Since taking office, Gov. Scott Walker has quickly become the most partisan, polarizing governor in the nation and in Wisconsin history. He has refused to meet with me and anyone who opposes his views. He wouldn’t even sit down across the table and negotiate with his own employees while he rammed through an extreme, special-interest agenda that undermines workers’ freedom and harms the middle class.
Just this week, public workers are taking an 8 percent or higher pay cut while Walker gave hundreds of millions to corporations and big contributors in his state budget.
Now Walker is claiming he wants to move past the partisanship and division he created and start working together. That’s like an arsonist complaining about the smoke and destruction he created.
Based on his actions over the nearly eight months he’s been on office, it’s hard to believe his recent change in tone is anything more than empty rhetoric, like the wolf pretending to be grandma in “Little Red Ridinghood.”
Walker only started talking about bipartisanship after a survey showed a whopping six in 10 Wisconsinites, or 59 percent, disapprove of how he is running the state. His latest call for bipartisanship came the day after Wisconsin citizens successfully recalled two Republican senators in a historic rebuke of the governor’s extreme agenda.
Every time the governor has called for bipartisanship, he has done so after taking an extremely partisan action, such as eliminating collective bargaining or signing a budget that helps special interests at the expense of public education and the middle class. And now he is preaching bipartisanship immediately after signing the most partisan redistricting laws in Wisconsin history, drawn in back rooms by $395-an-hour Republican lawyers.
It’s true that the people of Wisconsin want us to work together. But we’ve seen no evidence that Walker and legislative Republicans even want to come to the table.
On the first day of this session, Assembly Democrats proposed 10 job-creating bills that should have received bipartisan support, but legislative Republicans have refused to even give them a hearing. After the GOP launched their attack on workers’ rights, they locked people out of the Capitol, shut off the legislative hotline and closed down public hearings. At every turn, the GOP-controlled Legislature has limited public input, shunned dialogue and ignored the people. Their minds are made up by corporate contributors; they don’t care what you think.
On the floor of the Legislature, Assembly Republicans have rubber-stamped Walker’s corporate agenda while rejecting hundreds of Democratic amendments, even though many were common sense measures that emphasized accountability or saved money. So far, Republicans have accepted only one out of 376 amendments offered by Assembly Democrats. I offered an amendment to end the no-bid sale of state power plants. That failed. And exactly zero Democratic bills have passed the Assembly.
Walker has also repeatedly rejected any attempts to find common ground. When Senate Democrats asked to negotiate a compromise on the governor’s plan to eliminate collective bargaining rights, he called it “ridiculous.” When he testified under oath before Congress this spring, Walker said that sometimes bipartisanship was “not so good.”
Bipartisanship requires more than just words — it requires action on finding middle ground. Democrats will be more than happy to work together when Walker stops using bipartisanship as a cover for his partisan actions and instead focuses on creating quality jobs and protecting Wisconsin values.
That starts with sitting down and undoing some of the harm that Walker and the GOP have caused.
State Rep. Brett Hulsey is a Democrat serving Madison, Shorewood Hills and Middleton.