Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin said today at a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, that presidential nominee Mitt Romney needs to be more specific in telling voters how he would deal with nation’s fiscal crisis.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: We thank you for coming. I can’t tell you how - how pleased we are. Let me start off. You have, I think, for months been very supportive of Governor Romney, but said you’d like to see him be bolder. And I know you thought that the Ryan pick certainly fit that bill. But what else particularly in the next couple days would you like to see that would - that would fit your bill of a bolder candidate?
WALKER: Well, I think two things. I think, you know, clearly in America, just like we have in Wisconsin, the issues that people are concerned about is we face an economic and a fiscal crisis. You know, we faced it coming in. Most of the new governors faced it coming in, certainly new president, if things work out, would face that.
And I think tonight, with Paul, but particularly tomorrow night with the governor, he’s got to lay out a very clear plan. When it comes to the economy, he’s got a plan. He’s got a five- point plan on that. But I think most Americans don’t know it. Most Americans actually don’t know Mitt Romney. Ann Romney’s speech last night I think was the beginning of being helpful in that regard. All of us in politics and in the media, I think, sometimes find that hard to believe, but I think in my state, at least, most people know of Mitt Romney. They don’t know Mitt Romney.
And so a little bit are beginning to know him, but I think laying out not just the plan, but much like I and a number of the governors did last night, where we told stories in my case about a woman who was affected by a small business that added jobs, while the other governors actually brought small-business owners. But I think if Governor Romney lays out his plan and uses examples of people who will benefit from that, that’s something that I think can affect real people and real voters out there.
And the other part I think he’ll touch on - and then I think in the coming week or two will expound on, as well - is tackling not just the economic crisis, but the fiscal crisis that’s pending. I think that’s a pretty sharp contrast to the president. I mean, I remember on July 3rd, almost two months ago now, Paul Ryan and I stood in Wauwatosa at a victory center and pointed out that four years earlier, candidate Barack Obama had said that adding $4 trillion to the national debt was unpatriotic.
That was five - five-plus trillion dollars since. And I think, you know, the indictment of the failure of this current administration is abundantly clear. The question that most voters will have is, what will you do differently? And I think that’s got to be part of the equation.
And as much as I grumbled about it a few months ago, I think the sentiment was if they came out with too many details too early, by the time people started paying attention to the election post-Labor Day, that when they did come out with it again, people would say, well, we already heard that that’s old news. So I think it’s not just kicking off from the - what’s being said tonight and tomorrow night, but even just the fact that people are finally starting to pay attention. But it’s going to be all economic and fiscal.
HUNT: Do you think - let me ask one question and then throw it open to everyone here - do you think in those either Thursday night or in the weeks following that - in addressing that fiscal crisis that there’s a need now to be more particular, more specific, to tell voters exactly how he’s going to cut spending with more specificity and on the revenue side?
WALKER: Yeah, I - well, I think both in terms of a budget, but I also think you’re going to hear - one of the things (inaudible) in Washington is this assumption that it’s just about either adding more revenue or making more cuts. One of the things I think is frequently left out of the debate - and I hope they discuss at greater length - is growth, a pro-growth agenda.
I mean, to me, there’s just no way you can solely cut your way out of a - out of the fiscal crisis that we face. The question then is, do you go with more revenue, i.e., more taxes, or do you go with an agenda that drives revenues up, not by adding to the tax rate, adding to the overall tax burden, but that aggressively pushes more revenue, because of more growth in the economy?
I mean, I’ll give you a good example of a comparison. Illinois last year, like Wisconsin and nearly every state in America, faced a huge budget deficit. Illinois proudly proclaimed in Springfield that they weren’t going to do what we were doing in Wisconsin, and clearly they did not. They attempted to balance their budget by raising taxes on individuals 67 percent, 46 percent on businesses. A year later, they still have a budget crisis. They’re cutting Medicaid by $1 billion. Governor Quinn has proposed closing 14 state facilities that would affect thousands of public employees. And their economy has got a worse unemployment rate than the national rate.
In contrast, we lowered the overall tax burden. Property taxes went down for the first time in 12 years, so the overall tax burden went down. We streamlined the regulatory process. We did an abundance of other things to promote growth in our state. And even though our tax burden is down, our revenues are up.
Why? Because more people are working. Personal income grew during that time period. All those things were benefits of the pro-growth agenda that we pursued, and it’s similar in other states, particularly states led by Republican governors.
So for those who say, oh, you can’t do that, that’s trickle-down economics, it hasn’t worked in the past, we’re doing it right now. If you want to compare, you want to compare the difference between four more years of Barack Obama, look at Illinois - those policies are the same types of policies this president’s pursuing - or what we’re doing not just in Wisconsin, but other states are doing across the country, where they elected new Republican governors.
The unemployment rate, if you look a month ago, last month, the unemployment rate in states led by Republican governors versus the unemployment rate in states led by Democrats in Republican states is one point better. It’s one point lower unemployment on average than those - because I think the policies are different, and that’s the difference you get between keeping this current president elected and a new one.
QUESTION: Governor, let me - let me follow up on one part of this. Governor Christie in his speech last night talked about the need to tell Americans hard truths and the Republican Party is prepared to do this. From your own experience, how much should Governor Romney tell people about some of the controversial things that he’s prepared to do, not in a general way, but specific, in the way that, you know, you now look back on your experience and say you should have done more to prepare people for some of the things you were going to do? What are the things specifically that he needs to deal with so that if he is elected, people will say that’s - oh, you didn’t tell me you were going to do that?
WALKER: Right. Well, you’re going to get that no matter what. I mean, I pointed out that I would have spent more time last January and February continuing to build the case, making the example that for - in our case, before my reforms, most school districts in my state had to buy their health insurance from one company, a company that just happened to be affiliated with the teacher’s union, and that cost them tens of millions of dollars more than they had to. Our reforms have now freed that money up, put that in the classroom.
