Gov. Scott Walker is all for transportation infrastructure as long as it’s about building roads and he doesn’t have to be responsible for finding a way to responsibly pay for it.
In his early years, he opposed a plan from fellow Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson to fund construction of Wisconsin roads by taxing big oil companies. Now he’s proposing to kick the can down the road with a massive borrowing plan to solve a crisis in transportation funding.
The short-sightedness of Walker’s transportation policy was on full display as he entered the Governor’s office by killing a high speed rail line, funded almost entirely with federal dollars, to connect the state’s two largest cities, Milwaukee and Madison, and further connect these state economic hubs to Minneapolis, Chicago and other Midwestern cities.
Gov. Scott Walker isn't backing an increase in the gas tax and instead wants to rely on $1.3 billion in borrowing to fund transportation projects over the next two years. Under the Republican governor's plan, bonding for transportation would rise by about 30%, but the state's overall borrowing would drop. That's because Walker is recommending that the state delay construction of buildings that haven't already gotten initial approval, including for the University of Wisconsin System...The plan will allow Walker to tout his opposition to raising taxes as he considers a possible run for president. But the increased reliance on borrowing to fund highways may not go over well with his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature...Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) greeted the plan with deep skepticism. "To continue to just borrow and spend isn't fiscally responsible," he said in a statement. "We will certainly be pushing for a permanent fix instead of just more bonding."[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 01/30/2015]
An email from Walker’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Timothy Russell, sent shortly after the tragedy reads: “Where is SKW (Scott Walker)? This is going to be a problem, whether we did (or didn’t do) anything or not. Barrett has already been there. Scott cannot be at a fundraiser or something like that. He’ll be eaten alive.” The email from Russell to other staffers continues as Russell writes: “Perhaps grasping at straws, but there is a vacant parking space at the north end of the area where the slab was hung. Could a car have jarred it?” A spokesperson with the Friends of Scott Walker Campaign replies: “Scott is down at the scene, and should be attached at the hip with Sheriff Clarke. He needs to lead and be on top of the entire situation. Scott needs to be front and center for the media.” As live television coverage of the tragedy continued, an email was sent from Russell to other staffers, reading: “Harold Mester, the County Board PR flak was just on Channel 6 expressing the chairman’s concern about the backlog of maintenance and politicizing this. I strongly think SKW needs to shoot back at him with both barrels for politicizing this.” Another email from the Friends of Scott Walker Campaign to Kelly Rindfleisch – Walker’s top aide at the time reads: “The political concern about blame for the tragedy is clear. Make sure there is not a paper anywhere that details a problem at all.” The next day, Rindfleisch responds to a friend, who asks what happened the previous day besides the parking lot falling on some kid. Rindfleisch responds: “That was our structure. The headlines are going to be ‘Scott Walker kills 15-year-old.'” Adding to the drama of the moments immediately following the tragedy, emails between staffers mention that they can’t get a hold of Scott Walker because his cell phone had burned out. Instead, they had to go through another staffer who was apparently traveling with him.[WITI-TV, 02/19/2014]
Gov. Scott Walker worked simultaneously with his campaign staff and county aides in coordinating responses to media inquiries, open records requests and news stories about the 2010 O'Donnell Park tragedy, according to newly released emails. The records show that Walker was integrally involved in the efforts to challenge any negative publicity after a concrete panel fell from the Milwaukee County-owned O'Donnell parking structure, killing a 15-year-old boy on June 24, 2010, on his way to Summerfest. The incident occurred in the middle of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. ”It is disgusting that anyone would use a tragedy for such blatant political purposes," Walker wrote in a draft statement that he sent on July 20, 2010, to a small circle of campaign and county staff, including campaign manager Keith Gilkes, campaign adviser R.J. Johnson and Chief of Staff Tom Nardelli.The individuals in this small circle regularly emailed each other about the Walker administration's response to the incident. "Scott is down at the scene receiving briefing and should be attached at the hip with Sheriff (David) Clarke," Gilkes wrote to Walker's top county staffers. Gilkes continued: "We also need to know every detail on this structure and every piece of paper associated with this structure since it was built — information is the key to Scott dealing with this issue. His response will be the focal point of everything." [...] Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Christopher Foley released the emails as part of a lawsuit by the boy's family. Retired Appeals Judge Neal Nettesheim, who oversaw the John Doe investigation of Walker's staff, had earlier authorized prosecutors to cull records compiled for the secret probe that had some links to the O'Donnell accident.[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 07/30/2013]
