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Matt Pommer Column – Walker’s Standing – 7-27-2016

By Matt Pommer

Only 38 percent of the 801 persons quizzed in the latest Marquette University Law School poll have a favorable view of Gov. Scott Walker while 58 percent have an unfavorable view.

 Walker, who is expected to seek a third term in 2018, recently reported raising over $1 million in his political account in the last six months, but had a balance of just $160,000.

Those figures are deceptive. The thing Walker may need most is a couple of Democratic candidates to denounce. This is an era of resentment politics – it’s often easier to criticize than promote your own ideas.

Controversies continue to surface in the GOP-solid Wisconsin. A controversial Vilas County land swap deal between the state and a major contributor to Walker’s political campaigns is headed for examination by the Natural Resources Board controlled by Walker appointees.

On another front, the DNR has come under criticism for the drop in prosecutions of water pollution cases. The number of DNR employees has declined dramatically in recent years, reflecting  both budget cuts and early retirement by a number of veteran employees.

Changes Wisconsin’s civil service law promoted by the Walker administration and approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature now are now taking effect. One dramatic change is moving to a resume-based selection process rather than actually testing applicants for state government jobs.

Critics say it invites cronyism and a spoils system. Walker says it will speed up the hiring system.

The governor had scaled back Medicaid coverage after refusing to accept federal funds for an expanded program under Obamacare. The governor said Wisconsin wouldn’t participate in expanded Medicaid because the federal government couldn’t afford it. The federal government is paying 90 percent of the added cost for states which accepted the expansion.

Budget decisions have been controversial in Walker’s six years in office. Wisconsin has adopted an agricultural and manufacturing tax credit system which dramatically lowers corporate income tax collections. Estimates say it will provide more than a quarter billion dollars in tax breaks.

Walker drew national attention for crippling public employee unions in 2011 and then winning a hostile recall election orchestrated by the labor movement. Later Walker signed a right-to-work law allowing workers to avoid paying union dues.

Prevailing-wage laws affecting many public works projects also are scheduled to change.

Among controversial budgets cuts are a quarter billion dollars in state money for the University of Wisconsin System. Administration changes aimed at eliminating faculty tenure and tossing out the century old “Wisconsin Idea” also drew statewide attention.

Newer controversies include how to provide care for 66,000 of the state’s elderly poor and disabled citizens. Should it be handled by large for-profit corporations?

Also lurking in the wings is the FBI’s investigation into alleged staff problems at youth correctional facilities in northern Wisconsin.

That seems like a full plate of political questions for 2018.

Walker has proved he can easily raise millions of dollars in an election year. He also is setting the stage by conducting more than 50 “listening sessions” across the state.

Alas, those sessions have been closed to the press.

DISCLAIMER: The content in this column does not reflect the views or opinions of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association or its member newspapers.