Yeah, in January and February, I would have spent more time doing it, but just to be clear, two years ago, I told 1,000 superintendents, school board members, and others that I’m a local official and that we need to reform the process for collective bargaining and mediation arbitration in our state and, in fact, reminded them again earlier this spring that I had said that, to which even one of the local reporters pointed out, yeah, actually, I was there, he did say that.
But to put that in context, did I say on February 11th of 2011 I’m going to introduce this bill at this time and do exactly this? No. But I ran an ad that said I’m going to cut - or I’m going to ask 5 percent roughly for pension contribution, 12 percent for health care, ran ads, and then I did that. And then the unions act shocked that I actually did it. I think they were shocked that I actually did it, not that I said I was going to do it, but that we actually did it.
I think in Governor Romney’s case, I already think they’re doing that. I think they can do more, but, I mean, think about it. When Paul Ryan got put on the ticket, what did they do? Did they back down from discussion, debate about Medicare? No. He came right out and said, hey, let’s cover the truth here. The truth is, even in Paul’s plan, which is not necessarily exactly the same as Mitt Romney’s plan, but even in Paul’s plan in the House, if you’re retired or you’re near retirement, you’re not touched. You’re not touched, despite all the scare tactics and everything else out there.
But for somebody 55 or younger, somebody like me and my generation, or for my kids, I presumed long ago that not just Medicare, but Social Security is not going to be there, because if we don’t do anything, it won’t be.
And so I think those are the sorts of truths. And I’ve said and repeated on the campaign trail what Chris said last night, which is, I think that voters, particularly seniors, like my parents or like Paul’s mother, are open to that, not only because they’re not touched, but they’re open to that debate, because in the end, what do our parents care about more than anything? Their grandchildren. Grandparents care more than Medicare, more than Social Security, more than anything else, they care about their grandchildren.
And that’s why I think, again, you’ve seen in my state and other states - and I think he’s even done reasonably well in Florida, for all the hype that Paul Ryan would be doomsday, you know, being on the ballot in Florida - I don’t think that’s true, because I think, if you have an honest, candid discussion of what’s at stake - and in their case, obviously, it would help to point out that, of all things, President Obama’s taking $716 million for Obamacare I think was certainly a wake-up call for a lot of people out there, but I think in the end, they are having that debate, they’ll continue to, you know, build off of that. It’s not all going to come out at once, but I think they’re going to continue to add to that, because I think that’s what you get by putting Paul Ryan on the ticket.
Just one last aside. I don’t want to bog down - I don’t want to filibuster here, but one other thing just in general about Paul on that. You know, I get asked - and you can ask me, you know, personal things about Paul, because I’ve known him for years, too - but I get asked all the time, you know, what does - what does this pick mean for Paul Ryan? And I say the most compelling thing is not what it says about Paul Ryan, is what it says about Mitt Romney.
And what I mean by that is, people knew, even if they were undecided, you know, they look at his resume, and they say, OK, this is a guy who was a CEO in the private sector. You know, people can debate whether it’s good, bad. I would argue it’s good. I mean, he took companies that otherwise would have failed, turned them around, thousands of people are working today because of that.
Certainly, we’ve heard last month during the Olympics a lot about Salt Lake City and the Winter Olympics. I think that’s pretty - pretty clear, no matter what your politics, that he did a pretty compelling job in turning those Olympics around. And as a governor - something obviously I’m biased towards - you know, balanced the budget, did it without raising taxes, jobs went up. Those are all good things. So people said, yeah, Mitt Romney’s got the resume to be president.
I think when he picked Paul Ryan, though, it went from just being qualified to be president for a lot of us - and not just conservatives and Republicans, but I think in my state even some independent voters, swing voters, it said, this guy’s got the courage and the passion to be an exceptional president. I think in doing that, he said not just in the campaign, but this is a guy who’s got the guts to put someone like Paul Ryan on the ticket who’s actually willing to govern like he’s campaigning and do things.
And amazingly, not only did the base get excited about that, but in our state, for a lot of people like those voters that had traditionally voted for Paul Ryan in the 1st District, which is a pretty evenly split district, people are looking for that kind of courage. They’re looking for leaders to stick their neck out and make some tough choices.
QUESTION: Can we press you on that?
QUESTION: Because you - I - I - you gave some examples of the hard truths that you told voters in advance of the election and ads that you ran. With all respect, I don’t actually hear those hard truths from the Romney-Ryan campaign. It doesn’t make them unique among politicians, but I hear a lot of soothing promises. If you’re a current senior, you won’t have - you don’t have to worry about your Medicare, and it’s going to be great in the future, too. Nothing about sacrifice. Same thing on tax cuts. We’re going to lower your rates, but we’re not going to talk in any specifics about the deductions that you’re going to take away.
So what am I missing, in terms of the hard truths that they’re telling now?
WALKER: Well, I think, again, that’s part of what they’re going to talk about tonight and tomorrow night.
WALKER: What’s that?
QUESTION: I mean, can you point to any -
WALKER: No. No, I think, again, that’s where I think part of the - the focal point of their speech and then the discussions they’re going to have between now and Nov. 6 will evolve around that.
QUESTION: Will evolve around -
WALKER: Evolve around laying out some of the things they’re going to do, not just in terms of the economic crisis, but in terms of the fiscal crisis.
QUESTION: So - so if we have breakfast Friday morning, will you be able to look at me and say, “Ruth, I told you so”?
WALKER: I hope so. I haven’t - I haven’t previewed the speech, but that’s my - that’s my belief. And it’s my belief not just through this convention, but in the coming weeks, as well.
QUESTION: Have you had any chance to talk to Ryan about it?
QUESTION: Paul Ryan and also Governor Romney have suggested (OFF-MIKE) Medicaid (OFF-MIKE) Ryan budget, the amount of federal resources going to schools and sort of the discretionary spending is not going to keep pace with what it has been. As a governor, does that pose a hardship for you? Or do you think you’re going to be able to make do with more limited resources in the future? And how do you do that?
