We've been watching a fine-tuned career politician at work the past several months.
His name, of course, is Scott Walker, who has spent nearly every day of his adult life on the public payroll, first as a legislator, then as the Milwaukee County executive and now the past nearly eight years as the governor of Wisconsin.
Notice how clever he is. I don't call him "Slippery Scott" for nothing.
When he became governor in January 2011, his first act was to reduce the funding of the state's education system by a total of $1.8 billion -- $800 million from public schools, $250 million from the UW, and a reduction in the amount schools could collect from property taxes equaling another $800 million.
Now that he's running for re-election in what could be a tough political year for Republicans, he proposed and the Legislature approved a $639 million increase in K-12 funding for 2017-19 -- the largest increase, he brags, in the state's history. And even though education funding is still below what it was back in 2010, what a ready-made issue for campaign ads and stump speeches. Forget about that $1.8 billion cut. Walker will trumpet the "largest education increase in history." Very clever indeed.
Then, there's the Affordable Care Act. From the day Walker took office, he's done his best to sabotage Obamacare. He was one of several Republican governors to turn down federal dollars to expand Medicaid, a feature of the ACA aimed at lowering premiums. He bad-mouthed everything about it and backed the "repeal and replace" Republicans. When Donald Trump became president, he cheered when Trump signed executive orders to undermine the insurance exchanges and create uncertainty in the marketplace, all combining to raise rates.
But as election time nears, Walker has suddenly seen the light. Like a gallant knight riding to the rescue, he now hopes to be seen as a savior, putting aside $200 million to stabilize the market for those who use the insurance exchange in Wisconsin. Seventy-five percent of the costs, incidentally, will be picked up by the federal government, which he found untenable only a few years ago.
The state's Democratic Party chair, Martha Laning, called Walker's change in heart "an election year attempt to disguise just how utterly damaging his years of fighting the Affordable Care Act have been and the toll Republican sabotage on health care has taken on Wisconsin families."
A clue to just how disingenuous Walker's newfound health care concern is was underscored last month when our overly partisan Attorney General Brad Schimel announced he is leading a group of 20 states that are suing to block Obamacare entirely, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
Schimel had to get Walker's sign-off to include Wisconsin in the suit, meaning that the governor claims to be shoring up Obamacare insurance exchanges while pushing the state to find a way to destroy Obamacare. They couldn't do it in Congress, so Schimel is hoping to do it through the back door.
But again, Walker's "stabilizing the insurance exchange" will make good campaign ads.
This is what lifetime career politicians do best. They know all the tricks to pull the wool over voters' eyes.
The question is, will Wisconsin voters fall for the Slippery Scott's tricks again?
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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