Who’s the real pro-business, pro-jobs candidate in this year’s election for governor of Wisconsin? Mary Burke, who is mounting a major campaign as a Democrat, used an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Tuesday in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall to say it’s her.
Her visit provided her first public comments on her long-awaited economic development plan, which was released late Monday night. With the presumption that jobs and the economy will be the central issue, Burke said she’s the one with specific plans that will create a better business climate in Wisconsin.
Burke held up a four-page position paper on the subject from Walker’s 2010 race for governor and said, “I’ve seen eighth grade term papers that frankly had more work put into them.” She said that in terms of job creation, Wisconsin still ranked 35th in the country and ninth among 10 Midwestern states after three a half years of Walker as governor. Wisconsin also ranks 48th in business start-ups, she said, and she criticized the track record of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which Walker created to succeed the state Commerce Department that Burke headed under Gov. Jim Doyle a decade ago.
Burke’s 40-page plan calls for steps such as focusing on strategies to strengthen sectors of Wisconsin’s economy, and not individual firms; greater support and investment in entrepreneurial ventures; and increased emphasis on the number of people receiving college degrees that ready them for careers. She said more could be accomplished by having a cooperative environment on economic issues than a confrontational one. While Walker has emphasized tax cuts, Burke’s plan does not call for them. “I’m running to create a much better business climate, and much better economy,” she said. She said what Walker has done “has not moved the needle.”
Asked by Gousha about educational issues in Milwaukee and Racine, Burke said she would not try to dismantle the private school voucher or the independent charter school programs that enroll tens of thousands of students. “We have to operate within the framework that exists,” she said. Rather, she said, she would seek to bring leaders of all the sectors together to work on building up the quality of schools. There are good and bad schools that parents choose within each stream of schools, she said. “We have to make sure the choices are good ones,” she said.
But she repeated stands she took recently to halt the statewide voucher program and to eliminate tax deductions for private school tuition. Both plans were launched in 2013 and remain small and, therefore, relatively easy to stop. Walker supports both.
Burke said she is not in favor of reviving the idea of putting Milwaukee Public Schools under mayoral control, a proposal that failed in a divisive battle in 2009. Effort now, she said, should focus on improving schools overall. She said, “We can be successful if we find common ground.”
News media interest in the session was high, with six camera crews from Madison and Milwaukee television stations present. Looking at more than a dozen reporters and camera people in a “press scrum” around Burke after the program was over, it was easy to forget that the election is more than seven months away.
Gov. Walker has been invited several times to take part in an “On the Issues” program, but has declined to date.
Video of the conversation with Burke may be viewed by clicking here.