The only formal duty of a lieutenant governor stated in Wisconsin’s constitution is to become governor if a vacancy occurs in that office.
“My constitutional duty is succession. I know my job and I understand my constitutional duty,” Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Wednesday.
The question asked by Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, was whether Kleefisch wanted to be governor at some point in the future. Her answer dodged that question – and that points to the informal main duties of a lieutenant governor: Don’t make trouble for the governor, don’t get out on a limb, and always speak up for the things the governor is doing.
Kleefisch did those duties well during the Eckstein Hall session, backing Walker’s positions and making no waves on major issues, including the past and future of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, overhauling the state’s Governmental Accountability Board, and whether the state’s open records laws should be changed.
Kleefisch said nothing changed about how she did her job during the period when Gov. Scott Walker was campaigning almost full-time outside Wisconsin for the Republican presidential nomination, and she said it is “fantastic” to have Walker back in the state and focused on his work as governor since his withdrawal from the race in September.
Attention on Kleefisch increased in the months when Walker’s campaign was on the rise. The possibility of Kleefisch becoming governor of Wisconsin was on many people’s minds. Now, the question of whether Walker will run for a third term as governor in 2018 – and what it might mean for Kleefisch, if he doesn’t run — is getting attention among political insiders.
Kleefisch told Gousha that any conversations between Walker and her about his thoughts on running again would remain between the two of them. When Gousha asked about her own future, he said people like to speculate about what’s ahead. Kleefisch said she didn’t want to do anything to reduce the enjoyment of speculating by giving a specific answer.
Walker has described Kleefisch as his ambassador for promoting jobs in Wisconsin. Jobs were her frequent focus during the hour-long program, as well as the focus of her answer when an audience member asked what is the most important issue facing Wisconsin.
“The most important issue facing Wisconsin right now is the number of open jobs we have, laid over our labor market participation rate,” Kleefisch answered. She said that a few days ago, there were more than 100,000 job openings on state Department of Workforce Development job search web site (jobcenterofwisconsin.com).
She said, “At the end of the day, 70% of our employers, the job creators, say their biggest concern is our skills gap. That means they are not finding people with the skills they need in order to meet the demands of their customer base.”
“We have about 60,000 jobs that can’t possibly be filled by folks who are on unemployment,” Kleefisch said. “We need to get people on the jobs-search sideline back into the job-search world.”
The program may be viewed by clicking here.