WALKER: If states - not only Medicaid, but in other areas, including some of the ones you mentioned - were to be given block grants, give us the flexibility, we could do things much more efficiently, much more effectively, particularly cost - effectively, and that’s not just a Republican issue. I mean, clearly overwhelmingly it’s coming from Republican governors, the request, whether it was required as it was under the Ryan House plan or even making it permissive.
I mean, the amazing thing is, I got very frustrated in discussions in the National Governors Association on this, because just on principle, on principle, the NGA should be behind block grants. I mean, just it’s - it is the essence of the 10th Amendment.
And, in fact, if you listen to Republican and Democrat governors alike talk about No Child Left Behind, there’s almost universal acceptance that that is too much of a federal mandate and greater flexibility should be given on education standards to the states. In fact, a couple times I’ve listened to those debates, wrote notes down from other governors, and then repeated them when we come back to health care and Medicaid.
And so, well, that was a great argument. So why doesn’t it apply to this?
WALKER: To Medicare - .
QUESTION: The flexibility (OFF-MIKE) the states? Because right now, the Republican argument is that the president gutted the work requirements for welfare reform. And, in fact, these are letters from Republican governors asking for waivers (OFF- MIKE) more flexibility in creating programs to train people to work, so it’s a states’ rights kind of issue. And so on the one hand, you want states’ rights for Medicare and some of these other issues, but on welfare reform, suddenly the Republican Party thinks that’s the most horrible thing that the Obama administration has done.
WALKER: If - if - if the federal - if the federal government in the larger context just gave all of that back to the states, that would be our preference. The problem is they don’t. Now, and - in terms of -
QUESTION: - with federal money, and it would be ideal if, as a governor, if the federal government would just give you all the money.
WALKER: Sure. Well, even if you look at education, you talked about that before, I mean, if you give the money to the states that didn’t have, you know, the abundance of bureaucracy in Washington, that dollars could go right back into the classroom. If you talked about TANF, for example, and if those dollars went in directly to the states and said, each of you are going to get a block grant, that’s how it started out in 1996. It’s been - gone through several variations of that since then.
But if we went back to what we had in ’96, which was essentially a block grant that went right back without the strings attached and said, here’s the money you get, now make a go of it, it’s true on Medicaid, it’d be true on education, it’d be true on other issues out there. Again -
QUESTION: But why - why are Republican governors seeking waivers?
WALKER: Why are they? Because, again, it’s one of those where you’ve got to seek conditions out there. And the concern is, the way the legislation’s written - or the way they’re invoking it is to say that they can’t make changes without those waivers.
In essence, though, there’s nothing that guarantees that in the - they’re claiming now that those waivers - to make them more productive, but there’s nothing in the future, if they use that interpretation, that wouldn’t allow other states to - to be in a position where they didn’t have to have work requirements in there. If they can grant it in one regard, they can grant it in the opposite direction. I think that’s the concern that a number of us have raised issues about with the welfare issue.
QUESTION: But isn’t that states’ rights -
WALKER: Well, again, if you - if you - if you want to do the states’ rights, then do it entirely up to the states, not just with the conditions.
QUESTION: Governor, let me ask you, if the Obama administration is so anti-business and anti-growth, why are we seeing so many record corporate profits and such a strong stock market?
WALKER: Well, most of the problems that we see in our states don’t relate to corporate. They’re not related to the stock market. They’re small- and midsized businesses. That vast majority of businesses in our state are not on the New York Stock Exchange. They’re small businesses that have a handful of individuals who are having tremendous concerns about consumer confidence in this economy.
And in fact, in our state, in our growth, it’s not -you know, occasionally you get a 500-, a 1,000-person bump in terms of jobs, but in most cases, the jobs that we look at that we find to be the most productive are under 100. And oftentimes, it’s, you know, 15, 20, 25 jobs at a time that people add that’s of much bigger concern to us, because as great as it is - and certainly we draw a lot of attention - if you get a major corporation that comes and brings new jobs to a state, that’s not our bread-and-butter. And I think that’s true with most states out there. It’s those small- and midsized employers that really make the difference, and they’re the ones that aren’t - you know, they’re not worried about the next quarterly dividend. They’re worried about the next paycheck and making payroll.
QUESTION: Hey, Governor, I’ve heard governors - and you’ve been one of them - both parties - complain a lot about Washington and the leadership in Washington, particularly on the fiscal crisis. And how much do you blame your own party for the gridlock in Washington?
WALKER: Well, two different things. The difference between gridlock or - or fiscal responsibility - I think in Washington in general, there’s a whole lot of blame to go around, period. The question is, who’s got a solution to get out of it? We currently don’t have it - under the current administration, I don’t see a plan. I see more of the same. And that isn’t working.
I said last year in front of a - one of the committees where I was at, where I supposed to be in for an hour, and it ended up being three hours - which suggests to me that it’s probably why I would never run for Congress, because to me as governor I just got more things to actually get accomplished in three hours than just talking about it.
But the - I said something that got taken, as you might imagine, out of context. They talked about bipartisanship, working together. And I said bipartisanship’s great if it’s done for the right reasons. In our case, almost all the measures I pushed in my jobs special session had bipartisan votes. If you look at all the bills I signed into law last year, 96 percent of them had votes from Democrats, as well as Republicans.
Most of those things were economic, job-related, things that made it easier for small business. That’s great. But bipartisanship by its nature is not necessarily a good thing if it’s done for the wrong reason. And my example was, I said historically in Washington, I thought both parties - maybe one more than the other - but both parties had been a part of a problem of ignoring the fiscal crisis we were facing in this country.
And if together people worked together and they pursue budgets, they pursue actions that just defer those tough decisions, if both parties are doing it, that’s bipartisan, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
QUESTION: Governor, and to that point, my colleague, Mr. Tackett, actually wrote a fairly interesting piece yesterday about Ronald Reagan. Would there be a place for Ronald Reagan in today’s Republican Party? And he looked back at his economic record, his record of compromise, some of the positions he took. To sort of build that shining city on a hill that he talked a lot about, he had to come across party, so - across party lines.
So when you look at Romney-Ryan, you look at the messaging going out, where does Ronald Reagan fit in? Would there be a place for Ronald Reagan in today’s Republican Party?
WALKER: Yeah, sure, I do. I mean, the - look - and Christie talked about it last night, but Chris is about the most hard- nosed, direct, in-your-face Republican we’ve got out there. And yet Chris got his pension reforms through a Democrat-controlled Senate and a Democrat-controlled General Assembly. And that’s probably the best example out there.
Now, they don’t do everything he asked, and he has to work hard for it, and sometimes he has to get their face (inaudible) I mean, in fact, so much so, I love on the pension reform, when they had not as many visitors as I had in my capitol, but Chris sent me - one of the things I got framed in the capitol is a sign that was from in their state capitol in New Jersey that says, “Christie plus Sweeney,” their Senate president, a Democrat of - a union guy, “Christie plus Sweeney equals Walker,” because they were going after Sweeney for being a part of that pension reform.
But that’s a good example where they got things done. But you don’t begin the debate about saying where you ultimately might end up. You defend - you begin it by saying, here’s what we believe, here’s our path we’re going to pursue, and then along the way, you’re right, President Reagan, instead of taking 100 percent, often took 75 percent or 80 percent, because he had Tip O’Neill and the House Democrats that were the only way to get things done.
QUESTION: But that doesn’t seem -
WALKER: He still got 75 percent of the things done.
QUESTION: But that doesn’t seem to be kind of the mood or ethic of the Republican Party that - that we’ve seen over the last couple of years, particularly in Washington, that the - the idea of if we can get 70 percent of this, we’ll be happy with that -
QUESTION: - much more rigid on that.
WALKER: Well, except if you start there, I mean, I don’t get 100 percent of what I want, either, and I’m probably in that same category as Christie, in terms of how people perceive us. But you don’t get anything close to that. If you start out at 50, you’re probably going to get 25.
QUESTION: I don’t mean starting out, but I mean - I think there’s a perception of the party as currently constituted that it is more resistant to some of those kinds of compromises than it used to be, than Ronald Reagan would have been.
WALKER: No, I - although, even with Reagan, I mean, I think we’ve learned some things even from the president, who many of us revere, who clearly - when Paul Ryan, for example, and Reince Priebus and I grew up in south-central Wisconsin, a few miles from each other, you know, in the ’80s, and were drawn into public service by President Reagan, in large part because of his optimistic outlook about the American people, you know, there’s even things to learn from Reagan.
I mean, I think - you know, we - I look right now, and I think about the economic recovery act that was signed in August of 1981 out at the Reagan Ranch. It didn’t fully go into effect until about two - a year-and-a-half later. In November and December of 1982, we had 10.8 percent unemployment, which is far greater than any we’ve had in the last few years in this recession, and yet from ’82 on, we had the longest peacetime economic boom in American history. What was it, 21 million new jobs, I remember, right, about 5 million new businesses during that timeframe? Great growth, not just in the economy, but actually in revenues that came in, much like I mentioned in my state.
What caused the deficit? In fact, I love it. My son, who’s now - one of my sons, who’s now a senior - or actually my son, who’s a freshman in college, had a textbook a couple years ago that talked about the Reagan deficits and said it was all because of the tax cuts. And I walked him through the economics, and I said, it wasn’t about the tax cuts. It was about the spending. It was about the spending after the fact that after he got the Congress, he was able - in fact, after he gave his address, the Congress and - I think at the point, the speaker leaned over to the vice president and said, there’s your 40 votes, because he convinced enough of the Blue Dog Democrats to join with the Republicans to get it passed. And, of course, the Senate was Republican after the ’80 election. They got it passed.
That was great. The problem, though, there wasn’t that kind of willingness for those same folks to keep the spending restraint in, so the deficits weren’t driven by the tax cuts. They were driven by the spending that escalated during the 1980s.
So if anything we’ve learned from that is that - not that tax cuts are bad - tax cuts help promote economic growth. But with that -
HUNT: Can we - can we just -
WALKER: What’s that?
QUESTION: I said, have you gotten rid of those textbooks?
WALKER: Ha, no. But I gave my son another book to read in contrast.
QUESTION: Governor, I wanted to ask you, you said you were very critical of the recall election against you and said it was an illegitimate effort to overturn the will of the people who voted in November of 2010. So how was it legitimate for you and other leaders of the party to call for Todd Akin to withdraw from the race, just a few weeks after - after voters selected him to represent the, you know, Republican Party in the - against Claire McCaskill?
WALKER: Because we don’t have any legal recourse to force him to get out. Just because - I can say whether - well, in that case, or if there’s somebody else that I said something I didn’t like, I could say they shouldn’t be a candidate. It doesn’t mean I’m coming into Missouri and running a legal effort to force him off the ballot.
QUESTION: But isn’t (OFF-MIKE) to be, you know, an overriding of the will of the people who had selected him, in the same way that you criticized the effort against you?
WALKER: No. No. Because, again, I think - in that case, you’ve got people who had a discussion, had a debate, elected someone, and then wanted to - in fact, it wasn’t even just because of something that came up. I mean, literally, the original recallscottwalker.com domain was purchased on Nov. 2, 2010.
So this wasn’t just because of our efforts. This was folks who were wanting to have some excuse, some effort to try and come in and counter what the voters had said in November of 2010, at least in our state, and then looked for the opportunity to make it happen.
Now, in the end, it was - you know, even though we said that, we ended up winning by more votes by a larger margin and more votes than we had in 2010 in that election, so I think that was validated.
QUESTION: How important do you think it is that Akin leave the race?
WALKER: Well, I spoke out about it, even though I’m obviously nowhere near Missouri, because to me, I look at not just Wisconsin, but I look at other states across the country, particularly in the Midwest, where not only Republican governors came in, but where Republicans were elected in the majority in the assembly and the state senates or their equivalents in those states, and they actually were able to get big things accomplished.
