Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that he would not sign a bill to end same-day voter registration because of its cost and reiterated that a right-to-work law was not on his agenda -- even after Michigan passed such legislation -- because he wants to stay focused on improving the state's business climate.
On same-day registration, Walker said a recent Government Accountability Board report that says it would cost the state $5.2 million to end the state's same-day registration law convinced him that he should not sign such a bill.
"There is no way I'm signing a bill that costs that kind of money," Walker said.
Walker had said in a speech last month in California that he was considering backing efforts to end same-day registration. The law has been credited with giving Wisconsin one of the highest voter turnout percentages in the country.
Walker said that, in light of the GAB report, he didn't think members of the Legislature would even try to approve a bill to end the same-day registration law.
The Republican governor did leave himself a little wiggle room, declining to say Wednesday whether he would veto a same-day bill. In Wisconsin, laws that are not signed or vetoed by a governor within six days of landing on his desk, excepting Sundays, can become law without his action.
Speaking one day after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed two bills enacting right-to-work laws, Walker also said his priority in the upcoming legislative session and in the next budget was to create jobs. A right-to-work debate in the Legislature, he said, would be a distraction.
"I recognize the last thing that I need if I want accelerated job growth over the next two or three years is any sort of battle that takes attention away from it," said Walker, who supported right-to-work laws when he was a state legislator.
As Walker began to walk away from pushing for ending same-day registration, Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) said he and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) were working on a bill that would end it.
Kleefisch said Wednesday that his staff was "doing research on the components of the same-day registration law."
"Clearly, creating jobs is a priority," Kleefisch said. "We will strongly consider the governor's viewpoint."
Later, Kleefisch said, "There's no soup. I'm just gathering ingredients. . . . I still believe eliminating same-day registration is still a good idea."
But Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) said Walker should state flatly that he would veto any legislation that ends same-day registration.
"I am uncomfortable with the wiggle room he gave himself," Richards said of Walker.
Richards said that, shortly after being elected, Walker promised to consult with state workers. He didn't and instead proposed sharp limits on collective bargaining for public-sector unions.
For that reason, Richards said the governor should be more emphatic about same-day registration.
The governor, appearing at a workforce development summit held by the Waukesha County Business Alliance, also threw cold water on right-to-work laws.
Walker said he was not flip-flopping on the issue of right-to-work. But he said he was mindful of the massive protests that erupted in Madison when he proposed major changes in collective bargaining. Walker also cited the bruising recall election, which pitted him against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in June.
"All of that created tremendous uncertainty," Walker said. "I don't want anything out there that creates uncertainty. To me another battle like this creates that kind of uncertainty."
Snyder had said his support for right-to-work legislation was based, in part, on Michigan's ability to compete with neighboring Indiana for business Asked whether Wisconsin would be put at a competitive disadvantage if there is no right-to-work law, Walker said no. He said he viewed Illinois and Minnesota, and not Michigan and Indiana, which also has a right-to-work law, as competitors in the business marketplace.
"We already have a competitive advantage over Illinois," he said. "For us to be competitive, we need to improve our business climate."
The governor also said he believed he could achieve his stated goal of creating 250,000 jobs in his four-year term, though he acknowledged ongoing concerns about the "fiscal cliff" negotiations in Washington and uncertainty about costs connected to the Affordable Care Act.
"We're just under 100,000," he said Wednesday morning. "It's going to be tough, no doubt about it. "We're going to achieve it."
Later Wednesday in Madison, Walker clarified the number, saying it was just more than 86,000 jobs.
"We're not there yet, but we're moving at a much better pace than most people think," Walker said.
Jocelyn Webster, a Walker spokeswoman, said the number Walker provided was based on Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data and confirmed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"QCEW is based on the actual job count from roughly 96% of Wisconsin employers," she said in an email.
According to an analysis published in November by PolitiFact Wisconsin, Walker has been responsible for a net gain of 25,411 jobs created.
For several weeks, the governor has been on a speaking tour around the state talking about jobs. In speech after speech, he has emphasized his priorities in the next two years of his term: creating jobs; developing a better workforce; transforming education; reforming government; and investing in the state's infrastructure.
By his own admission, Walker has not provided specifics. But he told businessmen and women at the summit in Pewaukee that "if we do this right, we will lead the country in economic development and job creation."
Walker hinted that he wanted reforms that would put the state's workforce development programs under one roof and better connect what is being done in the workforce with the state's education system from the elementary level to high school to technical schools to universities.
The governor said he wanted to see programs that expose young people to different kinds of careers that could be achieved without going to a four-year college or university.
On education, Walker said he planned to increase funding but added that any additional money for schools would have to be tied to performance.
(c)2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel