5 Things You Should Know About Scott Walker

July 13th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Monday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) announced he is running for president in the 2016 election via video. He'll be making a formal speech at 6:15 PM ET. Walker joins a long list of presidential hopefuls in the GOP field: he is number 15.

Walker was elected governor in 2010, and he rose to political prominence when he went after collective bargaining for state unions representing public sector jobs in his 2011 budget. "That would mean public worker unions would not have any say on benefits and work rules and would face a new restriction on salary increases as well," the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote back in 2011. In 2012, he survived a recall election, which was sparked by the 2011 budget bill. Walker was then reelected in 2014.

Here's how the Wisconsin Gov. stands on five major issues important to Millennials: higher education, marijuana, immigration, the environment, and LGBT rights.

1. Higher education

Though Walker froze the in-state tuition for the University of Wisconsin system for two years and proposed another two year freeze in 2014, he is also well-known for his record of battling with the university system -- initiating cuts, and eliminating labor protections. His 2015 budget included $300 million in cuts to the university system -- one of the most drastic cuts to higher education in the nation along with Louisiana Gov. (and presidential candidate) Bobby Jindal's proposed cuts. The cuts were later reduced to $250 million, and signed into law by the governor. Walker hasn't limited education cuts to the University of Wisconsin system, he also cut the Wisconsin Technical College System by 30 percent.

On top of slashing funding, Walker added plans to change the overall university system, which ATTN: previously outlined. On Sunday, he signed a bill that "weakens tenure protections," Politico explains. Walker's budget allows the Board of Regents to make decisions about tenure: 16 of the 18 members of the board are appointed by the governor.

The impact of the cuts is not just felt by students in Wisconsin: the University of Wisconsin-Madison raised its out of state tuition to make up for budget shortfalls. "Public universities are able to provide substantially lower in-state tuition because of state funding," Chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote in a blog post earlier this year. "As that revenue source declines, we must find other revenue sources or it will be difficult to maintain the same level of subsidy to our in-state students."

Walker also reduced funding for the financial aid program, The Wisconsin Grants and remained silent on a proposal to allow Wisconsin students to refinance their loans at a lower interest rate. "Walker’s allegiances and priorities aligned more closely with cuts to the education system than relief for the state’s 1 million graduates with student loans," Stephen Dash, CEO of Credible, wrote for the Huffington Post.

2. Marijuana

Walker has stated that he has never smoked marijuana, telling the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "The wildest thing I did in college was have a beer." (Walker attended Marquette University, and later dropped out in 1990 to take a full-time job with the American Red Cross.)

In terms of legalizing marijuana, in April, Rep. Melissa Sargent (D) introduced legislation to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis use. The bill is unlikely to go anywhere, but if it does make it to Governor Walker's desk for signature, it is likely to be vetoed. Walker apparently has apparently deflected the issue. "It may be something that resonates in the future, but I just don’t see any movement for it right now," he told Fox 6 Now.

In 2014, Walker referred to the discredited refrain that marijuana is a "gateway drug." He has also commented that smoking marijuana is not the same as just having a beer.

3. Immigration

In terms of immigration, Walker has been inconsistent: he currently appears to be against granting a pathway to citizenship, though in 2002 he supported one.

The Washington Post chronicled his recent comments on immigration: in an April 2015 interview with Glenn Beck, he stated he was against amnesty in terms of granting citizenship, stating that immigrants “have to go back to their country of origin” and wait in line to become U.S. citizens.

Walker has not commented on the DREAM Act. As of late his camp has emphasized securing the border, and stated that President Obama's executive order on immigration should be repealed.

4. Environment

Scott Walker's record on the environment in Wisconsin is alarming to many environmentalists. An article from Scientific American reads "How Scott Walker Dismantled Wisconsin's Environmental Legacy," while one from (the albeit left-leaning) Mother Jones states "Scott Walker Is the Worst Candidate for the Environment."

Walker has avoided the question of climate change -- even when asked by a kid above. So what did Walker do to earn these headlines? During his time as governor, Walker "presided over a series of controversial rollbacks in environmental protection, including relaxing laws governing iron mining and building on wetlands, in both cases to help specific companies avoid regulatory roadblocks," according to Scientific American. He also removed water quality restrictions by allowing companies to delay phosphorus pollution restrictions if they could show that it caused a financial burden.

The governor has also tried to restrict renewable energy, like wind, and proposed cutting funds for renewable energy at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Scott Walker proposed cuts to the states Department of Natural Resources (DNR); this agency is responsible for protecting air, water, and wildlife quality. "In his 2015–17 budget, released in February, he proposed eliminating a third of the DNR’s 58 scientist positions and 60 percent of its 18 environmental educator positions," Scientific American reported. The final budget, which was signed by Walker on Sunday, cut 18 people from the DNR staff. Walker also vetoed a section allowing half of revenues from DNR to go to land purchase and stewardship. All funds must go to debt reduction.

“I hate hyperbole, but I can honestly say that this is one of the two worst conservation budgets in the past 50 years,” George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, who was formerly with the DNR, told the Journal-Sentinel.

Walker also has ties to the Koch brothers, who donated to his gubernatorial campaign and David Koch praised him earlier this year. In 2008, prior to his election as governor, Walker signed the Koch-supported "No Climate Tax Pledge," a pledge that has been tied to a lack of action on climate change in congress, as lawmakers who sign it are pledging not to sign onto climate bills that raise revenue for the government (i.e. cap-and-trade).

5. LGBT rights

Despite the fact that Gov. Scott Walker's two sons support marriage equality, Walker does not. He has stated that he believes marriage should be defined as between a man and a women. And in a recent CNN interview, his sons say they respect his opinion and will not attempt to change it.

Following the June 26 Supreme Court Decision, which expanded the constitutional right to marriage to same-sex couples, Walker released a statement, which called the decision a "grave mistake," suggested a constitutional amendment to let states define marriage, and vowed to protect citizens' religious liberty.

In practice, Walker told MSNBC that he has attended a same-sex wedding reception -- not the ceremony but the reception.

“That’s certainly a personal issue. For a family member, Tonette and I and our family have already had a family member who’s had a reception," Walker told MSNBC. "I haven’t been at a wedding. That’s true even though my position on marriage is still that it’s defined between a man and a woman, and I support the constitution of the state. But for someone I love, we’ve been at a reception.”