Positioned to deliver: Scott Walker and his many promises

Governor Scott Walker thanks supporters as he wins another term over challenger Mary Burke during his election night rally at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center in West Allis, November 4, 2014. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photo by Rick Wood
Governor Scott Walker thanks supporters as he wins another term over challenger Mary Burke during his election night rally at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center in West Allis, November 4, 2014. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photo by Rick Wood

After decisively winning a second term on a night when Republicans swept the Legislature, Gov. Scott Walker is well positioned to keep the plethora of promises he made in defeating Democrat Mary Burke.

From tax cuts to tuition freezes and more, we’ll soon add the new promises to our Walk-O-Meter, where we tracked 65 first-term promises. The feature amounts to a running scorecard on where Walker stands on his many pledges to voters.

With Republicans maintaining their hold on both the Senate and Assembly in the Nov. 4, 2014 election, Walker seemingly has a well-manicured path to advancing his agenda.

One wild card is the 2016 presidential race and how any political calculations could factor in back home. Walker’s showing Tuesday rekindled the talk of a potential candidacy and he fueled it with a victory speech criticizing federal policies.

While much of Walker’s state-based agenda could advance his hopes of shining in the GOP presidential primaries, other promises could leave him with some tough choices.

For example, he promised to actively discourage passage of "right to work" legislation that would let private-sector workers avoid paying union dues if they choose not to belong to a union.

But GOP lawmakers may send it to him anyway, leaving Walker with the choice of stirring up state voters vs. impressing conservatives nationally with what would be an echo of his Act 10 measure on public-sector collective bargaining.

"The Republican Legislature may be more conservative than the governor," noted retired University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim. "They may push some things that he’s not excited about."

Walker emerged victorious in a race that amounted to a referendum on him, Heim noted.

And a majority in pre-election surveys said Wisconsin is on the right track, according to the pre-election Marquette Law School and the St. Norbert College polls.

All that gives encouragement to the governor as he seeks to cement his legacy on issues such as school choice and smaller government.

"He should have a high degree of confidence in achieving his agenda," said Republican Mark Graul, a GOP strategist, noting that much of it seeks to expand on Walker's first-term accomplishments. Graul is founder of Arena Strategy Group, a public affairs firm.

Here's a look at key Walker promises from the 2014 campaign:


-- Property taxes on the average homeowner in Wisconsin will be lower in 2018 than in 2010. Income taxes will be lower in 2018 than today.

-- No boost in the state sales tax rate.

-- Reduce the tax burden on working families and seniors every year.

-- Make Wisconsin’s tax code more competitive with other states and less complex in order to encourage more startups.

-- Again return funds to taxpayers when future state budget surpluses arise.

-- Protect the Manufacturing and Agriculture Production Tax Credit so Wisconsin continues to add manufacturing and agriculture jobs.

Higher Education

-- Freeze tuition for two more years at University of Wisconsin-System schools and extend that freeze to technical colleges

-- Make more students eligible for tax credits on their tuition payments.

-- Increase funding for student grants, targeted to high-demand fields of study for students who commit to staying in Wisconsin.

-- Expand course options so no child is denied access to college-level courses.

Kindergarten-12th grade

-- Again expand tax funding to private schools through a significant or wholesale lifting of the enrollment cap on the two-year-old statewide private school voucher program, particularly for low-income students but also potentially for students from families with higher incomes.

-- Seek to repeal Common Core State Standards.

-- Establish accountability measures for all schools that receive public funding.

-- Give more authority to school board members to put more funds into the classroom. One example: help rural schools with transportation and other costs.

-- Provide incentives to districts that share costs.

-- Reward high performing and rapidly improving schools, and help failing schools improve their methods.

-- Fix inequalities between urban and rural school districts. Help rural schools with things such as increasing teacher licensure flexibility and grade sharing.

Public assistance

-- Require certain public assistance recipients to work by mandating drug tests and job training, and putting in time limits.


-- Don't push to make Wisconsin a "right to work" state for private sector workers.

-- Don't expand the Act 10 collective bargaining limits to fire and police unions.

Lawsuit limits

-- Take more steps to limit lawsuits against businesses.


-- Reclaim the title of America’s Dairyland. Make investments that modernize and expand the dairy industry. Help farmers with energy efficiency projects.


-- Find new ways to pay for road building.


-- Work with utilities to reduce the cost of energy.

Minority business development

-- Invest in minority entrepreneurs and business accelerators.


-- Continue to make the Department of Natural Resources more development-friendly. Expand the role of the Office of Business Support in DNR to ensure startup businesses can navigate state standards while protecting the environment.