Here are Gov. Scott Walker's prepared remarks before the Conservative Political Action Conference:
Reince and I grew up not too far from each other in southern Wisconsin. In fact, Reince lived a few miles east of the small town I grew up in and Paul Ryan lived a few miles to the west. Without a doubt, each of the three of us was inspired to pursue public service at about the same time. And the prime inspiration for that call was a man named Ronald Reagan.
He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. He had the courage of his convictions.
Last year, I had the honor to speak to a group of young people at the President’s Rancho del Cielo. It was remarkable to stand at the exact spot where President Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Act of 1981. His plan slashed the marginal tax rate and put money back into the hands of the American people. It was a true stimulus that brought about the longest peacetime economic boom in history.
Ronald Reagan believed in limited government, lower taxes and a strong national defense. He saw a problem and he acted swiftly to fix it. He will forever be known in history as one of our nation's greatest Presidents.
That bold leadership was an inspiration to me then… and it still is today.
When I ran for governor, I was part a job interview with the people of Wisconsin to see if they would hire me to be the CEO of their state government. I told them that our state faced an economic and a fiscal crisis. Then, I told them what I’d do to fix it.
Once elected, I took swift action. Last year at this time, a reporter asked me why we were moving so fast. I said it’s simple: if you were a CEO taking over a failing company, you wouldn’t wait a year or six months or even a month to take action; you’d start right away. That’s what we did.
On the very first day we took office, I called the state legislature into a special session on jobs. In the first month or so, we lowered the tax burden on job creators and entrepreneurs; we passed major regulatory reform to cut through the bureaucratic red tape; we passed some of the most aggressive tort reform in the country to stop frivolous law suits and we repealed the state tax on health savings accounts.
We showed that when we say “Wisconsin is open for business”, we mean it.
Last year, Wisconsin created thousands of new private sector jobs and our unemployment rate is down from a year ago. In fact, it is the lowest it’s been since 2008.
In contrast, when liberal Democrats controlled Wisconsin, our state lost 150,000 private sector jobs.
In 2010, just 10% of our employers thought Wisconsin was headed in the right direction. That same survey was taken a month ago and 94% of our employers now believe that Wisconsin is headed in the right direction. A majority of them are ready to grow in 2012.
And it used to be that we didn’t like to talk about the business rankings that compared states because we were usually in the bottom ten. This past year, Wisconsin moved up 17 spots. That's the fastest increase of any state in the country.
Contrast that with my neighbor to the south. There is no greater example of the failed policies we are running against than the mess we see in Illinois.
Last year, Governor Quinn proudly proclaimed that they were not going to do things like Wisconsin. Clearly, they did not. Their actions only made matters worse.
They raised taxes by 67% on individuals and 46% on businesses. That might explain why they dropped 40 spots during the past five years on the same poll that showed Wisconsin up 17 spots in one year alone.
Recently, Moody’s downgraded Illinois’ bond rating to the lowest in the nation. The Pew Center says Illinois’ pension system is the worst-funded in the country. And their unemployment rate is 9.8%.
In contrast, Wisconsin’s budget was called “credit positive” by Moody’s and our pension system is fully funded for state employees. Our unemployment rate is 7.1%.
Wisconsin, like most states, had a budget deficit last year. But we avoided the major mistakes made by other states.
Some states chose to balance their budgets with higher taxes. We did not because we knew it would be devastating to our economy and a further burden to our citizens.
Other states relied on massive public employee layoffs to balance the books. But I don’t want massive layoffs of anyone – public or private. We are planning on shrinking government through attrition and reform, not through random pink slips.
Some states have also chosen budget gimmicks to balance the budget. We did not do this in Wisconsin because that is part of what caused the budget deficit in the first place.
Instead, we chose long-term structural reforms that helped us balance both our state and our local governments budgets for years to come. We thought more about the next generation than we did about the next election.
And isn’t that what you elect us to do? We kept our promises.
One of those promises was to limit the size of government and to have the government serve the people - and not the other way around. I promised to empower the taxpayer - instead of a handful of big government union bosses.
Liberals find that hard to understand, which is why the President went after me on this issue last year.
So I responded to the President during my daily 5:00 pm press conference. My comments were simple, I said: “I’m sure that the President of the United States must know that most federal government employees do not have collective bargaining for wages and benefits. I’m sure he must know that. And I’m sure that the President must know that the average federal government employee is paying about 28% of their health insurance premium (which is double what I am asking state and local employees to pay in Wisconsin.). Because I’m sure that the President of the United States is not getting his talking points from the big government union bosses in Washington.” That was the last we heard from the President on this matter - because the facts are on our side.
So let me be clear, Collective bargaining isn’t a right, it is an expensive entitlement. Once and for all, we are giving the taxpayers a voice in this debate. We put the power back in the hands of the people.
We are the ones looking out for the middle class. Who do think pays for the endless expansion of government? Its middle class taxpayers.
Our reforms protect middle class taxpayers.
After a half decade of property taxes going up $220 million on average each year, our reforms lead to the school property tax levy going down by $47 million.
The previous administration’s policies lead to a $3 billion tax increase, we passed a budget that lowered the overall tax burden in Wisconsin.
The other thing that drives the Madison liberals wild is that we made our government work better too. I believe that smaller government is better government. But I also believe that in the areas where government does play a legitimate role, we should demand that it is done better.
