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Views from around the state: Gov. Scott Walker must heal wounds created in first 100 days

If Gov. Scott Walker’s first 100 days in office are a reflection of how he intends to lead Wisconsin through 2014, expect him to be decisive, bold and unapologetic.

Walker recently reached that initial milestone — a time frame used to assess a newly elected official’s progress and a reference point since President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 signed New Deal programs into law in his first 100 days. Within a three-month span since his Jan. 3 inauguration, Walker worked with the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a series of tax incentives and reforms, as well as a controversial bill that effectively ends collective bargaining rights for most unionized public employees.

This newspaper continues to believe Walker is on target in his intention to reduce a massive projected deficit by making tough choices; however, we still question the manner in which the governor has pressed forward with his agenda. Despite union leaders saying they would agree to concessions Walker sought, Republicans moved ahead without input from labor. The result was a collective bargaining law that is hung up in the court system because of a possible Open Meetings Law violation by legislative leaders.

Being bold and decisive is necessary to lead in these uncertain times. Those attributes of Walker’s have helped him solidify support from his allies and many who voted for him; but those same traits also have worked to alienate him from those who disagree with his policies. Walker’s tendency thus far to offer no ground to his opponents further widens the gulf between them. And in the political hotbed Wisconsin has become, Walker soon must demonstrate willingness to compromise — not only to move the state forward, but also to heal some open wounds created during his first 100 days.

That said, Walker has accomplished much since taking his oath of office. He immediately called a special legislative session, out of which lawmakers approved measures to attract and create business development. That session also established a new agency called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The public-private entity is designed to replace the state Department of Commerce, which is run by Paul Jadin, former Green Bay mayor and former president of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. Walker said the change is necessary to help grow the state’s economy, and will help achieve his goal of creating 250,000 jobs in his four-year term. It remains to be seen how this major shift will translate into significant job growth.

While Walker’s initial months as governor have been marked by massive public demonstrations against his plans, he has shown determination in presenting a fiscal package with deep cuts to balance the $3.6 billion deficit in the 2011-13 budget. Walker has proposed $900 million in cuts to school aid, $60 million to cities and $36 million to counties, as well as a decrease in Medicaid by $500 million and $125 million in cuts each to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the UW System. Walker said his budget plan would decrease the state’s structural deficit by 90 percent, from $2.5 billion to $250 million.

It’s clear Walker has gotten off to a strong, but tumultuous start. We hope he applies some of the tough lessons he has learned in his first 100 days to help bring the state together in these extremely difficult times.

Green Bay Press-Gazette

What happened to local control?

ALLOW US TO MAKE this clear at the outset: Milwaukee’s local law mandating that businesses provide employees with paid sick leave is thoroughly wrongheaded and a job killer.

We said that when the plan was proposed and we certainly have not changed our minds.

Not that there’s something wrong with paid sick days. Far from it. Paid sick days can be a crucial benefit for employees and make a business better able to recruit quality talent to the organization.

What we have objected to is the intrusion of government’s heavy hand into the relationship between a given business and its workforce. Some businesses may not be able to afford the additional costs. Others might employ fewer workers in order to provide the benefit for those remaining. Some business operators could choose not to locate in Milwaukee, but rather in a nearby suburb, to avoid the mandate. Market conditions, not government orders, best determine the cost of labor.

HAVING SAID THAT, we are disturbed by the eagerness of Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Senate and Assembly to violate what always has been a core conservative principle.

Local control. The idea that citizens of a given community can make their own choices without being bossed around by higher government authority.

Legislators are moving to prohibit Milwaukee’s paid sick day mandate. Remember, the Milwaukee mandate originated as direct citizen legislation, adopted by a substantial majority in a local referendum. It was challenged in court by business interests, without success.

So what you have is a local democratic choice, upheld as legal, being rolled back by politicians from somewhere else.

THIS IS NOT an isolated intervention, either. Walker and his legislative allies also moved to block Milwaukee’s residency rules which covered police, firefighters and teachers. Legislation would prohibit the city from requiring employees to live within municipal boundaries. And don’t think that kind of action would be restricted to Milwaukee. The policy would spread statewide.

Look, good arguments can be made on either side of these issues. The point is, whether it’s Milwaukee or Beloit or Wausau or Green Bay, local folks are quite capable of deciding what they want for their communities.

But what if that local decision proves to be harmful? Well, local folks also are quite capable of figuring that out for themselves and reversing course.

IT IS UNSEEMLY and not at all in keeping with conservatism for Walker and the Republican legislature to step on the prerogatives of local communities, ordering changes in policies those citizens have chosen for themselves.
Undoubtedly, the governor and his allies believe such policies are anathema to business interests and likely job killers. We agree with that analysis.

Still, we support Milwaukee citizens’ right to be wrong. And their right to live with the consequences.

Beloit Daily News

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