One of the popular anti-Scott Walker arguments on my side of the internet is that Walker has a bit of an honesty problem because of all the things he promised when he was first elected in the Great Milwaukee County Recalls of 2002, and hasn't lived up to. One classic example is that Walker promised he would only run for one term after that recall election, but 2008, of course, found him running a second re-election campaign for Milwaukee County Executive.
And then there's the one that has poor Roland Melnick in high dudgeon this week, that Walker "gave himself a $50,000 raise." When Walker ran in 2002, he promised to give back half his salary to the County, an admirable thing. But then he bought a big house with a pool and likely found his budget stretched beyond what his half-salary could accommodate, so in 2008 he started taking most of that salary back. Not something that earned a ton of disapproval at the time, but something that raised a lot of eyebrows when, a year later, he forced pretty much everyone else who works for the county to take nearly two dozen furlough days, meaning steep cuts in pay for everyone else right at the time he jacked his own pay (and that of some of his political appointees) right on up.
Melnick flames away righteously that Walker's salary, even at its present heights, is neither a "raise" of his own choosing nor out of line with what other officials earn. And he's right about that--Scott Walker's not doing anything wrong, and his taking nearly the full pay his position entitles him to is not what makes him a bad person.
But Roland Melnick and everyone else on that side of the internet needs to come to grips with something: Scott Walker made a lot of promises in 2002, as I noted, and he did so entirely predicated on his plan not to stick around in Milwaukee. Walker fully expected to be the Republican nominee for governor in 2006, and to win that election, so he had no reason to look very far out when running that initial campaign in 2002. Run for re-election? No need to! Half salary? I can scrimp for a few years! Long-term deferred maintenance issues and parks upkeep and transit expansion and consequences of my starving the beast to curry favor with the wingnut Republican primary crowd? That'll be the next guy's problem!
It's just too bad that Walker's god wasn't talking to him then.
So I think all sides need to face up to something here. Walker isn't some big fat liar; he's just a loser whose failure to win four years ago means things are coming back around to bite him square on his loser behind. All that stuff he was hoping to run away from and dump on someone else is catching up to him, right when he's making his second escape attempt.
And that's why, even though Melnick may have a bit of a point, the Walker "raise" and the deep borrowing in Walker's supposedly "balanced" budgets and the steady deterioration of things like our parks and transit system are real and important issues to talk about as Walker runs for governor: He left a string of broken promises and failing systems because he expected to use the office as a stepping stone and never really cared what happened under his watch. How can we trust him again?