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Wisconsin recall vote taps economic divide

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Jeremy Hobson: Well now to Wisconsin where today is the day of that long-awaited vote on whether to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker. The effort to recall the Governor started last year after Walker tried to weaken public employee unions.

Erin Toner of station WUWM in Milwaukee checked in with some Wisconsin voters ahead of the election.

Erin Toner: Twenty-eight-year-old Rosemary Walzer makes $29,000 a year teaching music at a state university. That makes her one of the public workers who lost their collective bargaining rights last year, and began paying more for health insurance. She says she wants Scott Walker recalled because he pitted public workers against the private sector, and slashed funding for education and healthcare programs.

Rosemary Walzer: It just seems to fly in the face of everything that Wisconsin really represents as far as labor and as far as the general public, and the happiness and health of the general public.

Walzer says the Republican governor points to a falling unemployment rate in Wisconsin. But many of her friends and family are still struggling.

Walzer: When you see so many people that are trying their best to get a job or trying their best to get health care, to even get their teeth cleaned, without paying out the nose, it’s very hard and very sad.

Walzer lives in Milwaukee, Wisc.’s poorest city. Elm Grove, a village 10 miles away, is one of the state’s wealthiest communities. That’s where I found Neil Palmer. He’s 62 and owns a consulting firm.

Neil Palmer: We had a state that was working its way to catching up with Illinois or other states in being bankrupt if you were in private industry.

Palmer believes Walker did the right thing by cutting spending on government employees, and pushing for tax breaks that benefit business.

Palmer: Has he created jobs? Absolutely. Has he created an atmosphere that’ll create more? Yes.

By controlling our state budget, and working for reforms, we will be in a much better shape than anybody else to create jobs.

Scott Walker is far from fulfilling his promise to create 250,000 new private sector jobs. The Democrat in today’s recall election is Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee. Barrett’s been hammering Walker on his jobs record and an investigation into alleged criminal activity among the governor’s former aides and associates.

In Milwaukee, I’m Erin Toner for Marketplace.

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