Scott Walker on Reforming Government

Changing the Face of Government

In recent weeks, the state of Wisconsin’s economy has been the subject of numerous essays, commentaries and reports. Without exception, the authors agree that fundamental change is needed in order to put Wisconsin’s economy back on track. The first order of business is to change the way government thinks, as well as the way it does business. That is exactly what I have done for the last seven years as the Milwaukee County Executive. It has not been easy. In fact, we have been engaged in a perpetual battle with the entrenched establishment whose tentacles have reached beyond the County Board to the public employee unions and others who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. This is a status quo that does not serve the needs of working families and employers and is one we simply cannot afford.

Despite formidable opposition, we have had our share of successes.

We slashed the county debt by over 10% and reduced the taxpayer-funded workforce by more than 20%.  In 2002, Milwaukee County’s bond rating had a negative outlook, but in recent reports, Standard & Poor's ranked Milwaukee County’s financial practices as “strong,” and Moody’s attributed the bond rating to the county’s “improving financial position, supported by strong management and prudent budgetary controls.” 

How did we control government spending? 

We did it the old fashioned way:  By reducing the amount of revenue available to county government.  We told our department heads exactly how much money they would have-no more, no less. They were to prioritize spending based on available revenue. Together, we crafted seven straight budgets with no increase in the property tax levy from the previous year.  In 2008, while other state and local governments were facing massive budget shortfalls, Milwaukee County finished the year with a budget surplus of more than $4 million.

Unlike Governor Doyle, who used his powerful veto pen to increase state spending, we used our veto authority to protect taxpayers, ultimately saving $43 million and reversing a decade long trend of massive property tax increases.

For seven years, I have kept my promise to spend the taxpayers’ money as if it were my own, setting priorities for government spending and looking for new ways to do more with less.  I will do it again as your Governor.

Safety First

Governor Doyle’s most recent budget placed the interests of public employees above the safety of Wisconsin families by reducing state funding for law enforcement and other local government services. It also allows for the early release of criminals into our communities simply to save money. 

Wisconsin is fortunate to have an Attorney General who not only believes that public safety should be the first priority of government, but who understands that protecting the rights of victims is central to fulfilling that duty.  Last week, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen gave the Doyle budget a “D” on public safety, voicing strong criticism of the Governor’s plan to grant early release for prisoners.  Meanwhile a report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute says the plan will provide very little cost savings.

Attorney General Van Hollen announced the formation of a new commission to make recommendations for improving our criminal justice system in Wisconsin. I applaud his efforts and look forward to working with him to put the safety of Wisconsin families first.



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Scott Walker