By Jessica McBride Special to Published May 27, 2015 at 3:16 PM

The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

Not to be mean or anything, but did Gov. Scott Walker scribble the state budget on a napkin?

What other conclusion can we draw about such a hastily tossed together, ill-considered piece of budgeting?

Why is this budget supposed to give us confidence that the governor can lead the Free World?

Where has my governor gone, and what have they done with him?

These are serious questions.

How goofy is this budget? Well, read this paragraph that ran a few weeks ago in the Washington Post: "GOP lawmakers have reversed many of Walker’s cuts, such as funding for the removal of roadkill from the side of highways to money for groups that interview children who have been sexually abused."

Brilliant. And that doesn’t even get into the bigger ticket items that the GOP Legislature is reversing or says it is reversing, like the Public Authority plan for UW and all those cuts to K-12 schools. Again. 

I’m coming to the conclusion that Walker is a great politician – really, he’s a natural at that and getting better all the time – but not a great manager. Because I’m getting the impression that his budget was drawn out on the fly between landings to other states, maybe on one of those napkins they give you on airplanes with the peanuts.

I can just imagine his inner conversation while scribbling out his plan: "Hmmm. Have to get millions and millions somewhere because the tax cuts dropped revenue. But from where … I know! Seniorcare! And that program in Milwaukee for the disabled. Long-term care. And those groups who work with child sexual abuse victims. Let’s go after those things."

I mean, what?

You can't even argue that Walker's budget is austere despite all the cuts because it would increase state spending, including for his own office. And the proposed debt in it is even higher than one of Jim Doyle's budgets.

Don’t blame me or write me off as some left-wing Walker hater, either. I supported him through his first budget and supported his signature Act 10 (still do). As for the presidency, it’s extremely dubious I would ever vote for Hillary (even though I would love to see a female president). Right now, I’m kind of liking Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

It’s the Republican Legislature that has been left holding the bag of this goofy budget, with all its debt and other grenades, and attempting to unravel most of the bad things in it (thank you, checks and balance system). 

And there are a lot. How bad is it? Well, Rep. Rob Brooks of Saukville (a Republican) called it a "crap budget." His words, not mine. I just said it was probably written on a napkin.

It’s an under-reported story how much the GOP Legislature has been butting heads with the governor of its own party who is running for president (whether he’s admitted it yet or not). It’s not a great campaign ad to say, "The legislature had to redo my budget. And they were from my own party." I’m losing track, actually, of everything they’ve undone.

So you have to know it’s really goofy. Or they’d be finding a way to get it through.

Don’t these guys talk? I used to think the governor and legislature hunkered down and got on the same page before the governor proposed a budget the legislature couldn’t stomach. But see, Walker seems to lock into templates that worked for him as county executive (going after public benefits, tax cuts, etc.).

He built his name and identity warring with the legislative branch as County Executive. But that branch was run by Lee Holloway and a bunch of Dems. This isn’t. But he’s still making the legislative branch his foil. One could argue, by the way, that Holloway made Walker. The County Board constantly overrode Walker’s tax levy freezes, meaning he got the headline but didn’t have to weather the pain of the cuts. So his actual leadership plan was never tested. Holloway made a great foil.

Scott Fitzgerald, not so much. It’s sort of weird for the governor to make the legislature a foil. At any rate, I don’t think it has the same cache as it did at the County. It’s not really a great selling point for the governor to say, "How dare the legislature restore my cuts to things that help seniors and disabled people." Yeah, not a winning message. Most people will side with the legislative branch on that.

Which brings me back to the "was it written on a napkin" point. My point is that this budget was ill-thought out and not well sold, or more of it would be getting through.

That’s a key point actually that is worth elaborating upon. The governor didn’t sell his budget. He didn’t prepare us for the cuts and changes, he didn’t run on any of them and he didn’t make a cogent case for them once proposed.

On what planet did the governor sit around and think, Seniorcare? Let’s change that.

The IRIS program for the disabled? Kill it.

K-12 schools? Hit them again.

Let’s give the UW all this autonomy while blasting their decision-making all the same. 

The UW mission statement? Let’s change that and not tell anyone what we are doing.

Those scientists at the DNR? Gone.

The program to conserve land for public use? Forget that for years and years.

All those advisory and citizen boards? Forget them too. Who needs them?

The governor doesn’t appear to have consulted much with various cabinet secretaries, either. I recognize he has bigger fish to fry than us back here in lowly little Wisconsin. But he’s still our governor. And, well, I for one expect him to lead. And to lead better than this.

Jessica McBride Special to

Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.

She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.

Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.

Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.