Gov. Scott Walker speaks to editors of Southern Lakes Newspapers during an interview in Burlington in late September.

Governor predicted growing economy would help campaign draw even

By Jason Arndt

Editor

Although Gov. Scott Walker was down by five points in polls back in September, the Republican incumbent said at the time he was confident his campaign could close the gap by focusing on the growing economy and debunking attack ads produced by opposition groups.

In the final week of the race, Walker has succeeded in drawing even with Democratic challenger Tony Evers.

Walker, who participated in a sit-down interview with Southern Lakes Newspapers in late September, discussed a variety of topics, including his place in the polls and the impact of attack ads.

“From what I have been told and looking at the ads I can see on my own mobile device, you have had almost two months of nonstop attacks,” said Walker, who believes some of the funds have come from Washington-based groups.

“I think they are just plain false. A good example is there has been an ad over the last couple of weeks that falsely claims that I would take pre-existing (health coverage) away from people.”

Walker also predicted his campaign would close the gap with Evers. That prediction came true this week when the latest Marquette University Law School poll showed the two candidates tied.

“I believe we will do the same thing in this election and have the same result,” he said referring to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s come-from-behind win over Russ Feingold in 2016.

 

Other issues

As he offered insight into the polls, Walker examined topics, like health care, education, the Foxconn development in Racine County and area infrastructure.

The Affordable Care Act remains an issue at the federal level, were the U.S. House repealed the law, but a similar measure failed in the Senate.

“We have a worked with folks in Washington for about a year and a half and they failed to act on it, so if anything is going to happen, it won’t be until next year, whether it will be in the courts or in Congress.”

While repealing the ACA continues to emerge at the federal level among Republicans, Walker said the state has a plan.

“We are waiting for Washington, they failed, so now we are acting,” he said. “I got both Democrats and Republicans to pass our health care stability plan. It will lower premiums, increase choices and improve health care.”

Walker, who said the plan earned approval from the federal government, could offer the alternative starting in January.

He said the plan is similar to Minnesota’s, which has seen health care premiums go down, and covers pre-existing conditions.

“I have already said publicly, in my State of the State, interviews that I will cover pre-existing conditions, keeping adult children on, similar to what the ACA has,” said Walker, adding the plans are tailored to Wisconsin, instead of a federal one-size-fits-all policy.

Walker, meanwhile, is still opposed to Medicaid expansion, stating the move could cause an increase in health care premiums, which happened in Minnesota about five years ago.

Medicaid, he said, serves one purpose, which is to serve residents in poverty.

 

Educational resources

Recently, the state passed a $100 million school safety bill, the funds of which are disbursed in small sums to state schools in need of safety improvements.

While safety is one priority, Walker believes the state has addressed the growing mental health needs of students, courtesy of the recently passed budget.

“We put the largest grants that we have done thus far for mental health services,” he said. “That came out of our listening sessions in each of our 72 counties, where teachers, principals, school superintendents were telling us about their needs that we had in mental health services.”

With respect to the budget, Walker said Evers, the state superintendent of public instruction, has engaged in political double talk.

“In the last budget, we put more money, more actual dollars into the schools than ever before,” said Walker, adding Evers at the time told the Wisconsin State Journal that their priorities matched.

“Now, he is running for governor, and he is saying it doesn’t,” he said.

As for operational referendums, which saw hundreds of questions posed to voters in Wisconsin in the last election, Walker claims the state has seen fewer under his tenure compared to predecessor Jim Doyle.

In regards to the state-funding formula, which has been criticized by school administrators across the state, Walker said a blue ribbon committee composed of lawmakers is looking into the formula.

 

Foxconn development

Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwan-based manufacturer of LCD screens, has started construction on a multi-billion dollar campus in the Village of Mt. Pleasant in Racine County.

As part of the plan, the company could receive billions in tax incentives, if they add 13,000 jobs and pay an average salary of about $53,000.

Along with more jobs comes the demand of housing.

Some critics have been skeptical about the plan, often asking how the development could help communities in the far west portion of both Racine and Kenosha counties, noting the campus is about 20 miles away.

“I think it will,” he said. “They just know when you bring in 13,000 new jobs, not all of those people are going to live right directly within walking distance of that whole new campus.”

 

Adding to sprawl?

Since the Foxconn development was announced, the company has taken control of some farmland, could increase future housing demands, and could lead to a reduction of the agricultural landscape.

Walker, however, believes it will not cause a dramatic loss of farmland in Southeast Wisconsin.

“You are going to see people gravitating towards homes and multi-family units that are built within cities, so I don’t think it is going to dramatically change the amount of farmland,” he said.

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