PEWAUKEE — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday during a visit to Wisconsin that he and Gov. Scott Walker were negotiating to bring a “major, incredible manufacturer” to the state.
Trump’s second visit to the state this year was to promote apprenticeships and attend a $1,000-per-ticket fundraiser that Walker billed as “one of the biggest events we’ve ever had for a statewide elected official.”
During a panel discussion with Walker, cabinet secretaries, students and CEOs, Trump mentioned that he and Walker were negotiating with the manufacturer behind the scenes.
“We have a lot of companies moving into the United States and we are negotiating with a lot of companies,” Trump said. “I think they’re going to give the governor a very happy surprise very soon.”
It wasn’t immediately clear to which company Trump was referring, but Walker recently traveled to Japan for a trade mission. Trump said the company made phones, computers and televisions.
A Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. spokesman said the agency doesn’t comment on pending opportunities.
Walker thanked the president for putting a focus on workforce issues, something the governor raised as the top issue in Wisconsin during a meeting earlier this year with all governors from across the country. He noted Wisconsin’s unemployment is at its lowest level in 17 years.
“We have jobs,” Walker said. “We need to find more people to fill those jobs.”
Just after disembarking from Air Force One, Trump met with four Wisconsin residents — Michael and Tammy Kushman, of Marinette, and Robert and Sarah Stoll, of Burlington — whom he described as “victims of Obamacare.”
“Obamacare is one of the greatest catastrophes that our country has signed into law,” Trump said. “We will come up with a solution, and a really good one to health care.”
Trump’s health care replacement plan has passed the House and is moving quietly toward Senate passage, though details of changes to the House bill have not been made public.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who is considering a run for governor, said the Affordable Care Act has dramatically reduced the ranks of Americans without insurance, established key protections for those with pre-existing health conditions, reduced uncompensated care costs for hospitals and expanded access to preventative health care services.
He said most people want both parties to work together to improve the law, not destroy it.
“What the vast majority of us want is to start with the existing Affordable Care Act and make it better, and address what needs improvement,” Soglin said.
Tour of Waukesha Tech
Trump toured Waukesha County Technical College with an entourage of White House staff.
Trump toured several training classrooms, including an integrated manufacturing center classroom, with Walker, U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and daughter Ivanka Trump.
Other participants in the panel discussion included White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, of Kenosha, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, Wisconsin Secretary of Workforce Development Ray Allen, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Mark Hogan, Mike Shiels, dean of the WCTC School of Applied Technologies, WCTC board chairwoman Mary Wehrheim, Waukesha School District Superintendent Todd Gray, three students, and the CEOs of Rockwell Manufacturing, Oshkosh Corp., Briggs & Stratton, Mercury Marine and Quad Graphics.
Wisconsin has been at the forefront of creating apprenticeship programs to help workers prepare for technical fields. Its registered apprenticeship model began in 1911 and became a model for the nation. Last year, the program had more than 2,400 participating employers and more than 11,000 participants, a 6 percent increase over 2015, according to the Department of Workforce Development.
Walker has made workforce development a priority since failing by nearly half to make good on his pledge to help create 250,000 jobs in the state during his first term. There are nearly 100,000 job openings in the state.
Walker’s signature program has been Wisconsin Fast Forward, which has provided more than $19 million in grants to local businesses supporting more than 18,000 workers. It also has provided $35.4 million to school districts and technical colleges to reduce wait lists in high demand fields, as well as offer employment skills training for persons with disabilities, including disabled veterans.
Mike Rosen, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 212, called Trump’s visit a “photo op show” and “real hypocrisy.” Trump’s budget proposal cuts workforce training programs by 40 percent, including a $1.5 million cut to Wisconsin’s $20 million in federal career and technical education grants.
Rosen also criticized Walker’s support for eliminating the prevailing wage for public construction projects and project labor agreements, in which local governments require companies bidding on projects to be unionized.
“If we want to attract people into the field, the last thing you should be doing when there’s a shortage is reducing wages,” Rosen said. “When there are shortages, the way you address shortages if you use a market mechanism is to raise the price, not to lower them. They’re moving us in the wrong direction.”
After the tour, Trump attended an early evening fundraiser for Walker’s campaign at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Milwaukee where tickets were $1,000 apiece and photos with the president cost an extra $10,000.
Walker told a national conservative talk radio host Monday that he advised Priebus recently that people in Wisconsin and around the country still support Trump, despite polls showing his approval rating sinking into the mid-30s.
“People outside of Washington still like his policies, still very much want him to move this country in the right direction,” Walker said.
Democrats sought to tie Walker and Trump together, saying Walker’s policies of tax cuts and austerity government have benefited the wealthy at the expense of workers.
“The one thing President Trump got right about a year ago is when he said Wisconsin is a disaster under Gov. Walker,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, referring to the GOP primary campaign.
Though Walker and Trump clashed during the primary, Trump previously supported Walker during his recall campaign and Walker has been a Trump defender during his tumultuous first four months in office.
The visit to Wisconsin is Trump’s second since his inauguration. In April, he signed executive orders aimed at helping U.S. workers compete in the global marketplace at Snap-On Tools Inc. in Kenosha. He also visited the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis in December for a victory tour rally.
State Journal reporter Mark Sommerhauser contributed to this report.