Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he is taking the campaign to recall him as a chance to tell voters of his many achievements over the 11 months he has been in power.
“I believe it’s an opportunity,” Walker tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview. “I’m an optimist. It’s a great chance to remind the people in the state of Wisconsin that the reforms are working and that we’ve got a plan and a positive outlook for the future.
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“The majority of the people of Wisconsin elected me to do exactly what I said I’d do,” he added. “I said I’d balance the budget; I’d do it without raising taxes; I’d do it without using tricks or gimmicks that were used in the past and I’d still make sure that we protected seniors and needy families and children and ultimately do things like putting more money in the classroom.
“We did all those things and so a handful of folks want to stand up and cry foul. It’s really because they want to continue to take money out of the pockets of workers without their permission. So in the end it’s not about me keeping my promises, it’s about us standing up to protect workers and the state of Wisconsin as well.”
Walker, a Republican, was elected governor by 124,000 votes last November, taking over from two-term Democrat Jim Doyle. He says the recall effort – spurred by his moves to restrict union power among government employees – started immediately, two months before he was even sworn in.
Earlier this year, two Republican state senators lost recall elections while four others held on to their seats. Walker said he has to take his own recall seriously as organizers claim to have collected more than half the 540,000 signatures they need to force the issue to the ballot box.
“The national big government union bosses in total, along with other groups, spent about $44 million on the six state Senate recall elections,” Walker told Newsmax during the Republican Governors Association conference in Orlando, Fla. “Putting that in context, I spent $13 million on my run for governor.”
But he said the majority of Wisconsinites are fed up with the whole process. “Voters in Wisconsin are sick of it, they’re ready to move on.
“They want our state to go forward and we’ve got a plan to bring the people of our state together,” he added. “Not just among the party but in the larger context, public and private, local and state, coming together to help put our state back to work.”
Walker said there is a fundamental problem with unions in government, and people as diverse as President Franklin Roosevelt and New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia recognized it. Some of the money that taxpayers contribute goes toward union dues which are then partly used for political activity which aids candidates who help the unions.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” he said, adding that the money goes to politicians “who promise, many times in secret, to add more employees, more benefits, more government spending.
“There is no-one standing up and being an advocate for the taxpayers. “I respect the hard work that the people of my state put in to earn a living to put food on the table and in part to pay taxes to operate the legitimate things that we do in government.”
But, he said, the state has to operate using the same principles as private businesses. ”That’s exactly what we’re looking to do.
“In fact my brother’s a good example. He pays a little over $800 a month for his health insurance and the little bit he can set aside for his 401(k). His is a typical middle class family, he is a banquet manager at a hotel, he works part-time as a bartender, his wife works in a department store, they have two beautiful kids. They embody the middle class in Wisconsin.
“He points to what we have done, to our reforms, and says ‘I’d love a deal like that.’ Our employees today are still paying a fraction of what my brother David is paying in the private sector.
“With someone like him or someone working in a manufacturing plant or a nurse working at a hospital, we respect the hard work that they do and we’re saying it’s only reasonable that when they work hard to pay the bills and include our taxes, the government should be at the same standard.”
Walker came into office promising to bring in policies that would create 250,000 jobs in the Badger State in his first term, but that figure stands at only 29,000 as he approaches his first anniversary. Still, he called that “a tremendous shift” from what had happened in recent years.
“In the last three years before I took office, 2007-10, under my predecessor and with Democrats in charge of the legislature, Wisconsin lost 150,000 jobs," he said. "In the first six months we gained almost 40,000. We’ve had our challenges in August and September and October but that’s in large part because of the national and global economy.
“There is still a net increase of jobs in 2011 but we need to accelerate that,” he admitted
“One of the key things to remember, and I have to remind some of the more vocal Democratic opponents out there, is that the government does not create jobs, people do. So what we’re going to do, what we started out doing this year right off the bat in January is create a better business environment.
“It’s having an impact. We went from a year ago when 10 percent (of businessmen) thought they were headed in the right direction to this year 88 percent say they are going in the right direction and they say on top of that, a majority of them, they’re going to add more jobs in the next 12 months," he said.
“We will make it easier for job creators, particularly small businesses because that’s our bread and butter. If they feel better about where this economy’s going, where the state is, that’ll help put more people to work and then we’ll help the people – not me, but the people of Wisconsin – create 250,000 jobs by 2015.”
Walker said the better climate involves lowering taxes, reducing regulations and tort reform. “If you’re a small business and you want to add five more employees, oftentimes you’re going to say ‘what other costs are coming up in the next year or two’ and if people aren’t confident that they can manage those costs, they’re not going to add jobs.”
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