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Keith Knutson

Before vacating his office in January, Gov. Scott Walker signed into law policies as radical as when he entered eight years ago. His 2010 election victory rode on the deeply agitated tea party movement. Walker delivered on their demand to reject Barack Obama’s presidency, especially the Affordable Care Act.

Upon securing office, the new governor was recorded on video telling a wealthy Beloit campaign contributor he would achieve his objectives by implementing a divide-and-conquer strategy.

He commenced his divisive politics by rejecting the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. As a result, Wisconsin now lags behind Minnesota and Iowa, both of whom entered into the program, in reducing the number of uninsured citizens. Whereas our neighbors benefit from increased federal dollars to cover increased Medicaid costs, Wisconsin, the cheese state, stands alone.

Digging our fiscal hole even deeper, he refused to raise taxes for road maintenance while emphasizing automobile highway transportation over any other viable alternative. Undoubtedly, one reason he lost re-election were the campaign ads reminding our citizens of “Scott holes” all over the state.

His ideological zealotry led him to strip our public employee unions of their negotiating capacity through Act 10. Targeted especially toward teachers, today we not only suffer a teacher shortage, but our educational training and institutional structures have been deeply undermined. Their replacement with a laissez faire certification process does not portend well for the future.

Adding insult to injury, Walker told the nation in 2016 he was ready to be president and confront global terrorism, since he had taken on citizen protesters in our state capitol. This example shows us Walker’s political psychology of divide and conquer is deeply ingrained. It is no accident he was the first Republican presidential aspirant to abandon the field in 2016.

Upon return to the state after his short-lived presidential campaign, he continued presiding over the transfer of public education resources to private schools through vouchers. Without a significant infusion of money in the next state budget, we will further undercut our K-12 system. Gov.-elect Tony Evers’ experience as state School Superintendent will be severely tested, as he addresses the mess Walker has left us.

For the 2012 general election, Walker and legislative Republicans implemented a secretly drawn representative district map. Arguably, it is the most severe gerrymander in the country. Despite the governor losing re-election this year, his party still won a grossly disproportionate number of Assembly seats while losing a majority of the total vote.

Early in the Donald Trump presidency, Walker worked through him to secure the Foxconn flat-screen production in southeastern Wisconsin. The terms of the $4 billion of tax benefits the Taiwanese corporation will receive are now under close public scrutiny.

According to the Tax Policy Institute, Foxconn’s “refundable” tax credits mean the state will most likely pay the company the amount of the credits, even when there is no tax liability. This is because our state waives income on manufacturing production. Of course, such liabilities come at the expense of future budgets.

Additionally, the Legislative Audit Bureau now recommends the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (a Walker creation) make changes in order to avoid paying Foxconn for work not done in our state. Without such cleanup of Walker’s shoddy negotiations, we will not accrue the expected economic growth multiplier effect from the tax credits.

Is it any wonder Walker leaves office denying his successor the power to appoint WEDC board members? He also leaves denying our state the right to withdraw from Republican litigation attempting to eliminate the ACA.

Republicans still in government hope the public will forget all of this. We must not forget, because we aspire to better, fairer, and more responsible governance than what Scott Walker delivered over the last eight years.

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Keith Knutson lives in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin.


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