ID ruling removes question mark if Walker wins

CAPITOL NEWSLETTER
Matt Pommer  Wisconsin Newspaper Association

Gov. Scott Walker’s national political ambitions may benefit from the U.S. Supreme Court decision on requiring photo IDs to vote in November’s election.

On a 6-3 vote the nation’s high court blocked Wisconsin election officials from implementing the law in next month’s election. A Marquette University Law School poll showed more than 20 percent of citizens were unaware of the law. Absentee balloting already was underway.

U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner, a distinguished Reagan appointee, has called the photo ID requirement “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”

An implemented photo ID requirement could be a political cloud hanging over Walker if he were to win a second term by a narrow margin. Pundits and other Republicans with national ambitions might say Walker needed the voter suppression law to win. The Marquette University Law School polls have indicated a tight race between Walker and Democrat Mary Burke.

Walker has used words and deeds to stake out a strong appeal to the conservative Republican base. He said he favors drug tests for those applying for unemployment compensation benefits or food stamps. The idea is both expensive to administer and illegal under current federal law. But it sounds good to those who assail the “welfare system.”

Walker pleases business interests when he criticizes suggestions that the minimum wage be increased. Some people would lose their jobs if their employers had to pay them higher wages, he says.

The governor wants to lower income taxes, repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, and stop all abortions. But that is just standard talk for any Republican with national political ambitions. Those positions do not significantly differentiate him from other Republicans.

Where Walker stands out is in the support of private alternatives to public elementary and secondary education. One of Walker’s goals in a second term is to expand the vouchers for lower income families to send their children to private schools.

Wisconsin has been a leader in the expansion of the financing of the voucher and charter school alternatives. Three former Republican speakers of the Wisconsin Assembly have helped lobby for increased use and funding of the voucher school movement. It is highly controversial in Wisconsin, especially in some rural areas, with critics suggesting it could undermine public education.

Another part of Walker’s support of private education is the new tax provision which provides income tax credits to those who send their children to private elementary and secondary schools. The credits, expected to cost the state budget $30 million annually, will be available this tax year regardless of the incomes of the families.

The new tax credit provision may sound very attractive to those families who support private education, especially in strongly Republican states in the South.

Walker’s major achievement – cutting collective bargaining by public employee unions – has made him a familiar name on editorial pages ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times. He stands first among national Republicans when it comes to bashing “union bosses.”

The governor has shown he knows how to avoid potential controversies. He has sidestepped a decision on whether to permit a major new casino in Kenosha. Whatever the post-election decision, it will anger someone. Walker also has refused to grant pardons, something that could be controversial, saying it would undermine the judicial process.

In all, he could be just the vice presidential candidate needed to motivate the Republican Party base.


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