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Three Takeaways from Gov. Walker's State of the State

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In the final State of the State address of his first term, Governor Scott Walker focused heavily on economic themes Wednesday night.

Walker touted his record as a job creator, and his plans for income and property tax relief as priorities for a projected budget surplus. The speech was very light on social legislation in this election year.

UWM governmental affairs professor Dr. Mordecai Lee says Walker's speech was a reflection of his first campaign commitment to creating jobs - as well as an indicator of what his re-election campaign strategy might entail.

Laying out his track record in the speech was an effective political move, Lee says.

“We should want politicians to be politicians because that makes democracy work,” he says. “It gives us choices.”

Lee offers three main points to take away from the State of the State speech:

  1. Walker is a new conservative: Walker avoids talking about social issues and instead focuses on areas that also interest Democrats, including creating jobs and tax relief. In doing so, Lee says Walker is trying to position himself as a “non-divisive Republican.” But Lee says the term “conservative" has changed in our lifetime, formerly meaning to be prudent with money and spending. Now, being conservative focuses on cutting taxes. “To be a conservative is to cut taxes, you almost don’t care about anything else regardless of the consequences,” says Lee.
  2. The economy: Not only did Walker talk about his record as a jobs creator, but he also is taking a risk by giving the state's surplus back to the constituents. Other politicians in his party are afraid that the economy might go south or that the structural deficit could grow.
  3. Comparison to presumptive opponent, Mary Burke: Although Walker did not come out and talk about his re-election race, Lee says he campaigned subtly. At the beginning of his address, Walker first presented the Medal of Honor winner and then introduced his wife, children, and parents. As Lee points out, this was a comparison to his presumptive opponent, Mary Burke, who is a wealthy, single woman who is without a family. Walker may hope this comparison will gain him votes on a personal level.
    “It is a very effective Scott Walker formula to say, ‘I’m like you, I understand you, I’m going to only talk about economic issues, and I’m not going to talk about other hot-button social issues,’” Lee says.