Interviews

Gov. Scott Walker on his tax cut plan for Wisconsin

How economic focus will help state

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 31, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: The president meeting with top CEOs today in a push to get the long-term jobless back to work.

But if he really wants to create more jobs, this guy he just met with yesterday says take a cue from him, Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker calling for a $500 million tax cut in his state.

Governor, welcome to the program.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: Good to be with you. Thanks for having me on.

VARNEY: You met with the president yesterday, unlike your Democrat opponent in the gubernatorial races, who wouldn't meet with him.

(LAUGHTER)

VARNEY: You did meet with him.

Did you talk to him about your plan for creating jobs, and, if so, what did he say?

(LAUGHTER)

WALKER: In this case, it's pretty cold in Wisconsin, so we spent a limited amount of time talking outdoors. But it was really talking in our case about the propane crisis in the state.

But if we had had more time, that's exactly what we talked about. We have a surplus, almost a billion dollar surplus. And the way we got there was making it easier for employers to create jobs, to put more people to work, to increase personal income, and you do that by putting more money back in the hands of the people and by easing the regulatory climate so that employers can do just that.

And that's what we're going to keep doing here.

VARNEY: Well, you have got a $900 million state budget surplus.

That's very unusual amongst any of the states in America today.

But the left is saying, why don't you put that money back into social investment, put it back into the schools, build some infrastructure, put it to work for the people? That is what they say.

But you're rejecting that.

WALKER: I am indeed.

In fact, when I travel my state, I don't hear people say to me, we send too little money to our state capital. Oh, they don't say the taxes are too low or they're even just right. What I hear repeatedly from one end of the state to the troops is people telling me, if you want to continue to grow the economic recovery we see, if you want to continue to put more people back to work, put the money in this surplus back in the hands of the people as consumers and employers in this state.

We're putting half a million dollars into income and property tax relief and on top of that more than $300 million into changes into withholdings, so people get more in their paycheck. We figure if a working family can see their property taxes goes down and their income taxes goes down and have less money taken out of the withholding, in total over $800 million, that's going to be money better spent in the economy by those individuals and not by the government.

VARNEY: You're talking a lot like Ronald Reagan. That's a compliment from me, obviously.

(LAUGHTER)

VARNEY: But you sound like him because you're concentrating on economics, not social issues, not immigration, none of that. No, you're focusing right there on tax cuts, job growth, economic growth. You sound like Ronald Reagan.

WALKER: Well, it's a simple concept and it's an optimistic one, and it's one that not only Republicans and conservatives can rally around.

it's independents and even some discerning Democrats who understand that the best way for our communities and our state and our country to get better is to see the economy grow, to see more people go back to work.

You talked about the president meeting with employers, talking about chronic and long-term employment. The best way to ease unemployment is to do what we have done. Unemployment has dropped three points in the last four years -- in the last three years in -- particularly, but from four years ago.

And we have seen more people working in our state, because not just because the unemployment rate is going down. Because the work force is going up, more people going back to work because we made for a better climate for employers in our state. We need to do it across the country as well.

VARNEY: Now, you are on the national stage. Whatever you say goes out nationally. And you're looked at as a national politician these days, not just the governor of Wisconsin.

Is this a conscious effort on your part to rally the whole national Republican Party around the idea of tax cuts, economic growth, job growth?

Are you consciously doing this?

WALKER: Yes, I think more growth, more freedom, more prosperity are good, not only in Wisconsin. They're good across America.

And I want my sons, Matt and Alex, who are 18 and 19, not only to grow up in a better state than the one I grew up in, but to grow up in a country that is at least as great, if not greater than the one we grew up in as well.

And to do that, we have got to have more states and ultimately more leaders in our nation's capital taking an optimistic pro-growth approach.

We have shown here, particularly as a contrast to my neighbor in the south in Illinois, where they raised taxes, and their budget is a mess. Their pension is the worth fund in the country. Their bond rating is the worst out there.

And they're talking about even higher taxes now going forward. We have done just the opposite and our unemployment rate is much lower than theirs. Our budget is down. Our economy is better. I think that's a great contrast between two very different views of how to govern, and for America, just like Wisconsin, it's going to be better if we go down that approach.

VARNEY: But, Governor, you know what I'm getting at. You are spoken of as a potential presidential candidate. Now, I don't know whether you're going to run or not. But you are staking out territory within the Republican Party.

And you're -- it sounds like you're trying to pull everybody together behind an economic message, not going off on a tangent anyplace. No, you're zeroing right in on an economic message. Is it deliberate on your part because you want a presence in the Republican Party, because you want to lead it?

WALKER: Well, absolutely, I'm not talking about being a candidate for anything other than being governor in this great state.

But do I think it's important to be a leader when you have a moment like this, and leadership requires people to take a -- stand up and take a stand and in this case it's simple. I think the same thing applies across this country as does here. Three years ago when I ran for governor, three- and-a-half years ago now, in late 2010, I told the people of my state we face an economic and a fiscal crisis.

And I think the same thing is true in America today. And we need leaders who will focus in on those issues like a laser beam with an optimistic, relevant vision, and then show we have the courage act on it.

I would like to see more leaders do the same across America.

VARNEY: How big a problem do you think Governor Christie has?

WALKER: It's one of those where in the end it's all going to boil down to what he said.

He told me, like he told the rest of America, what he knew and what he didn't know, and I took him at his word. I continue to until someone can show me deliberately different than that. But I think going forward, as long as he continued to do that and get past this and start focusing on the things we're talking about, a pro-growth agenda in his state that will move his people forward, I think he will be fine if he does that. But that is as much as I know right now.

VARNEY: May I ask if you talked to him after this story about the traffic at the George Washington Bridge broke?

WALKER: I talked to him that very day.

I had to call him about some business related to governors that afternoon and talked to him shortly after he did his nearly-two-hour press conference. He told me the same thing in private that he said there, and again I have every reason to believe him, and just like any governor, there's going to be times when you go through challenges.

The key test of leadership is whether or not you stand up and hold people accountable. And he did at that time. And I think that is important for him going forward

VARNEY: Let me ask about within the state of Wisconsin. Now, I was there a couple of years ago when the Capitol was besieged, basically, very hostile environment. It was really tense. I remember it very well. Is that hostility to you over now? Have you gone past it?

WALKER: Well, you certainly don't have the volume of people.

As you know, at one point, there were 100,000 people in and around our capital. Many of those people were from Wisconsin, but many more of them were coming in from Chicago, or Washington, D.C., or New York, and New Jersey, or elsewhere. Those people have left and gone back home.

Things have calmed down. And the economy has gotten better. Things have settled down in that regard. But clearly there are going to be people coming in from outside of the state again coming into November who would like nothing better than to see me lose the next election.

The good news for me though is the people of the state have had the time to see that our reforms worked, that they have gotten us back on the right track. Our budgets are not only balanced. We have surpluses. Our economy is much better. We have had 100,000 people back to work in the last three years, compared to the 133,000 people who lost jobs in the few years before I took office.

We're heading down the right path. We're moving our state forward.

And I think now is the time for us to keep doing that and move forward.

VARNEY: Would you like a comment on your opponent in the forthcoming election, Mary Burke, who wouldn't meet with the president when he was in Wisconsin? Any comment at all, sir?

WALKER: No.

From my standpoint, she will have to answer for herself. From our standpoint, when the president of the United States comes, no matter whether I agree with his politics or not, I welcome him on behalf of all the people of our state. And, certainly I think in the Midwest at least here, we're hospitable no matter our politics are. We appreciate it when the leader of our country comes, because he is just that, the leader of the country. Set the politics aside, and we will have those debates on other issues in the future.

VARNEY: I was in Washington, D.C., yesterday and I spoke with a number of people who identified themselves as Republicans. And everyone was talking about the likely candidate in 2016.

Your name came up a lot. I'm not going to ask you whether you're running or not. Don't worry. I'm not going to say that. But I'm going to ask you this. You enjoy it? You're very much the center of attention.

You are on a lot of people's minds, conservatives, for 2016. You like this?

WALKER: Well, it's certainly flattering.

The nice thing about that chatter, that talk anywhere is because -- it's not because of some speech I have given. It's because of the reforms that we have done, the actions that we have taken in this state and the fact that people see that they work.

And so from my standpoint, it's in my best interests to continue to do a good job here in Wisconsin on behalf of the people I represent, to continue to see that pro-growth plans can move our state forward and put more people back to work and help the people of the state create more jobs and opportunity.

We do that here, obviously, other people are going to talk around the country. But I'm not going to worry about what the pundits say. I will leave that to you and others in the media. I'm just focused on moving my state forward and hopefully encouraging others to do the same in other states and other parts of this country.

VARNEY: Governor Scott Walker, Republican, Wisconsin, thank you very much for joining us, sir. Appreciate it.

WALKER: Good -- good to be with you. Have a great weekend.

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