On Thursday, February 11th, gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker attended a fundraiser at Mikey's Restaurant in downtown Milwaukee. He spoke about fiscal responsibility and creating an environment conducive to business retention and growth. The fundraiser was hosted by local business owner and philanthropist Michael Polaski, who together with attorney Thomas Nichols, is earnest about upending the current status quo.
For those of us who know Mike, he doesn't involve himself with politics or campaigns. But a lot has changed in the past 4 years. In general, business owners like Mike don't want to see Madison raising taxes and fees by $2 billion while increasing new spending by $3.6 billion. Business owners don't want to see Madison raising their capital gains taxes by more than $240 million. Business owners aren't happy with the net loss of 250,000 jobs during Doyle's tenure. And business owners don't want to see their home state become the 7th worst in the nation to do business.
So yes, members of the local business community like Michael Polaski, Thomas Nichols, and Michael Cohen want a little more than a nebulous promise of hope and change; they want to see Madison get its fiscal house in order. And until they do, people like Mike will remind them that what happened in Massachusetts can also happen in Wisconsin.
Walker's speech lasted about 10 minutes. In a summary fashion, he covered successes in areas like the Milwaukee County Parks and the Mitchell International Airport. Walker also talked about the bond rating for Milwaukee County - an issue of relevance to the business community.
In the past 7 years, the state's bond rating has declined while Milwaukee County's has continued to improve. Moody's had attributed Milwaukee County's bond rating to "strong management and prudent budgetary controls". Essentially, Moody's states that Milwaukee County can be trusted to pay off it's debt in a timely fashion. And therefore, the county is rewarded with lower interest rates, which ultimately saves taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars on their borrowing.
More interestingly, Walker took a swipe at his Democrat opponent Tom Barrett - aka "Tommy the Taxer". After the brief qualification that Tom is a nice guy, Walker noted that a first term for Barrett is no different than a third term for Doyle. And why not? Both have a history of raising taxes; both have a history of increased spending; and both have a history of being antagonistic or obstructive to businesses. So it's truly debatable in the minds of critics if Barrett would be a worse executive than Doyle. Wisconsin voters really need to take time and evaluate whether it's worth taking a risk on Barrett and possibly plunge from the 7th worst in the nation for doing business to the absolute worst.