A former network news anchor told me he had never heard such a loud response from the delegates at a Republican National Convention for someone who was not the nominee. I told him it wasn’t just for me. He said I was being too magnanimous.
Truth is, it wasn’t just for me. We had just won the recall election on June 5, 2012. The left poured millions into trying to intimidate us from doing what we said we would do. Then they poured tens and tens of millions into trying to bump us out of office.
In the end, we won the recall election with more actual votes and a higher percentage of the votes than we did during the November 2010 election. Common-sense conservative reforms work. To win, however, we had to get our message out to the voters.
The people cheering at the national convention were excited because we won — and they were a part of the victory. Most of those delegates, alternates and guests had come to Wisconsin to knock on doors, made phone calls or sent a check to assist our campaign. They helped us counter the union bosses who were shipping in agitators and money from across the country.
Prior to our election, a Republican had not won Wisconsin since President Ronald Reagan carried every state but his opponent’s home state in 1984. Wisconsin was a blue state we temporarily made red.
After the 2010 elections, the state government switched from Democratic to Republican control. We did not know how long our time in office would last, so we pushed as many major reforms as possible starting on the first day.
Moments after taking the oath of office as the 45th governor of Wisconsin, I called the members of the state legislature into a special session on reforms that would help the people of Wisconsin create more jobs. A few weeks after that, we started getting the fiscal house in order.
We paid back raids on the patient compensation and transportation funds. We paid back a debt owed to Minnesota. And we reformed collective bargaining so public employees paid a reasonable amount for retirement and health insurance benefits.
We lowered property taxes. We lowered income taxes. We even cut the unemployment compensation tax. In addition, we reduced fees and froze tuition at the University of Wisconsin.
Since 2011, our reforms have saved the taxpayers more than $13 billion. Wisconsin had a budget surplus every year we were in office, the pension system was the best funded in the nation, and our bond rating was upgraded.
During our tenure, more people were employed in Wisconsin than at any point in history, unemployment dipped below 3 percent, and the median household income rose. Our reforms worked.
We took power out of the hands of the big government special interests and gave it to the hard-working taxpayers — and the people they duly elect to run their schools, local and state governments. Now schools can staff based on merit and pay based on performance. They can put the best and the brightest in the classrooms.
Before our reforms, union contracts were a major obstacle to positive change. In 2010, the Milwaukee Public Schools laid off Megan Sampson who had just received the award as the best new English teacher in the state. How could this be possible?
Under the old union contract, the last hired is the first fired. When the Democrats in charge of Wisconsin state government more than a decade ago cut aid to local governments, Ms. Sampson’s school had to lay off teachers. Despite her award, she was one of the first to go. Our reforms got rid of seniority and tenure.
Our changes to collective bargaining got the most notice — but we acted quickly on a wide range of common-sense conservative ideas. In addition to tax relief, we restored the rainy day fund, cut government red tape, covered everyone living in poverty without taking the Obamacare expansion, enacted health savings accounts, stopped frivolous lawsuits, and gave every worker in Wisconsin the right to choose through a Right to Work law.
During our tenure, I signed some of the most comprehensive pro-life laws in the country and we defunded Planned Parenthood — putting resources into non-controversial women’s health programs. We enacted right to carry and Castle Doctrine laws to allow people to protect themselves, their families and their property. And, I signed a statute requiring citizens to show a photo identification card in order to vote.
On top of all of that, we passed a REINS Act to control government spending, enacted civil service reform and put in place welfare reform. We expanded parental school choice vouchers statewide, helped charter schools grow and supported home school families.
Working with conservatives in the state legislature, we created one of the most successful states in the nation. If we can do it in Wisconsin, it can be done anywhere in the nation.
• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him @ScottWalker.
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