The governor’s presidential maneuvering is wearing thin in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has often said the biggest lesson he learned during his fight over stripping public employees of most collective bargaining powers is that he should have spent more time selling it to the Wisconsin public before dropping the plan on the state Capitol. But Wisconsin lawmakers haven’t seen Walker sell his controversial budget from the bully pulpit much these days.
As Walker prepares for a presidential run, he is increasingly speaking to national audience rather than a Wisconsin one. Instead of crisscrossing Wisconsin to get his budget passed, Walker’s calendar is filling up with trips to swing states, like his visit last weekend to Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s “Roast and Ride,” a motorcycle-themed political fundraiser.
“There is a reason why we take a day off the celebrate the Fourth of July and not the 15th of April, because in America we celebrate our independence from the government not our dependence on it,” Walker said to cheers during his brief speech at Ernst’s event. Walker’s small government rhetoric is getting a warm reception in Iowa, where he leads the presidential field by more then seven points.
In Wisconsin, however, GOP state lawmakers aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about an agenda some see as geared more toward what plays well at those out-of-state stops than what’s best for the people back home. While Walker chatted up Iowans from the seat of his Harley-Davidson last weekend, his fellow Republicans in the state Legislature continued to rework Walker’s budget, having already reversed politically unpopular cuts to education, among other things.
It was just the Friday before last that the Legislature’s budget committee eased Walker’s cuts to the University of Wisconsin System after previously stopping his $127 million hit to public schools. Right about the time the Joint Finance Committee wrapped up its final vote on that piece of the budget late that evening, Walker was 1,000 miles away in New Hampshire addressing the Belknap County GOP Sunset Dinner Cruise.
“The university doesn’t deserve this cut. This is just reality,” GOP state Sen. Luther Olsen said ahead of the vote. “To tell people that they’re not working hard enough and they should teach more is probably just ridiculous,” he said, responding to the claim by Walker and others that the university could absorb the cut through things like requiring professors to teach one extra class a semester.