In about 24 hours the polls will open and the voters of Wisconsin will decide whether Republican Governor Scott Walker should continue the rest of his term, or be replaced by former Milwaukee mayor, Democrat Tom Barrett.
The governor and potential governor may be running nearly identical campaign paths during the final hours of the race, even crossing paths at a local breakfast in an attempt to rally supporters. Their records, on the other hand, couldn’t be any further apart.
Walker and Barrett were already a study in contrasts when they ran this race once already back in 2010. Walker, a former county executive as well as a state legislator, has attacked Barrett most recently on his record as the mayor of Milwaukee, saying Barrett’s claim that violent crime went down under his tenure was a sham. “Violent crime rate has not gone down. I think if it was worth to say that people should vote for you in the primary because it had gone down, the same question is completely legitimate in reverse. Violent crime has gone up, sadly,” accused Walker in last week’s debate.
Walker may have a keen interest in Milwaukee’s violent crime rate at that point, but violence wasn’t nearly as high on his list of priorities as Milwaukee’s county executive, at least not when it involved women. Walker allowed violent male mental health patients to be housed in the same ward as female patients as a cost-cutting measure, and then refused to adequately staff the facility on top of it. In 2010 reporter Emily Mills noted that “the direct result that the incidences of sexual assault skyrocketed – something then-administrator John Chianelli described as an acceptable ‘trade-off’ to help lower rates of overall violence.”
Mills also called Walker the embodiment of “negligence, incompetence and blind ideology.” It’s that blind ideology that has most influenced the first years of his term. Since his election, Walker has managed to roll back every piece of reproductive health policy in the state. Although it has mostly been his attacks on labor and bargaining rights that have angered so many in the state, it is likely his policies regarding abortion, birth control, and access to health care have affected the largest portion of the state’s population.
Walker’s first proposed budget began with immediate moves to strip funding for contraception from Medicaid, followed by defunding the Title V program that provided health care such as exams, testing, screenings, and treatment to low-income men and women in the state.
Walker also oversaw the repeal of the Healthy Youth Act, a bill that required all sexual education classes taught in Wisconsin schools be medically-accurate, age-appropriate, and use evidence-based strategies to reduce teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Also in that vote was a ban on allowing women to purchase their own abortion coverage in insurance plans, even if they paid for it out of their own pockets.
Finally, Walker signed even more anti-women bills in near silence, slipping them out to the media right before Good Friday in an effort to bury them. One bill banned abortions in the state health insurance exchange. The other forced women to meet in person with a doctor at various times when using the drug RU-486 to abort despite not being part of standard medical care, a move that caused Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to stop providing medication abortions in April, and all other clinics to follow suit a few weeks later.
But it wasn’t just women who felt the brunt of Walker’s policies. Although Walker expressed a great deal of concern for the 2-year old beating victim in his campaign commercial, his compassion for other children doesn’t come to the forefront. Walker proposed cuts to childcare subsidies as a way to try to balance the state budget, claiming it would eliminate fraud and save money. But childcare workers were less enthused about the idea.
The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families has raised concerns that the new policy to shift to attendance payments over enrollments would amount to a 5% cut or more for providers. Taken with years of stagnant reimbursement rates for providers, it may make them less willing to take on Wisconsin Shares children, said Jon Peacock, research director for the council.
“A child-care provider can’t be like an airline, where you anticipate some no-shows and overbook and tell some kids (to) go across town,” Peacock said.
And Walker’s own cuts to public safety budgets have been criticized by the National Association of Police Organizations:
“Scott Walker’s divisive tactics and his drastic cuts to public safety funding will make Wisconsin’s communities and the officers that police them less safe,” claimed NAPO President Thomas Nee in a statement.
Walker made it clear in Friday’s debate that he believed every aspect of Barrett’s record was “fair game” that needed to be examined prior to the June 5th vote. Obviously, Walker’s record deserves the same scrutiny as well.