Two governors, only one ready for primetime
Last night both Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had their opportunity in the national limelight to advance their position in their fights against public-employee unions and to advance their own careers. To the surprise of many, Walker shined and Daniels did not.
In short, Daniels caved, perhaps the surest sign yet that he's not running for president or doesn't understand what conservatives expect of a presidential candidate. He told his own party to stand down on right-to-work legislation and had this to say:
"I'm not sending the state police after anybody. I'm not gonna divert a single trooper from their job of protection the Indiana public. I trust that people's consciences will bring them back to work. ... For reasons I've explained more than once I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised."
As one very smart Republican insider put it, "I guess Mitch really isn't running." Two other Republican operatives weighed in that they, too, thought this was the end of Daniels' presidential ambitions. I wonder how all those who fawned over his CPAC speech feel now that he's essentially conceded his position to the unions. Moreover, this represents a personal flip-flop of Mitt Romneyian dimensions, given Daniels's previous statements and stance on the fiscal harm caused by public-employee unions. Katrina Trinko at the Corner comments:
Daniels may be making the wrong call in thinking that a push for right-to-work laws will risk the outcome of his education reform. Or he may not be. But it does appear that what he's doing is prioritizing one goal (education reform, with vouchers, charters schools, and teacher accountability) over another (right-to-work laws), not forgoing all conservative principles.
What is bizarre and disappointing to his admirers is his lack of understanding that he can and should fight for both.
Meanwhile, Walker rose to the occasion and improved his standing among conservatives. In forceful and composed remarks, he made clear he isn't backing down. He started graciously:
Wisconsin is showing the rest of the country how to have a passionate, yet civil debate about our finances. That's a very Midwestern trait and something we should be proud of. I pray, however, that this civility will continue as people pour into our state from all across America.
First, let me be clear: I have great respect for those who have chosen a career in government. I really do.
In 1985, when I was a high school junior in the small town of Delavan, I was inspired to pursue public service after I attended the American Legion's Badger Boys State program. The military veterans and educators who put on that week-long event showed the honor in serving others.
Tonight, I thank the 300,000-plus state and local government employees who showed up for work today and did their jobs well. We appreciate it. If you take only one message away tonight, it's that we all respect the work that you do.
But he made clear he was standing firm and why half-measures were not enough:
The legislation I've put forward is about one thing. It's about balancing our budget now -- and in the future. Wisconsin faces a 137 million dollar deficit for the remainder of this fiscal year and a 3.6 billion dollar deficit for the upcoming budget.
Our bill is about protecting the hardworking taxpayer. It's about Wisconsin families trying to make ends meet and help their children. . . .
Our measure asks for a 5.8% contribution to the pension and a 12.6% contribution for the health insurance premium. Both are well below the national average.
And this is just one part of our comprehensive plan to balance the state's 3.6 billion dollar budget deficit.
Now, some have questioned why we have to reform collective bargaining to balance the budget. The answer is simple the system is broken: it costs taxpayers serious money - particularly at the local level. As a former county official, I know that first hand.
For years, I tried to use modest changes in pension and health insurance contributions as a means of balancing our budget without massive layoffs or furloughs. On nearly every occasion, the local unions (empowered by collective bargaining agreements) told me to go ahead and layoff workers. That's not acceptable to me.
And then he came down hard on the Democrats:
As more and more protesters come in from Nevada, Chicago and elsewhere, I am not going to allow their voices to overwhelm the voices of the millions of taxpayers from across the state who think we're doing the right thing. This is a decision that Wisconsin will make.
Fundamentally, that's what we were elected to do. Make tough decisions. Whether we like the outcome or not, our democratic institutions call for us to participate. That is why I am asking the missing Senators to come back to work.
Do the job you were elected to do. You don't have to like the outcome, or even vote yes, but as part of the world's greatest democracy, you should be here, in Madison, at the Capitol.
The missing Senate Democrats must know that their failure to come to work will lead to dire consequences very soon. Failure to act on this budget repair bill means (at least) 15 hundred state employees will be laid off before the end of June. If there is no agreement by July 1st, another 5-6 thousand state workers -- as well as 5-6 thousand local government employees would be also laid off.
That is how a conservative stands tall and endears himself to the base.
| February 23, 2011; 9:05 AM ET
Categories: Conservative movement
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