Mordecai Lee reflects on 2012

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Mordecai Lee reflects on 2012

Premiere Date: 
December 20, 2012

Mordecai Lee looks back on the year that was and offers his predictions for 2013.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Zac Schultz:

We can't end 2012 without looking back on some of the political predictions that were made a year ago, and of course, making some more for 2013. For that, we turn to our own Magic 8 Ball, Mordecai Lee, a UW-Milwaukee professor of governmental affairs, who joins us from Milwaukee. Professor Lee, thanks for joining us.

Mordecai Lee:

I'm not sure if I'm happy to be here. I don't want to be confronted with all my wrong predictions!

Zac Schultz:

I think you were relatively accurate. Last year, we asked you how history would judge the protests and recalls of 2011, and you said the elections of 2012 would be the answer. Let's listen.

Mordecai Lee:

I think history's judgment is going to be whether there was a corner-turning moment when Wisconsin became more conservative and less oriented to unions, or if the Wisconsin perception that we were a somewhat liberal state sort of sprang back into place during 2012.

Zac Schultz:

So what did the elections tell us?

Mordecai Lee:

I'm not sure how to score that one. Maybe I say I was half right and half wrong, in the sense that we stayed as a conservative state that Governor Walker got retained in the recall election, and in the November elections, the majorityship in the State Senate flipped back to the republicans, and the republicans retained the majorityship in the Assembly. On the other hand, Tammy Baldwin got elected to the U.S. Senate and President Obama carried Wisconsin. So I guess we're 50/50, and what's so amazing is how close it is, how close the margins are.

Zac Schultz:

We also asked you if Governor Walker won his recall, and of course he did, what would it mean for his legislative agenda. And here was your prediction on that front.

Mordecai Lee:

I think I can predict with some degree of certainty that if he is indeed retained, that the next fight will be about the state pension system.

Zac Schultz:

Now, of course, the republicans lost control of the Senate before they could do anything when that report came out. So this is still up in the air. I'm going to grade you as, "to be determined." But are you going to stick with the pension system for next year?

Mordecai Lee:

No, Zac, I think you really ought to send me back down to the minors, because after he won retention, when the report came out on July 1, it said that the financial status of the pension system was healthy. And Governor Walker immediately said, well, in that case, there's not a rationale to transfer it to being a 401(k) system. So he was walking away from a controversy, even though politically and ideologically, he preferred to make the change. So maybe that's an indication that, sort of how traumatic the recall was, that he's now avoiding highly controversial issues.

Zac Schultz:

Well, that leads us into our next question. What's your prediction for next year? He said he would like to avoid the controversial issues like Right to Work. That's the next big thing. Now, he may mean that, but the republicans in the legislature may decide to send him that bill anyway and force him, sign it or veto it.

Mordecai Lee:

There's no doubt that that scenario could happen, Zac. But I don't think it's going to happen. I think he's got a very good relationship with the Speaker of the Assembly and the Majority Leader in the Senate, and I think they do not want to embarrass him. I think they're not going to pass it, because he's asked them not to.

Zac Schultz:

Now, how much of his desire to avoid controversy is preparation for re-election in 2014?

Mordecai Lee:

Well, I think the kind of controversy we're going to be seeing in the next year is going to be about policy. But not these sort of hot ideological issues. In terms of the budget, I think he's going to be drilling down deep into state government, deep into the statutes, and finding every law that liberal democrats have passed in the last 20 years. So I think his budget is going to be a real rock 'em, sock 'em policy document. It's going to be a real unpeeling of the status quo we had, but not about the hot button issues. He's already told us that he's going to have an income tax cut, so the fight will probably be who benefits from the tax cut, the upper income or the middle income. I think he's going to throw in something that he hasn't mentioned so far. I think he, or at least I'll predict maybe that he's going to try to merge the UW System with the Voc-Tech System, so there's one integrated system for higher education in Wisconsin.

Zac Schultz:

Well, we will keep this tape and be sure to check in next year to see how accurate you were. Thanks for playing along. We appreciate it.

Mordecai Lee:

My pleasure, thank you.


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