Walker spoke to a crowd of about 300 lobbyists, lawmakers and
members of the business community at the President Abraham Lincoln
Hotel and Conference Center. Walker's speech was part of the Illinois
Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business
lobby day here.
Walker's visit comes less than two months before the embattled
governor faces a recall election, spurred mostly by Act 10, a law
passed during his administration that largely removes the ability of
unions to use collective bargaining.
Walker said payment for his visit came from his political war chest.
Walker used the half-hour speech to highlight his fight against "a
handful of big union bosses" and budgeting that allowed Wisconsin to
dig itself out of a $3.6 billion deficit without increasing taxes.
Walker blamed the recall on "a handful of big union bosses (who) ...
think that I'm standing in the way of their power and their money."
The Republican governor criticized Illinois' Democratic Gov. Pat
Quinn and the General Assembly for passing a 67 percent income tax
increase on individuals, and a 47 percent income tax increase on
corporations in 2011.
The temporary tax increases eliminated the state's structural
deficit, but they failed to address the state's $8.5 billion backlog
of overdue bills.
"There's always been this false choice, between either raising taxes
or cutting core services," Walker said. "Who amongst you in business
would say, 'You know what, times are tough so I'm going to double
the price of my product?'"
Quinn's office had no official response to Walker's visit, although
the Illinois governor addressed the issue in a news conference
"I don't know what he's doing coming to Illinois. He has enough
challenges in his own state. I don't plan to go to Wisconsin anytime
soon," Quinn said.
Quinn used the opportunity Tuesday to raise money. His campaign sent
an email asking for donations shortly after Walker visited.
"If you want a governor with a proven record of job creation, rather
than just rhetoric, show your support for Governor Pat Quinn," the
Quinn and Walker have traded jabs since about the time Walker took
John McAdams a political science professor from Marquette University
in Milwaukee, said Walker's trip to Illinois offered a way to garner
media coverage ahead of the June 5 recall election.
"Everything Scott Walker does is part of his re-election campaign,
just like -- let's be honest about this -- everything (President) Barack
Obama does is part of his re-election campaign," McAdams said.
McAdams said Walker used his speech in Illinois in much the same way
an environmental crusader would use a polluted river as backdrop for
a news conference.
"This is the message that Walker's people want Wisconsinites in
general to get: Illinois is sort of a paradigm of what happens when
you have a liberal governor that raises taxes to deal with a budget
crisis," McAdams said.
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Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Doug Whitley said Walker was
invited to the event because of his ability to cut Wisconsin's
"Let's hear some fresh thoughts and fresh ideas," Whitley said.
Walker's visit to Illinois fell on the same day a pension-reform
working group was to release recommendations for fixing the state's
public pension funds. The state's pension system faces an $85
billion unfunded liability, and pension payments are eating up more
and more state spending.
Recommendations, which could range from eliminating cost-of-living
increases for retirees to asking current workers to pay more, now
are expected to be released later this week, Quinn said in a news
Whitley said Walker's visit wasn't intended to be seen as an
endorsement for eliminating collective bargaining for Illinois'
"We brought him here strictly to talk about fiscal issues," Whitley
The approximately 3,500 union protesters outside thought
Protesters chanted, "Tell me what democracy looks like? This is what
democracy looks like" while marching around carrying signs what read
"Go Home Gov. Walker."
"We sent a strong message to Illinois politicians that we won't
tolerate Walker-style attacks on the middle class, including the
push to slash the modest pensions of teachers, police and other
public employees," said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the public
union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
McAdams said Walker and his Democratic opponents are not talking
about collective bargaining in the run-up to the special election.
"Clearly, Walker wants to run on his fiscal successes," McAdams
said. "Democrats, on the other hand, are pointing to things like
reductions in state aid to education" made during Walker's term.
Statehouse News; By ANDREW THOMASON]