For years, there has been a false choice between raising taxes or cutting core services. Few, if any, adopt that mindset in the private sector. If you own a business, you certainly don’t look to double the price of your product or your customers will run to your competitor. Similarly, you don’t cut the quality of your product in half or you will see those same customers quickly lose faith in your product as well. Instead, people outside of government routinely find ways to make things work better.
We applied those same principles to putting government back on the side of the people.
We proved that our kids can have access to a great education AND we can protect taxpayers at the same time. Let me give you an example: for years, school districts in Wisconsin had to purchase their health insurance from just one provider, who was affiliated with the teachers union. Now, because of our reforms, school districts can bid out their health insurance and it’s saving these school districts tens of millions of dollars. That’s money that can go directly into the classroom.
Here is another example: two years ago, well before I was governor, a young woman in the Milwaukee Public Schools system was named one of the best new teachers of the year in Wisconsin. A week later, she got laid off.
Why would they lay off such a great new teacher? Well, the old collective bargaining system basically said the last teachers to be hired were the first to be fired. It didn’t matter that she was one of the best in the state.
Now things have changed for the better. Our reforms end seniority and tenure so we can hire and fire based on merit AND pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms - and we can keep them there.
My budget proposed major expansions in choice and charter schools because they help give every kid, no matter what zip code they come from, an opportunity for a great education.
With these and other reforms made to our school systems we have given our traditional public schools the same chances for success that we see in our good choice and charter schools.
Overall, we created a better business environment for jobs, we balanced a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes and we made our government work better for the people we serve. In other words, we kept our promises.
So why am I facing a recall election?
Simple: the big government union bosses from Washington want their money. They don’t like the fact that I did something fundamentally pro-worker; something that’s truly about freedom. I gave every one of the nearly 300,000 hard-working public servants in my state the right to choose. Now, each of them gets to determine whether they want to be in a union or not; and the unions can no longer automatically deduct dues from their paycheck.
For a teacher in Milwaukee, that means as much as $1,400 that he or she can keep and spend on their retirement contribution or on health insurance or their kids’ college education.
The big government union bosses are worried that workers may actually choose to keep the money for themselvers. That’s why the big government union bosses spent tens of millions last summer to try and win the six state senate recall elections in Wisconsin. In fact, the total amount spent by all parties was over $40 million.
And it’s why many observers believe that $70 million or more may be spent on the race for governor this year. The largest amount of that will come from out-of-state, big government unions. On top of that, liberal groups like MoveOn.org and Organizing for America are already descending like vultures on Wisconsin.
They understand that this recall election is about much more than who is the Governor of Wisconsin. In fact, it is even bigger than what it means for the elections in November of 2012.
This election is ultimately about courage. When we prevail, it will send a powerful message – not only in Madison but in Springfield and St. Paul; Columbus and Austin; and in state houses all across America. Most of all, it will send a message in the halls of Congress.
When we win, it will tell every politician in America that if you are bold, if you do the right thing, if you tackle the tough issues, there will be people standing there right with you.
And Lord help us if we lose. If we lose, I believe that it will set acts of courage in politics back at least a decade if not a generation. This is why we must not lose.
To win, however, I need your help.
The most important tool we have is the truth. Help us share our positive message to anyone you know in Wisconsin and encourage others to do the same. The choice in Wisconsin could not be clearer: do we go back to the days of double-digit tax increases, billion dollar budget deficits and record job lose or do we move Wisconsin forward towards greater prosperity? I say we move forward.
Next, you can help us with manpower. Our opposition will not be a single candidate on the ballot but the tens of millions of dollars spent by the national big government unions and the thousands of bodies that they will bring into our state. We need to counter it with good, old-fashioned grass-roots. We need people to hand out fliers and make calls. Join our cause at ScottWalker.org.
And to counter the literally tens of millions of dollars being poured into our state by the national big government union bosses, we need your financial help. Thousands of people have already visited us online at ScottWalker.org to give or by texting "Scott" to 64274.
Our last report showed that 76% of our donations are from people who gave us $50 or less. Even one dollar can make a difference: it may be one more call placed or one more flyer printed or event one more second of air time. Every bit counts - which is why we need your help.
This recall isn't about me and it isn't just about who will be the Governor of Wisconsin. It is about all of us and whether or not we can make bold decisions for the future.
You see, I made tough decisions because I want our kids and our grandkids to inherit a Wisconsin – and an America – even greater than the one we did. That’s what this is all about.
Last September, Tonette and I were in Philadelphia. We got up early before some meetings and went in to see Constitution Hall. You see, I grew up in a small town and I love history so I wanted to see the place where our founders worked. I always thought of these leaders as bigger than life, almost supernatural.
Standing in that room, which isn’t much bigger than this stage, I looked up at the chair where Washington sat with the rising sun on it and thought “wow, these were ordinary people who did something extraordinary.” These people weren’t just risking their political futures; they were risking their lives for the freedoms we hold dear today.
I believe it was Ben Franklin who said, “we must all hang together or we will surely all hang separately.” Think about it. They really had courage.
These leaders and others like them – people like Washington and Lincoln and yes, Reagan - these leaders proved something amazing about our country. For more than two centuries, what has made America great is that in moments of crisis (be it fiscal or economic or military or even spiritual), we’ve had men and women of courage who thought more about their children and grandchildren’s future than they did about their own political futures.
Let this be one of those moments. Let this be our call to action. Let this go down in history as the time when you helped move Wisconsin – and ultimately America - forward.