Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is a magician. Last Tuesday when citizens were delivering over one million signatures on recall petitions seeking his ouster from the Statehouse, Walker made himself disappear.
Instead of staying in Wisconsin to face a fed up electorate that wants to make him only the third governor ever recalled from office, he vanished to New York City for a fundraiser hosted by the deep-pocketed founder of AIG, who after taking taxpayer bailout money, left in disgrace. Walker even refused to talk to Wisconsin reporters, preferring instead to gab with Rush Limbaugh, FOX National and the like.
Perhaps Walker wanted to keep the Capitol press corps in the dark, fearing they might be catching on to his tricks. (Sorry governor, it's too late for that. Your secrets are already out of the bag).
Walker also applied his disappearing act to his state budget -- or more precisely to the balance he brags about in his TV ads. Since last June, Walker has repeatedly crowed to the press about how he has balanced Wisconsin's budget (by slashing education, dropping health care and gutting collective bargaining rights, while giving away more than $2 billion in tax cuts breaks and loopholes to big corporations and the wealthy).
Walker was getting away with his "I balanced the budget" illusion until he wanted to drop health care for tens of thousands of Wisconsin families.
Federal law requires states that want to trim Medicaid enrollment to certify they have a budget deficit. That's pretty hard to do in Wisconsin, where our constitution requires a balanced budget from every governor.
But not one to let federal rules or the facts get in his way, Walker quietly pulled out his magic wand to deal with his sticky problem.
Just before New Year's Eve, without any press conferences or news releases, Walker's top lieutenant sent a letter to federal health secretary Kathleen Sebelius verifying that Wisconsin has a budget deficit through June 30, 2013.
"Poof!" Walker made his balanced budget disappear, solely so he could drop health care for Wisconsin families.
In case you were wondering, the TV ads are still saying that he balanced the budget.
With a budget the Walker administration now says isn't balanced, they can now try to dodge a federal law requiring it to continue providing health care for up to 53,000 residents.
Here's what's going on behind the curtain: Walker is using one set of accounting rules for his campaign and another set of rules when he wants to drop people off of health insurance.
When he was running for governor, Walker promised to balance every state budget using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). In fact, he called our former governor 'a world champion liar' for saying his budget was balanced when by GAAP standards it wasn't.
He broke that campaign promise, big time. Using GAAP principles and his administration's own numbers, Walker's budget will have a $3 billion deficit by June 30, 2013. Our non-partisan legislative fiscal analysts, however, say Walker's budget is balanced based on the accounting principles our state laws require we use for budget purposes.
Call him a 'world champion liar,' a 'master of the slight of hand,' or just a phony, Walker is using his talents to deny health insurance to people like the 59 year old woman from Sparta, Wisconsin with a condition that requires her to have several prescriptions to keep her out of the emergency room and the hospital. In the meantime, private sector jobs in Wisconsin have declined for six months in a row while the rest of the nation is starting to turn around.
Is it any wonder that one million Wisconsin residents want to see him go? Wisconsin has a proud history of voter engagement -- and the voters are engaged: 46% of our registered voters who voted in 2010 signed the Walker recall petition compared to the 23% that signed the recall petition in California in 2003.
Walker's friends in New York and around the country will make sure that all of us in Wisconsin will see our governor's magic show with all the smoke and mirrors out-of-state money can buy.
But a million Wisconsinites have already looked behind the curtain. And we are ready for the show to be over.
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