If you depend on the bus…

Walker initially included transit workers in his collective bargaining bill, but they’re protected by federal rules. That didn’t stop him from targeting public transit, though. Legislators put a stop to his attempt to take public transit out of the transportation fund and into the general fund, where local bus systems would have to compete with other state programs for funding. But Walker and GOP legislators terminated any form of regional transit authority (RTA) in the works that could help to stabilize transit. Walker also cut transit funding 10% in his first budget, which he didn’t restore in his second budget.

 

If you’re a road-builder…

Then you’re making out like a bandit. Walker has embarked on a $3 billion highway expansion spree, whether we want it or not. That includes an $800 million double-decker monstrosity through the heart of Milwaukee’s West Side Story Hill neighborhood. A WISPIRG report challenges Walker’s agenda, saying that funds would be better spent on repairing local roads—which cash-strapped municipalities are struggling to maintain—and improving public transit. Road-builders are getting another boost on the Nov. 4 ballot, where a statewide referendum on a new constitutional amendment protecting the transit fund will be up for a vote. And, of course, road-builders won’t face competition from high-speed rail, since Walker refused $810 million in federal funds for a Milwaukee-Madison line and other train projects even before he took office.

 

If you care about a clean environment (and clean government)…

Republicans were intent on passing a mining bill during Walker’s tenure, one so favorable to the mining company Gogebic Taconite that the mining company itself helped to write the bill. After much legislative wrangling—and a $700,000 secret donation from Gogebic to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a Walker-connected “independent” group—the bill passed. Now, the Gogebic Taconite mine in the Penokee Hills is moving forward with far fewer environmental regulations and a lot of opposition from those who care about clean water, air and the earth. Walker’s also killed off the state’s wind power industry and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has an abysmal track record on busting frac sand mining polluters, with enforcement actions declining 55% during the Walker administration.

 

If you care about a balanced budget…

Walker took aim at public sector unions, claiming that the state was “broke.” But if Wisconsin was broke back in 2011, then it’s still broke now—even after all of Walker’s budget-slashing and credit-card spending. Walker faced a $2.5 billion deficit when he took office. Now, the next governor will face an estimated $1.8 billion deficit in the next budget. If you add in state agency requests, that could reach as high as $3 billion, according to Legislative Fiscal Bureau numbers crunched by state Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), a member of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

So was the nasty polarization of Wisconsin under Walker worth it? Is it really working for you?

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