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The Voters Reiterated

What did it mean when Governor Scott Walker successfully won the recall election of June 5, 2012?  Simple.  Voters meant what they said in 2010.  In 2010, voters across Wisconsin – and America – began moving in a new direction.
They appeared to favor candidates committed to smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, and more economic freedom.
Governor Walker was elected in that wave of elections and GOP majorities were established in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature.
Upon being sworn into office, Walker invoked the frugality clause of the state’s Constitution in his inaugural address and commenced to govern in a new way. Walker immediately called the Legislature into special session on jobs – cutting taxes, reforming the civil justice system, and clamping down on regulations.
Faced with a $3.6 billion deficit, Walker and the Legislature also reformed the laws governing the way public employee unions operate in Wisconsin. The reforms required government union employees to pay a greater portion of their healthcare and pension costs. Governments at all levels stopped collecting union dues and unions needed to recertify annually. These changes saved the state millions of dollars and allowed local governments to more effectively manage their budgets. This saved taxpayers more than a billion dollars so far. And for the first time in many years the state budget was balanced without a tax increase.
The fallout from these impressive accomplishments was unpleasant.
The government workers’ unions launched an orchestrated political tirade that put Wisconsin on the national stage for 18 months.
We witnessed protests at the Capitol for weeks on end. Legislators fled the state rather than vote on the proposals, school children walked out of classrooms in Madison, tens of thousands of union activists were bussed into Madison from around the country, doctors wrote phony medical excuses for protestors and average, hard working Wisconsin citizens became alarmed at the spectacle.
At that point, opponents of Walker’s reforms used Wisconsin’s unusually generous recall law and launched a wave of unprecedented elections aimed at state senators in the summer of 2011. Two GOP senators were defeated.
Then, in the fall, they launched the ultimate counter offensive – a recall of Walker and four more GOP senators.
Governor Walker’s pro-business policy initiatives have set the stage for robust economic growth in Wisconsin in the months ahead. WMC defended the business community’s perspective in the court of public opinion with $5 million in issue ads educating the public about the importance of jobs and a strong business climate.
Ironically, the unions talked about everything BUT collective bargaining – attacking Walker and trying to select a candidate committed to reversing the collective bargaining reforms.  The unions’ candidate – former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk – lost in the primary.
So, Walker was left with a rematch of his race of 2010 against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Voters were confronted with a choice: move Wisconsin forward with Walker, or go back to the old ways with Barrett.
Voters chose Walker handily; he garnered 53 percent of the vote and won in 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
The lessons learned?
Wisconsin needs to reform the recall provisions of our Constitution that are too open-ended and lead to destabilization of our democracy. WMC will support recall reforms to our Constitution to ensure this dark chapter is not repeated.
And, the biggest lesson? Voters meant what they said in 2010. Smaller government is the path to economic growth, freedom and opportunity. And a focus on improving Wisconsin’s business climate needs to continue to be job one. We need to make sure that our state can compete with the best nationally in attracting new business and growing jobs. 
By James A. Buchen, WMC Senior Vice President of Government Relations




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