And, you know, for years, we’ve talked about divided government. I don’t know that Americans are necessarily in love with that, because what you see is what you asked, about gridlock. My view is give people a shot. Right after the Nov. 2, 2010, election, I came in and spoke to all the legislative Republicans, those in office, those newly elected, and said it’s put up or shut up time. I said if we didn’t come in and we don’t do the things we campaigned on, if we don’t make a fundamental change from where we’ve been the last few years, when Democrats controlled everything, if we’re just slightly less bad than they are, two years from now, the voters have every right to kick us out.
Now, obviously, we were different. I think other states are different. I think it gives voters a real chance to see if I vote for people with these ideals, with these sets of opinions, here’s what will happen, and I either agree or disagree with that.
To get back to your question, why I think that’s important in the Senate case is, I think about the very real possibility of electing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. I think it’s very reasonable - although it’s not a given - foregone conclusions, it’s very reasonable to expect - the House looks likely to continue to be held by Republican majority, and it’s a razor- thin margin, including in states like mine, where Tommy Thompson, if he stays on track, will be the next U.S. senator from Wisconsin, although it’ll be very close.
We’re that close to 51 votes. I’d like to have the best shot possible, not so much from a Republican standpoint, but because to me, I actually believe in the things that I and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and others talk about that we campaign on. I’d like to see them put into action. I’d like to see the American people see what happens when those kind of ideas are put into place. And to me, if we fall one vote short in the Senate, because of at best an ignorant - at best - completely unscientific and ridiculous statement by that particular individual, if that blocks that sort of a choice from happening in Missouri and we fall one vote short there, that has an impact not just to me, more importantly, it has an impact on Matt and Alex, my two sons, who I think this is one of those critical tipping points for them.
QUESTION: Tonight on the convention floor, the whole theme is supposed to be about what could change under a Romney administration. So can you get some specifics about what would change? What programs would be eliminated under Romney? What - what specifically? What’s going to happen to tax rates? Anything else? I mean, it’s all about change (OFF-MIKE) need some specific details.
WALKER: Well, I think you go through, in terms of the economic crisis, of where we start, I mean, there’s even specific changes there. They’re going to talk - I mean, they’ve laid out a plan - I think going to put some more meat on the bones tonight and tomorrow, as well, about the plan that Romney’s laid out, particularly for small businesses. I think you’re going to see an overall lowered tax burden. I think a lower individual income tax would be helpful, because in my state, like most places across America, most businesses don’t pay corporate income taxes.
It goes back to the point about the Wall Street issue. Most businesses in my state pay individual income taxes, and the LLCs are (inaudible) I think most Americans don’t realize that. They think that the top income tax bracket is only for the super- wealthy. Most of our companies that are mid- to small-sized are paying that there, so actually - I hear it all the time when I visit. You know, instead of having a red sports car, they’ll point to a piece of equipment and say, yeah, that’s what I bought with the money I made last year so that I could put 20 more people to work or other examples of that.
So certainly the tax burden. I think, without a doubt, one of the big issues I hear is on Obamacare, not just philosophically, but I hear it from small businesses who are very concerned about what the practical impact is to them, because, really, even as states, we don’t fully know how it’s going to be implemented. That’s a huge concern out there.
I think when you look at talking about North American energy supplies, not just in the pipeline, but on - not just picking and choosing winners or losers in that, but exploring all possible options out there, I think those are going to be fundamental changes.
And I think in general, they’ll talk about this overall. I don’t know how specific they’re going to get tonight or tomorrow on the regulatory process, but probably more than anything - at least from what I hear from small businesses - is that more even than taxes, it’s the cost of compliance with excessive regulations at the federal, state and local level that’s a huge cost and a huge hindrance from them, adding more employees and being more productive.
And so to a certain extent, I think - at least I hope - there will be some discussion about that. My view is, streamline the process. You know, what you regulate, what you control should be about enforcing common sense, not about what many people believe - and I think accurately believe - is about excessive bureaucratic red tape.
HUNT: Governor, as you -
HUNT: I’m sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: No, but in place - go ahead.
HUNT: I was going to follow up on your question, and then you can then follow up on mine.
QUESTION: All right.
HUNT: That - you mentioned taxes, and you mentioned hard choices. And you’re right. He’s proposed lowering the corporate tax rate, lowering the top individual tax rate, lowering some capital gains tax rates, lowering the estate tax, very specific. He’s also said it won’t be a revenue-loser, and it’s not just going to be growth. It’s going to be (inaudible) not a single example yet. Should he tell voters, should he prepare voters by saying, hey, here are some of the things we’re going to do on the other side, on the base-broadening side?
WALKER: Well, I think those - again, I expect those are things that they’re going to expound on when they talk about budget issues between now and Nov. 6.
HUNT: So you expect more specificity on that?
HUNT: And what would you advise him would be some of the base-broadening things that should be considered in order to lower rates?
WALKER: Well, again, I’m not - I can tell you what we’ve done at the state. I’m not - you know, Paul Ryan, even before he was a candidate, obviously is the kind of person who’s good at (inaudible) on that, but in our state, you know, we actually went to things that drove growth. We not only lowered the property tax burden - like, for example, we eliminated the exemption on capital gains on investments made in Wisconsin- based companies.
HUNT: Well, that’s all tax - tax reductions -
WALKER: We didn’t broaden - we actually just did things that promoted growth.
HUNT: But he says he’s going to broaden the base. I mean, should he, for instance, considering limiting the home mortgage deduction? Should - how about - how about doing away with the deductions for state and local taxes? Would that be a good thing?
WALKER: Again, those are all things that are on the table.
HUNT: But would you like that?
