The Corner

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin vs. Illinois

A new documentary from the paranoid left (“Citizen Koch”) tries to show how outside groups funded by the Koch brothers helped Governor Scott Walker beat the recall in Wisconsin. Whatever the influence of the Koch brothers, the outside group that proved most helpful to Governor Walker by far was really the government of Illinois, which was then busy ruining its own state in spectacular fashion.

Walker managed to frame the recall as a choice between Wisconsin on the road to reform and Illinois in full meltdown under progressive policies. At one point, he was invited to address the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. His message was straightforward: “If voters in our state want to know the difference between going forward or backward,” he said, “they need only look at the mess that you have in state government here in Springfield to know that it would be like if the recall ultimately prevails.” He won the recall by a margin as wide as Obama’s in Wisconsin — seven points.

Still, a century of progressive policies have left Wisconsin in a deep hole. Even after four years of Walker reforms, Wisconsin is still groaning under the burden of high regulations and taxation. Walker has cut taxes by $2 billion since he took office, but the state still has among the heaviest tax burdens in the country. I was shocked when I saw the Wisconsin state budget: In per capita terms it is twice as large as the state budget of Texas, despite federal “assistance” to the states that imposes a high budget baseline on all of them. According to Forbes, Wisconsin is still among the ten worst states for doing business (though it has a far higher quality of life than any of the other ten).

Wisconsin still has a long way to go on the road of reform, which is why this year’s race between Governor Walker and former Trek executive Mary Burke is so important for the state. But in four years, Wisconsin has become significantly more competitive, and Illinois far less so. The results are born out in a new study by Michael Lucci of the Illinois Policy Institute, “A Tale of Two Governors.” The study shows that under Democratic governor Pat Quinn, job creation in Illinois — public and private — has decelerated by more than 60 percent, compared with Wisconsin, where it has accelerated.

In addition to Wisconsin, Lucci writes, “Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa have all cut taxes to become more competitive, while Minnesota has cut some taxes and raised others. . . . Illinois and Wisconsin remain uncompetitive states in terms of regulatory and tax burden, but Wisconsin has taken steps to address these roadblocks to growth. With the help of reforms and tax cuts, Walker has managed to keep up with peer states on the road to recovery. Meanwhile, Illinois has fallen off the back of the cart.”

Mario Loyola — Mr. Loyola, a former White House speechwriter and environmental adviser, is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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