On the day of the O'Donnell accident, a county aide to Walker raises the issue of whether a car striking the concrete panel might have jarred it loose. "Perhaps grasping at straws but there is a vacant parking space at the north end of the area where the slab was hung," Timothy Russell wrote in an email to four Walker campaign aides and two other county employees. "Could a car have jarred it?" Russell writes. The notion that some vehicle may have struck the panel that fell has become a key part of the defense mounted in pretrial filings by Advance Cast Stone.[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 07/30/2013]
Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that his top campaign staffers began advising and directing his Milwaukee County aides on their response to the 2010 O'Donnell Park tragedy because Walker's political foes were trying to hijack the issue. "Literally, within moments — I think even that day in your paper's story — there were comments from people involved in other campaigns," Walker said during a Tuesday press briefing. "So it involved the campaign not by virtue of us but by others who brought it up. Some of his aides' emails suggest Walker's team was doing more than responding to other candidates. Instead, they were focused primarily on fending off any negative publicity during the 2010 governor's race. For instance, Keith Gilkes — Walker's campaign manager — told a Walker county staffer in a June 24, 2010, email "to make sure there is not a paper anywhere that details a problem at all." [...] In the hours immediately after the accident, one concern was Walker's whereabouts and how that would be perceived. "Scott cannot be at a fundraiser or something like that," warned Timothy Russell, Walker's former deputy chief of staff, who was then his housing director. "He'll be eaten alive." Walker's cellphone battery had died; within an hour, Gilkes assured Russell and others that Walker had arrived at the accident scene. "He needs to lead and be on top of the entire situation," Gilkes reported. "ALL of us need to back him up and ensure he is on top of the entire situation — Scott needs to be front and center for the media." As more media outlets reported questions raised about county maintenance of the O'Donnell facility, more advice flowed between the campaign and county staff. Nardelli advised Walker's campaign aides not to reply to criticism that came from county Supervisor John Weishan Jr., a frequent Walker critic. In fact, Weishan and Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic are dismissed as "dolts" by Nardelli, in reaction to a news release the two issued saying Walker's administration hadn't kept county supervisors apprised of the O'Donnell probe.[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 07/30/2013]
“Wisconsin will keep only a fraction of the $810 million it won in federal high-speed rail money, while the rest will help fund train lines in California, Florida, Illinois and other states, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday. Governor-elect Scott Walker had vowed to kill the planned 110-mph Milwaukee-to-Madison passenger train route that was to be funded with Wisconsin's share of $8 billion in federal stimulus dollars.”[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/09/2010]
One Wisconsin Now delivered the names of over 7,000 Wisconsinites from every corner of the state to the office of Gov.-elect Scott Walker who signed One Wisconsin Now’s “Save the Train” petition demanding Walker drop opposition to the high speed rail project for Wisconsin.[One Wisconsin Now, 12/02/2010]
Over 7,000 Wisconsin supporters of high speed rail have signed One Wisconsin Now’s petition calling to “Save the Train” and called for Republican Gov.-elect Scott Walker to drop his opposition to the high speed rail project, which will create thousands of Wisconsin jobs and increase the state’s ability to attract new business and commerce.[One Wisconsin Now, 11/18/2010]
The overwhelming benefits of high speed rail set for Wisconsin, including 13,000 new jobs, billions of dollars in benefits and reduced dependence on foreign oil, are the subject of a new One Wisconsin Now video produced by University of Wisconsin-Madison senior William Barnes. The video is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEwgv1fQDSQ.[One Wisconsin Now, 10/13/2010]
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s hollow criticism of the Talgo bidding process, which was not awarded to the company of his $13,000 donor and 2006 gubernatorial co-chair, is even more hypocritical given that Walker voted to create the no-bid statute in the 1997 state budget, according to One Wisconsin Now.[One Wisconsin Now, 03/17/2010]
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s criticism related to the Talgo company comes just two weeks after the company owned by a top Walker campaign donor and finance co-chair of his failed 2006 gubernatorial campaign did not receive a contract from the Spanish train maker.[One Wisconsin Now, 03/16/2010]
“County Executive Scott Walker is pleased to announce that the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division-Wraparound Milwaukee program, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, was notified that it is one of only seven communities in the U.S. to be a recipient of a $2.4 million, 5-year Healthy Transitions grant -$480,000 per year- from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. ‘Earlier, we announced $3.85 million in grants for three other programs,’ said Walker. ‘This is additional good news and congratulations to the staff for the work done at BHD-Wraparound to get this grant.’”[Milwaukee County Executive, 09/16/2009]
“While the board's override of the veto establishes the county is in favor of using stimulus money, County Supervisor Patricia Jursik said she is concerned Walker will delay efforts to research and apply for the money. County Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb, chairman of a committee created to research stimulus opportunities for the county, said that is happening already.”[Daily Reporter, 04/01/2009]