- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republican Gov. Scott Walker is distracted by his exploration of a presidential run, top Wisconsin Democrats argued Monday, noting that he’s speaking at political events in Iowa and California this month when they say he should be focused on solving the state’s $2.2 billion budget shortfall.

Democrats are increasingly arguing that Walker’s acknowledged consideration of a possible 2016 presidential run is preventing him from addressing problems in Wisconsin. Walker counters that he couldn’t mount a credible run for president if things weren’t going well in his home state.

Walker is scheduled Tuesday to deliver his fifth State of the State speech, and the first of his second term. Walker said last week he will talk about some “big ideas,” including merging and consolidating certain state agencies to better serve taxpayers, but most of the details about how he’s solving the state’s budget problem will not be announced until next month.

He will submit his two-year spending plan to lawmakers on Feb. 3.

But on Monday, Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate noted that just two days after the State of the State speech, Walker is slated to give the keynote address Thursday at the annual winter meeting of the Republican National Committee in San Diego. The governor is also set to join other potential GOP White House hopefuls at a Jan. 24 summit in Des Moines, Iowa, sponsored by Citizens United and Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King.

“We know Scott Walker already has his eye off the ball in Wisconsin,” Tate said in a conference call with reporters.

Walker, who has said he won’t make a decision on a presidential run until this spring, recently hired a campaign adviser with experience running national campaigns. Walker has also urged lawmakers to act quickly on passing a budget this year. He’s giving them his plan 17 days earlier than he did two years ago.

Walker’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick brushed off the criticism.

“Some choose to complain, some choose to lead,” Patrick said in a written statement. “Gov. Walker chooses to lead. He’ll lay out the first part of his plan to continue moving Wisconsin forward on Tuesday.”

Democrats said Walker should not be focused on running for president, but instead be working on ways to help Wisconsin’s middle class succeed.

Republicans have strong majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, making it easier for Walker to get his agenda passed.

Assembly Democrats - who have just 36 out of 99 seats - are focused on creating new jobs, increasing the minimum wage, providing student debt relief and ensuring there is adequate funding for public schools, said Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

“We want to make sure there is broader prosperity for Wisconsin families,” said Sen. Jennifer Shilling, Democratic minority leader in the Senate. Republicans have an 18-14 majority in the Senate, with one vacant seat in a heavily Republican district.

___

Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide