Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose move to end collective bargaining rights for public-employee unions in Wisconsin yielded an unsuccessful push to recall him from office, told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday that Washington could learn a lot from the "courageous" and "relevant" reforms being spearheaded by GOP governors across the country.
Despite the mess in Washington, Walker said, "The good news is we have success, and it's happening in our states. And we can learn from that ... to tell Washington how to move forward."
He cited his own leadership in Wisconsin as an example that Republicans "can lead with an optimistic message."
At the outset of his term, "Wisconsin had faced a multi-billion dollar deficit," Walker said. "We came in and took that deficit - $3.6 billion - and today it's nearly half a billion dollar surplus."
He also touted his state's education reforms. "Under the old system of collective bargaining," he said, the last teacher hired was necessarily the first teacher fired. But "we changed collective bargaining in our state so there's no longer seniority or tenure," and now, Walker said, "we can hire or fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance."
He also touted reforms to the food-stamp program that required people receiving assistance to actively seek work and participate in employment training - not because "I want to make it harder to get government benefits," Walker said, but because "I want to make it easier to get a job."
"In America, people don't grow up dreaming they'll be dependent on the government," Walker said. "In America, we take a day off to celebrate the Fourth of July, and not the 15th of April."
And to ensure that Washington hears the message of conservative reform loud and clear, Walker told the conservatives at CPAC, "Don't back down. Don't take your foot off the gas. Now's the time to push forward."