Just two weeks after she announced her campaign to run against Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election — and possibly other Democrats in a primary election — former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk made her campaign pitch about job creation, school funding and collective bargaining in luncheon Wednesday hosted by WisPolitics.com.
Already, she has received endorsements from WEAC, AFSCME, Emily's List and Clean Wisconsin. With the unions, she signed a pledge to veto any budget that does not restore collective bargaining. When Patch asked whether the pledge indicates a loyalty to unions, Falk said she made the pledge because she wants to be upfront and honest about what she will do as governor.
"Us candidates are supposed to tell people what we will do to accomplish their goals, and people want collective bargaining. I have been openly asked about what I will do to get that done, and this isn't the time to be wishy washy," Falk said. "This is the time to stand up and say which side you are on, and I'm on the side of collective bargaining."
Falk also used the luncheon as an opportunity to announce her jobs plan for the state. The plan, dubbed "Invest in Success," would restore the $36 million that was cut from state technical colleges by closing a tax loophole that allows multistate corporations to avoid paying Wisconsin taxes on profits generated in Wisconsin. Falk said the loophole cost the state $46 million in the biennial budget and will rise to an annual cost of $40 million starting in 2013.
With one out of five high school graduates going on to technical college, and Walker stating nearly 33,000 job openings in Wisconsin are unfilled because employers cannot find skilled workers, Falk said her plan will help technical colleges provide worker training and create partnerships that connect worker training to available jobs.
"His philosophy is to give big tax breaks to a few companies, and then the biggest cuts in public education," Falk said. "My philosophy about how you balance the budget is through shared sacrifice, and that's what I've done as a county executive."
In an e-mail statement, Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said the plan would hamper economic development by increasing taxes on corporations.
“Kathy Falk is a one-trick pony with one answer for everything: “Raise taxes," he said. "Falk’s plan would put a wet blanket on Wisconsin’s economy by saddling job creators with over $350 million in job-killing tax increases. Wisconsinites simply cannot afford Falk’s failed tax and spend policies.”
Since her candidacy announcement on Feb. 8, the campaign season is still young. Falk said she plans to reach out to both Republicans and Democrats on the campaign trail, saying she campaigned in conservative Waukesha County just last week.
State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) has also declared her candidacy, and Secretary of State Doug LaFollette is reportedly entering the race later this week. Falk said she is not sure whether there will ultimately be a Democratic primary. And, of course, many observers believe Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also will run.
"I'm just grateful we live in a democracy," she said. "I would never talk somebody out of running for office."
There is no scheduled date for the recall election, which was triggered after Democrats filed more than 1 million signatures a month ago.
Originally from the south side of Milwaukee and raised in Waukesha County, Falk graduated with a law degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison and spent 20 years as an environmental lawyer, mostly through her work as a public intervenor in the state Department of Justice. She was elected Dane County executive in 1997, a post she held for 14 years.
In 2002, she lost a three-way Democratic gubernatorial primary to former Gov. Jim Doyle and Barrett, and in 2006, she narrowly lost the attorney general election to Republican J.B. Van Hollen.
At the age of 60, she said she was motivated to re-enter the political scene after seeing Walker's policies play out in Wisconsin, which she said have led to six straight months of job losses in the state.
"We just want good schools for our kids, decent health care when we need it, a decent paying job and some clean air and water to enjoy those few hours of the day when we're not working," she said. "We don't ask for much, and Gov. Walker has set our state back on every barometer."
Walker's campaign could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
While Walker stocked $12 million into his campaign warchest in 2011 and ran a series of campaign advertisements, Falk said the polls show it has not been effective.
"Once you have lost someone's trust, no amount of money can get it back," Falk said.