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Governor Walker’s Play-by-Play

The State of the Union, as seen from Wisconsin.

Feb 25, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 23 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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When the speech is over, Walker offers praise for two passages—on immigration (“not half bad”) and fatherhood—but overall thinks the address was a clunker. “It’s a Trojan horse for more spending,” he says. “I don’t think he made the moral case for why we have to spend more money. He gave us a list of programs and he kind of gave the false perception that we can do all of this without shared sacrifice.”

Walker’s chief of staff, Eric Schutt, had joined the governor halfway through the president’s address. After the speech, he presented the governor with the proposed slides for a PowerPoint presentation on “Entitlement Reform” that Walker would give the next day. Walker had sketched his slides out on a single sheet of paper as he flew across Wisconsin, and his staff, apparently accustomed to the chicken scratching, used the draft to construct the presentation.

The announcement was a big one. Among other things, Walker declared that Wisconsin would pass on federal funding for Medicaid. He made this decision, at least in part, over concerns that the deteriorating fiscal situation of the federal government would leave Wisconsin responsible for making up the difference when that funding is cut in the future. “I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to assume the money is going to be there. It’s my job as governor to consider both state-level finances and federal, and the feds are only going to be paying 100 percent for a few years.”

Walker’s plan seeks to shift some Medicaid recipients—those with incomes between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty level—to the health care exchanges set up under Obamacare, in which they will be eligible for federal subsidies to buy coverage. Those under the poverty line would remain on Medicaid. Walker’s office projects that this will result in a 47 percent reduction in Wisconsin’s uninsured and keep the state from opening itself up to greater dependency on a federal government unable to pay its bills.

Walker proposed other reforms, too, including new or additional requirements of those receiving food stamps and unemployment benefits. And his budget proposal will offer what one source describes as “significant tax cuts that are down payments on future tax cuts.”

Walker’s new proposals won’t generate nearly the kind of attention that his budget reforms did. But his continuing reforms, like his running commentary during the State of the Union, suggest that the government in Wisconsin is heading in a very different direction than the one in Washington.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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