MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker is leaving office just like he came in – with a flourish.
Walker killed high speed rail in Wisconsin days after his election win in 2010 and unveiled his anti-union Act 10 proposal within weeks of actually taking office, sparking massive protests, vaulting him onto the national political stage and eventually setting up his 2015 run for president.
Now, as Walker prepares to leave office Jan. 7, he’s signaling his support for an array of Republican proposals designed to weaken Democrats and Tony Evers, who narrowly defeated him on Election Day.
In stark contrast, Evers has been keeping a low profile and isn’t planning to make demands of Walker, as Walker did to outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in 2010.
“He’s a different kind of governor,” Evers spokeswoman Carrie Lynch said. “He doesn’t go run around making demands of people. That’s just not his style.”
Evers, the 67-year-old state schools superintendent and former teacher, has tried to strike a more conciliatory tone. He has said he wants to work with Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature, even though GOP lawmakers have been meeting in private to discuss ways to protect laws enacted under Walker and limit Evers’ powers as governor.
“(Walker) had a penchant for the dramatic,” said Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson, of Milwaukee. “No one would accuse Evers of that.”
Evers will be content to work behind the scenes, Larson said.
“If it gets to the same end, then it’s fine,” Larson said. “You’ve got to give Evers time to work his magic.”
Evers has condemned the planned lame duck legislative session as a Republican attempt to “cling to power” and not what voters want. But he also has said he didn’t want to draw a “line in the sand” over what they may vote on.
One of the ideas Republicans have discussed would be moving Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary from April to March. With Democratic turnout expected to be high in the presidential primary, moving it to a different date might make it easier for Walker-appointed state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly to win re-election that April.
The state Supreme Court is controlled 4-3 by conservative judges, giving Republicans a strong ally to uphold its policies.
Walker said Thursday that he was also open to changing the makeup of the state Building Commission, which votes on approving capital projects on university campuses and state properties, and the board overseeing the state economic development agency, which Evers has said he wants to dissolve.
Republicans who control the Legislature aren’t saying exactly what else they will push, although a number of other ideas have been floated and Democrats are nervous about how far the Republicans might go. Republicans made similar moves in North Carolina two years ago and are contemplating such moves in Michigan this year, as well.
There is a precedent for lame-duck sessions in Wisconsin.
Democrats who controlled the Legislature in 2010 convened one that December after Doyle lost in an attempt to enact the labor contracts, but failed after two Democratic lawmakers refused to vote for them. That set the stage for the Act 10 law that Walker unveiled in February 2011, which all but ended collective bargaining for public workers and required them to pay more for their retirement and health care benefits.
Evers, and Democrats, would like Walker to end the state’s involvement in a federal lawsuit seeking to repeal of the Affordable Care Act before he leaves office. But Walker said Thursday that it doesn’t matter what Wisconsin does because the lawsuit will continue, regardless.
Still, Evers’ spokeswoman Lynch said no more taxpayer money should be spent on the case that Evers has promised to drop on his first day in office.
But Evers doesn’t plan on sending Walker a demand that he drop it.