WALKER: Well, it depends on how it was put. I mean, any of this, it really varies by how much the rate reduction’s going to be. If you’ve got a true flat tax and it was just across the board and it was reduced, that would be one thing, but that’s - again, those are things that are, for me, jumping the gun, in terms of what his exact plan is, and I’m not one of his tax advisers, so that’s - you know, it would be a little different (inaudible)
QUESTION: But so Romney - Romney has a wide perception of being a rich guy that hangs out with rich guys and is funded by rich guys. And so if you lower the tax rate for businesses and a lot of rich people and take away the first time millions of poor people get health care, are you worried about what that’s going to mean for the less rich people in this country and that that could be a greater divide?
WALKER: Well, it’s an interesting perception. In our state, we have over 90 percent of our people are covered under health care. We had an actuarial firm that we used that was hired by my predecessor that did some work on the federal plan that showed in our state that actually a majority of people will pay more under Obamacare for their health insurance.
So our question is not whether we provide health care for poor people. We do already. We do it under Medicaid-funded BadgerCare in our state. The question was whether or not you make it affordable and long term whether or not you’re going to control costs.
I mean, to me, there’s one of two extremes. It’s not in there today, so I’m not - you know, going down a hysterical path (inaudible) but immediately, under Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, if you’ve got a plan, if you believe that part of the goal is to control costs in the future to continue to provide access to affordable health care, you’ve got a plan that’s driven largely by government-driven mandates, eventually the only way you can control health care costs is to ration. It’s just - it’s the logical conclusion then.
I believe you’ve got to go away to the other - the other end of that. And the way that you truly control health care cost, if you don’t ration, the other end of the spectrum is to say you’ve got to have consumers, like me, like you, like everybody here, more active participants in not just health care costs, but in our actual health and wellness, and you only do it if you have people with more skin in the game.
Now, the current system is not working. It’s not true free market. It’s, you know, hybrid at best. And I always point out the best example of a really true free-market concept is corrective eye surgery, which for most people is outside of their health insurance plan. But you think about it, years ago, what it cost, thousands of dollars per eye, only the super- wealthy could afford that. Today, you save up, most people can probably afford to do that, if they see fit to. Why?
Because the free market dictated that instead of doing a handful for, you know, thousands of dollars per eye, you could do - maybe for $500, you could do a much larger volume, bring more people in, but you’re certainly not going to get somebody who does two eyes for $50 with a coupon from the phone book. So you balance out quality and cost.
Back to your point about health care, I think we should go a route that actually encourages greater transparency, greater involvement in consumers, and something that is removed, but not driven by the government in that regard, other than the transparency requirement. And I think, at least in states like ours, that would be more effective in helping the handful of people in our state who aren’t currently covered under private insurance or some sort of existing government-driven system.
And per your point about tax cuts, I mean, I love the debate about the middle class. The middle class at the local, state and federal level in this country has disproportionately, overwhelmingly paid for the expansion of government. I mean, that’s just a given. We see it in our states. We see it in the federal government. They have disproportionately paid for the expansion of government.
Lowering taxes on everyone is something that ultimately not only benefits in terms of the lower tax burden, but overwhelmingly for those businesses I mentioned that are small businesses in states like Wisconsin, if you lower taxes on those individuals who are - who have sub S corps or LLCs, overwhelmingly they’re going to plow that money right back into their businesses, and that’s going to put more people to work. And the biggest beneficiaries of that are people today in the middle class who are unemployed or underemployed.
QUESTION: Governor, you spoke a moment ago about the tradeoffs inherent in reforming Medicare. You were more explicit than politicians usually are. I think you said that seniors care more about their grandkids than their benefits. Is that something you think Mitt Romney has tried to obscure with the way he’s approached Medicare?
WALKER: No. I mean, I - I think you’ve heard - I think - heck, you heard his keynote speaker talk about it last night, as well I’m talking about at some points in the past. I know talking to my parents, I think Paul bringing his mother out, talking about that, saying, yeah, hey, she’s dependent on - I think the reason isn’t so much from a political standpoint to point out that people that - you know, if you’re retired today, you’re not going to have this affect you directly, it’s not just because of the political dynamics out there, for which there’s been an incredible tack and it’s been there for years, the Mediscare, but it’s also the fact that legitimately, you know, people have made decisions about how they were going to retire based upon their expectations. It’s why -
QUESTION: - Medicare, why delay it for 10 years? The Romney plan preserves traditional Medicare as one of the options. So why wait 10 years? It’s a lot of lost savings.
WALKER: And that’s part of the nuances. I mean, there - you know, that to me would be a point to consider, and that might be part of the debate when it goes to the Congress -
QUESTION: But to go a step further, though, Romney didn’t accept Ryan’s plan of keeping that $716 billion in Medicare savings. I mean, in fact, he’s going and kind of shoveling more money into the program. So doesn’t that sort of run counter to exactly the tradeoff that you think seniors will accept and would like to make?
WALKER: Well, I mean, again, that’s part of the nuance. Those are part of the specifics.
QUESTION: That’s not very nuanced. I mean, it’s clear. He’s going to roll it back in. And you’re saying - and I think as Paul Ryan of two months would have said, that that’s not the right thing to do.
WALKER: Well, I think in the end, whether - whatever the particulars are, and how they get about that, obviously, are details you have to leave up to the presidential -
QUESTION: These are details we know. I mean, adding versus cutting is about as explicit a tradeoff as there could be. I mean, it was one a minute ago that you made kind of matter-of- factly and it kind of stands out. Is that something - I mean, do you see Mitt Romney as going in a different direction than you’d like to go?
WALKER: I’m just saying, those are things I’m willing to talk about, and they’re things I think most voters, including a lot of grandparents, are willing to talk about in terms of what would happen in the future. In terms of his - you know, what he’s proposing right now and where he’s headed, those are specifics the campaign would have to talk about a little bit more than what I’m just representing as myself here today.
QUESTION: Governor (OFF-MIKE) Simpson-Bowles commission, would you have voted for the final product?
