Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday he wouldn't support a bill repealing same-day voter registration if it would cost taxpayers up to $5 million or more, even though he previously said he would sign such legislation.
"There's no way I'm signing a bill that cost that much money," Walker said at Virent, a renewable resources company, in Madison. "With that kind of dollar amount, to me, that's a non-starter."
A Government Accountability Board report issued Friday said eliminating Election Day registration would cost $5.2 million right away and another $1.9 million or so every two years after that, because of additional administrative costs.
Walker made the remarks to reporters after discussing his budget priorities and other issues with Virent workers as part of his "Talk with Walker" tour.
Walker also said after the event that it would be too divisive to enact legislation making Wisconsin a right-to-work state.
"In each of these issues, regardless of what my personal opinions have been in the past, I just think it's a huge distraction. In particular with what we saw in Michigan, what we saw nearly two years ago here in Madison," Walker said. "(Right-to-work) would be a huge distraction from our number one focus, which is helping the people of the state create more jobs."
Michigan lawmakers approved a law Tuesday making it a right-to-work state, which bans requirements that nonunion employees pay dues to unions for contract negotiations and other union services. Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature in 2011 enacted a law eliminating many public-sector union rights.
Walker had talked about his concerns over same-day voter registration, citing the work loads for clerks and poll workers, during a speech last month in California, and repeated them after returning to Wisconsin. But on Wednesday he said he never called for legislation repealing it.
"I didn't advocate for a bill, I didn't ever say it was a priority," Walker said. "I just said I thought it would be easier."
Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, who emailed lawmakers last week saying he wanted to draft a bill that would end same-day registration, said he still wanted to look into repealing the law.
"Gov. Walker is CEO of the state, and I have full confidence that what he wants to see brought forward in the Legislature should be a priority. With the new numbers from the GAB, it's time to continue taking a close look at whether eliminating same-day registration is an economically feasible proposal," Kleefisch said Wednesday to reporters in the Capitol.
Kleefisch added that he has not yet written a bill.
"I'm just researching the bill right now. There's no soup. I'm just gathering ingredients," he said. "There may be some dispute to the GAB's costs."
Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, said Wednesday that Walker needs to "shut the door" on ending same-day registration and promise a veto of any possible legislation, but Walker said that's premature.
"The Legislature hasn't event started. I'm not issuing vetoes on anything yet," Walker said. "I'm pointing out I'm not supporting a bill that would spend millions of dollars on something like that. I'm trying to save money, not spend money."