CFL News
April 18, 2012

Wis. Gov. Walker visits Illinois, blasts ‘mess’ in government

In a city that’s seen its share of political theater, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took the stage Tuesday with an anti-tax, anti-union message aimed at Illinois’ ruling Democrats as throngs of union faithful outside called for his removal from office.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

By Andrew Maloney

SPRINGFIELD – In a city that’s seen its share of political theater, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took the stage Tuesday with an anti-tax, anti-union message aimed at Illinois’ ruling Democrats as throngs of union faithful outside called for his removal from office.

Flanked by inflatable rats that bore his name and at least one 16-foot cutout of Walker that read “Don’t Badger Us,” as many as 3,500 protestors banged drums and blew whistles while the Republican governor trumpeted his budget policies in front of Illinois business leaders.

The visit came as Illinois lawmakers begin the homestretch of their spring legislative session pressured by business groups to find fixes for a severely underfunded pension system.

Walker addressed his own precarious political position in the “Badger State” while patronizing Illinois’ elected officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn, for passing personal and corporate income tax increases last year that were meant to bolster the state’s financial health.

“With all due respect, and I think Gov. Quinn and others are trying to do their best, but it is a clear choice in Wisconsin come June 5th,” Walker told reporters after his speech in front of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, referring to the date when Wisconsin voters will decide whether to recall him.

“If voters in our state want to know the difference between going forward or backwards, they need only look at the mess that you have in state government here in Springfield to know what it would be like if ultimately the recall would prevail,” he told reporters.

Walker was met outside the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel & Conference Center, where the event was held, by a massive protest representing about two-dozen labor groups.

“What Walker has done in Wisconsin is really a war on workers, it’s an attack on the middle class more broadly,” said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 31, state government’s largest union. “Illinois workers want to make clear to Illinois politicians that that extreme agenda and that failed record is not only wrong for Wisconsin, but it’s wrong for Illinois as well.”

Quinn’s office preempted the visit with an aggressive public relations blitz over the last couple of days, denigrating Wisconsin’s business climate and touting strides made on the Illinois governor’s watch.

“He promised 250,000 jobs and he’s way behind, and since the recovery began, our state has created over 130,000 jobs,” Quinn told reporters in Rosemont after Walker’s event. “We certainly don’t want to follow his prescriptions when it comes to economic growth.”

In the wake of Illinois’ corporate income tax hike, Walker tried to sell Illinois businesses on relocating to his home state, and made light of his call for them to “escape to Wisconsin” during his speech.

However, he said afterward that he has not kept track of the number of Illinois businesses that have moved north since then and admitted that the state probably would not be able to lure away companies in their entirety.

“It’s not about taking jobs, it’s about helping companies that want to grow,” he said.

Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said Walker was just doing his job as governor and that his sales pitch did not bother him.

“I am not offended by the fact that Scott Walker is talking about jobs in Wisconsin,” Whitley said. “I think it’s a challenge to the elected officials in Illinois.”

Since stripping unions in Wisconsin of collective bargaining rights last year, Walker has drawn the outrage of labor groups across the country and is the subject of a closely watched recall effort June 5. Those organizations, as well as the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, this year collected the signatures necessary to put his name on the recall ballot.

“A handful of big-government union bosses, not just in my state but in particular in Washington, think that I’m standing in the way of their power and their money,” said Walker, who is the scheduled keynote at a Friday event in Chicago by the conservative think tank, Illinois Policy Institute.

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