For the past eight months, it's been my contention that Walker's position on stimulus funds was first obfuscated by Steve Schultze of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and then recapitulated endlessly by partisan-hacks. On the website of the "Democrat party of Wisconsin," they exhibited a time line of flip-flops allegedly made by Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. Lets take a look.
The key to understanding Walker's position on stimulus funds is not difficult. When Walker says he won't compile a wish list or wait in line for federal handouts, he's referring to improvident projects that require either local matches, more financial commitments, or more continuing operational costs.
He stood in direct contradistinction to tax and spend Democrats that showed a willingness to accept handouts in spite of the burdensome commitments they imposed on Wisconsin taxpayers. So when Walker states that he's willing to apply for federal funds, it's because he has already determined that no federal strings are attached.
In the first article mentioned above "I will not compile a stimulus' wish list'", Walker refers to a particular list that does not meet the three conditions he has laid out many different times in op-eds to different news outlets. As a recap, these three conditions are:
1. No matching funds
2. No long-term federally mandated financial commitments
3. No continuing operational costs or maintenance expenses
In other words, if all three of these criteria are not met, then Walker "will not compile a stimulus wish list". If the Democrat Party of Wisconsin was forthright and actually read the Op-Ed they linked to, they would have noted the sentence below where Walker explains his position,
"Applying for funds that do not meet these criteria should not be advanced unless they are already included as part of the 2009 budget. We will work with the County Board to identify 'stimulus' funds that would be beneficial to Milwaukee County without burdening the taxpayers"
In other words, Walker is not opposed to all stimulus projects as liberal bloggers have mindlessly spread about for the past 8 months, but rather he's opposed to projects that are not shovel ready and require additional financial commitments from taxpayers. This really isn't a difficult concept to follow.
In the second article mentioned above "Walker releases list of stimulus projects", Walker again clearly confirms his criteria by stating,
"The initiatives were begun prior to the county board's resolution on stimulus funds and reflect those that meet the criteria the county executive determined to protect the county taxpayers. The criteria outlined by Walker include: no matching funds required by Milwaukee County, no long term federally mandated financial commitments required, and expenditure of requested funds will not obligate Milwaukee County to new operating or maintenance expenses"
Referring to the second article above, Walker applied for the $130 million because it met all three conditions. In this article, Walker says,
"The initiatives [$130 million] . . . reflect those that meet the criteria the county executive determined to protect the county taxpayers."
Again, Walker is not opposed to stimulus dollars as long as it meets a fiscally responsible criteria.
In the first article above "Why I'm not lining up for stimulus handouts", Walker explains the reason he didn't line up with Doyle on stimulus handouts. He says,
"My explanation is simple. First, this money isn't free. Second, under Gov. Doyle our state has borrowed vast sums of money and avoided making tough budget decisions while expanding government programs."
The idea is the expansion of government would, by necessity, create more financial commitments and more operational overhead. Therefore, it would violate at least two of the conditions in Walker's acceptance criteria.
In the other article above entitled, "We're going to go after stimulus money", Walker told channel 12 news that he wasn't against all stimulus money for the county, just stimulus funding that required taxpayers to pitch in. During a time of economic recession, I don't think anyone can fault him for that.
Walker has consistently laid out three principles that serve the best interest of taxpayers. His acceptance criteria will keep government lean and efficient while restricting the federal government's tendency to influence a state's autonomy. A good public official will govern in such a way as to stay faithful to wise governing principles, but will also keep his options open in case the future decides to throw him a curve ball. I don't think any one can quarrel with this view of a wise official.
There are partisan websites, however, that exist in order to exploit semantics for diversionary purposes. One Wisconsin Now and the Democrat Party of Wisconsin are two to name a few. What they cannot quarrel with is that Walker's acceptance criteria is an effective formula that mitigates a massive state budget. What they can quarrel with, however, is when a public official decides to deviate from wise principles that have served him well and choose something different for an exceptional circumstance. No politician wants to be cornered or beat over the head with semantics, and Walker is no exception to this rule.