As Gov. Scott Walker prepares to give his fifth annual State of the State address Tuesday night, Democratic leaders say he’s already more focused on running for president than governing Wisconsin.
Walker is mulling a 2016 presidential run, but he has said he likely won’t decide until spring or summer.
Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said even though this is Walker’s first State of the State address of his second term, it’s clear Wisconsin is going to “take a backseat” to his presidential aspirations.
“We know he already has his eye off the ball in Wisconsin,” Tate said.
Tate said Wisconsinites have “heard more about his plans to run for president” than how Walker plans to address the pressing issues facing the state, such as a projected $2.2 billion budget shortfall.
A Walker spokeswoman dismissed the criticism.
“Some choose to complain, some choose to lead. Gov. Walker chooses to lead,” the governor’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said. “He’ll lay out the first part of his plan to continue moving Wisconsin forward on Tuesday.”
Walker has said he plans to unveil his plans to shrink the size and scope of government by consolidating a number of state agencies.
Tate, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, held a conference call with reporters Monday in advance of the State of theState.
Tate also pointed to some of Walker’s upcoming political events as evidence of the governor’s inattention to Wisconsin, including appearances scheduled for this week’s Republican National Committee meeting in San Diego and the Jan. 24 Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines.
Jesse Dougherty, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, accused Democrats of being desperate.
“The Democrats are lashing out with these ridiculous attacks because they have run out of credibility and substantive ideas on the issues that matter most to Wisconsin families,” Dougherty said.
Barca said Walker and his fellow Republicans should be focused on improving public schools and helping Wisconsin families, but were instead working on expanding their own power, citing plans to overhaul the nonpartisan state Government Accountability Board and create age limits for state Supreme Court justices.
Shilling added that the session should instead be focused on expanding opportunities in the state, and said she thinks the GOP “over-promised” on the campaign trail.
“They’re going to under-deliver,” Shilling said.
Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said the governor remains focused on Wisconsin.