WALKER: As I mentioned with my congressional testimony experience, I wouldn’t have dared be on that, because it’s just - it’s one of those where it’s - the idea of bringing all those folks together is great, but my belief is that, as messed up as Washington is, is you’ve got to have leadership that just comes in and says, here’s what we got to do, make the case to do it, and probably, like Reagan did, use the bully pulpit and make it convincingly around the country.
QUESTION: But you talked about the importance that bipartisanship wasn’t an end in itself, but in the face of a -in the service of a larger cause, right? So you don’t start out where you want to end up, but you end up where you need to end up. So with all due respect, you’re not answering my question. If you had been on the commission -
WALKER: You’re right I’m not. I wouldn’t be on the commission. It’s a false premise.
QUESTION: Well - well, I mean, well - was that not an - was that an acceptable compromise to you or not an acceptable compromise?
WALKER: No. I mean, I - I - and I’ve said this before - I think I said it at the Christian Monitor, when you asked a similar question about it, the - to me, I just think in Washington today there’s too much of a belief that compromise means revenue. And I just think even bigger than the fiscal crisis we face is the economic crisis we face. And -
QUESTION: But do you believe that - are you convinced that the problems that the federal government faces fiscally can be solved without revenue?
QUESTION: You do?
WALKER: Not only do I believe it can be, I believe it has to be. I believe the - when you’ve got 12 million unemployed, when you’ve got -
QUESTION: But then - but nobody - nobody who has taken that position - or very few people - has come out with a real plan, an explicit plan on how you’d do that.
WALKER: Well, and, again, that’s part of the debate. Now, I’m not running for president today, so I’m not - I’m not running for president, period. I didn’t say today. But I -
QUESTION: Maybe tomorrow.
WALKER: You’re really get me in trouble for that and, most importantly, when I get back to my hotel room.
(inaudible) will be the least of my worries (inaudible)
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) clear that he wants to run in such a way that he would say he’s had a mandate to do tax reform once he’s elected. So getting to Dan’s question and all of our questions, really, driving - we’re driving at the same (OFF- MIKE) and that is the lack of particulars and what he’s not sharing with the voters. Do you think he can claim a mandate if he has not told the voters what he would - what they would lose in a tax reform package? If he’s not prepared them for one single item, whether it’s mortgage deductions or reduction in charitable deductions, anything, does he have to show some leg on this in order to create a real mandate for himself, do you think?
WALKER: No. And odd as it sounds, I’ll explain it, why it makes a little more sense. I don’t think - you know, I’ll use my election - my original election as an example. I talked about the need to make pension and health care contributions by public employees. I talked about wanting to reform collective bargaining. I did not say this is how far I’ll go with this bill at this point early on. That’s where the big rub was, at least from some of my opponents, that he didn’t say that.
Well, if you ask voters - heck, if you ask particularly local officials, they’d say, oh, but we heard him talk about that. We heard him say that. But I did not say I’m going to go and introduce a bill that eliminates collective bargaining for everything except base pay with the CPI as an index on top of that. And that’s exactly - so, yes, technically you had said, did Scott Walker campaign on that? No, I didn’t campaign on a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining to the point of having the only thing left being base pay with a cap of the consumer price index.
QUESTION: So (OFF-MIKE)
WALKER: But if you ask most voters, they’d say, well, yeah, I saw his ad. You ask about that, he thought about - so my point -
QUESTION: So it’s not - for Governor Romney to say things like we may look at mortgage, we may look at charitable -
WALKER: No. I - I think - I think the - I think, again, between now and Nov. 6, I believe he’s going to lay out more specifics.
HUNT: On - on base-broadening?
WALKER: I think on the whole spectrum of things. I think -
HUNT: But including that?
WALKER: I think on - further details on his economic plan, which I’m almost certain you’re going to hear tonight and tomorrow night. I think you’re going to hear more details about budgets, fiscal crisis, and the reaction to that in general, not just on what the base-broadening means, but on one of the things he’s willing to consider.
My only point, in giving my personal example, is on whether it’s - what is this deduction or is that deduction specifically going to get - I don’t know that he’s going to go through and present a full budget, you know, in advance of the election and say, this is exactly what I’m going to do.
QUESTION: But provide some details short of a full budget, some sense -
WALKER: Yes, I think so. Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Governor, can I switch a little bit and ask whether people in Wisconsin are concerned about any aspect of foreign policy? If so, what? And if so, what they want to hear from (OFF-MIKE) or is it just (OFF-MIKE)
WALKER: I think - well, per your - you asked two parts. Are they concerned about it? And is there a difference? As a political issue, I don’t think it has - it has relatively little, if any impact on the election. Are they concerned about it? Sure. So it’s not that foreign policy is completely foreign, but I don’t see it in any way having a significant impact on driving the debate.
Honestly, I don’t see - for all the talk of - we were talking about Missouri and other places. When they asked - somebody asked me on one of the morning shows the other day, and I said, it’s not an issue. I mean, we like to talk about it and all that, but actually, honest to God, all I ever hear from voters when they talk about my race and then now and since then about the presidential race or U.S. Senate race in this state is all about their worries about the economy. And if it’s anything else, it’s fiscal, and it’s really only worries about - that they drive about - about, oh, my God, are my kids - or, oh, my goodness, are my grandkids going to inherit a country where, you know, they can’t afford to pay for the debt we passed onto them?
Those are the - those are the things I hear about. It’s my wife’s unemployed, my husband got laid off, my kid doesn’t have a job and he’s 27, he’s still living at home, my neighbor down the block was laid off from the plant two months ago. Those are the concerns I hear. And, I mean, to me, again, it’s not that they don’t care. You know, if you ask them, you know, what do you think about what’s happening in the Middle East or what do you think about - if anything in foreign policy, it’s sometimes intermingled with concerns about our fiscal crisis here, because they’ll talk about Greece and Spain and Portugal and things like that, saying - more as a scare, that we don’t want to be like that, but, really, I - all the other things that, you know, occasionally come up here or there in the media in debates really don’t ever come up from voters.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) it’s interesting. You’ve mentioned a couple times that you and Paul Ryan are the different generation. I am, too. We grew up as a generation where the American dream was a given, that you grew up and you had the opportunity to do better than your folks did, that you’d have a better economic range of possibilities. Do you still believe that’s the case? And do voters of Wisconsin still believe right now, given what we’ve talked about, given what we’ve talked about in the last 45 minutes, the state of the economy, the state of politics and partisan politics, is the American dream still alive?
WALKER: I do. I do, and that probably comes from coming of age under Reagan, where there’s still that belief in the American people. I think as much as people get frustrated with politics, as much as there’s gridlock, as much as there’s other problems, I think most people - at least in my state - I think most Americans still believe that as screwed up as Washington may or may not be is - that alone is not going to dictate their destiny, that they still believe that they control their destiny and that they may have concerns about how much encroachment there is on those freedoms and those possibilities by the government at the federal, state and local level. But I still believe most Americans believe that.
I mean, I always remind Paul, when he appropriately has pointed out, you know, that tipping point of how many people were, you know, dependent on the government and so forth, and that - and it - and it sounds fairly pessimistic, and it’s - you know, it’s an imperative. It’s a dynamic, compelling case to be made, but - which I don’t disagree with, but I remind him that if you look at most of the polls out there of Americans, most polls still show about 75 percent of the public still believes in the American dream, and they still believe that dream is not dependent on the government.
And so what it tells me is even people who are dependent or somewhat leaning dependent today on the government don’t want to be. And that to me would be a bigger tipping point, is if people said, well, I can’t make it (inaudible) I can’t - I can’t live the American dream. I’ve got to be dependent on the government to sustain myself, that to me would be the tipping point I’d be the most worried about.
So I still think that. But I do think people are - because of the combination of the two, the overwhelming concern about the economy and the feeling like it’s still not showing significant signs of recovery yet, just in the eyes of most voters, combined with, to a lesser extent, the fear that somehow along with that there’s, you know, a real concern about, are we in over our head? And, you know, that’s a huge - huge concern for people.
QUESTION: Speaking of your home state, the most recent poll I think showed the gap in Wisconsin tightening now, taking 49 percent for the president and 47 percent for Mitt Romney. What do you think is the single-most important thing that Mitt Romney - Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan can do over the next couple of months in order to ensure a Republican victory in your state?
WALKER: I said it even before Paul was on, right after my election. And I mentioned it as a line last night, but it really came out of an interview, and it was a clever line I used, but it was really just a response like, most of my best lines in speeches come from interviews I do with folks like you, and I go, oh, that actually sounds pretty good.
QUESTION: You’re welcome.
WALKER: But - but I said -
QUESTION: What’s - what’s your favorite this morning?
WALKER: Yeah, well, we’ll see what my speech is later today.
QUESTION: I’m not running - I’m not running today.
WALKER: Right, yeah, period. But the - but the line was, you know, in our state in particular, if he wants to win, he’s got to show that the R next to his name doesn’t just stand for Republican, it stands for Reform. And what I mean by that is we’re - and it’s - I think it’s probably true in Iowa and Michigan and Ohio and other Midwestern states, as well.
Just being Republican is - we saw my recall wouldn’t be enough, because I can’t win statewide with just Republican or conservative votes. Now not only how we won, but how we won by a bigger margin is because enough independents and maybe even a few discerning Democrats said, give this guy a shot.
And we found in our polling and we found anecdotally in our visits was that the biggest indicator that we saw particularly - it’s weird how you do polling and things like that, but you see it personified when you make visits. And the last month when I was out, particularly at dairy breakfasts in June, leading into June around the state, I get people who’d come up to me - and you get your fans, you know, pictures, sign this, sign that. I get people who’d come up to me and go out of the way to tell me they voted for my opponent two years ago, but they were voting for me, or people at a factory that would say, I’m a Democrat, my family’s Democrats, but I’m going to vote for you. And almost every single time the reason was because I actually liked the fact that you had the courage to take on these tough issues.
A lot of times they’d qualify it, they’d say, I don’t agree with everything, I don’t agree with every way you did, but I like the fact - so my -
QUESTION: But specifically what could he say about reform that you think would actually be truly compelling to the voters of Wisconsin, not just the notion of reform -
WALKER: Yeah. Well, I -
QUESTION: - but more specifically?
WALKER: And that’s where I - I think it goes to the heart of the discussions we were having earlier. The more detail - and I’m not prescribing all the detail of that, because the federal government is not my domain - but the more - and I’m -
QUESTION: - understand the - the voters in Wisconsin better than anyone in the world, so what specifically would you advocate them saying to appeal to the voters in Wisconsin?
WALKER: I don’t know there’s a specific. And, again (inaudible) I’ll explain why I mean that. In our case, you know, we had a specific prescription for what we thought should happen, and voters responded to it. I think the more meat he can put on the bone about the budget in particular, he’s already laying out the economic plan, the more meat he can put on the bone, the better. I don’t think there’s one specific thing about this component or that component that’s the difference-maker. It’s the detail itself. It’s the willingness to put that out there and, more importantly, the feeling that they’re willing to act.
And here’s the example I give. Again, it’s not the same thing policy - or specifically wise, but Paul Ryan in ’98 was elected in one of the most competitive districts in the country. Now it’s gotten a little bit more Republican over time, mainly because of Paul, but it’s urban, rural, suburban. It’s, you know, book-ended by two, blue-collar, working - former UAW- driven union towns, and Paul - and it’s a district that Obama carried four years ago - Paul wins every election since his first by over 60 percent. The last two or three elections, he is not just talking about his budget plan, his roadmap to prosperity of Washington, he literally runs ads, he puts out fliers. Voters in his district know about his plan just as much as everybody in Washington. He lays the details out.
And he did largely because he felt, if he was going to eventually get his colleagues to sign on - because, remember, what, were there 12 co-sponsors the first time he put it out? To get all but four to vote for it this last time, what he had to do was show that in a district like his, you could actually run and get elected on it, or re-el