Heartland’s 28th Anniversay Benefit Dinner a hit despite cancellation by Wisconsin’s Governor Walker
August 13, 2012
The Heartland Institute held its 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on Thursday, August 9, in the Grand Ballroom at Chicago’s Navy Pier. Six hundred guests set a new attendance record.
For 28 years the Heartland Institute has been discovering, developing and promoting free-market solutions to social and economic problems as one of the country’s largest and most influential “think tanks” defending individual liberty and limited government. Its researchers, writers, and public speakers are among the most frequently quoted source of advice and commentary on a wide range of policy issues, from taxes and health care to environment and school reform.
Heartland is unique among think tanks as it produces six monthly public policy newspapers: Budget & Tax News, Environment and Climate News, School Reform News, Health Care News, Infortech & Telecom News, and Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE) News. These publication are sent in printed form or digitally to every national and state and some 8,4000 county and local elected officials nationwide. When states have issues that need clarification, they turn to Heartland research for advise and guidance.
In greeting the guests, CEO Joe Bast, coauthor or editor himself of twenty-one books, including the Patriot’s Handbook, and in spite of the record-breaking attendance, exclaimed with evident pleasure: “Welcome to our little party this evening.” Among the gathering were eighty-five elected officials from thirty-two different state, even an appellant court judge.
Joe Bast was not shy in his criticism of George W. Bush for his spending in initiating the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, but was quick to point out that Obama “made things worse.” While the national debt rose $4,899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency, it has gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office in less than four years. It now stand at $15,566 trillion. Home values have declined by fourteen percent and the number of Americans on food stamps has increased from 32 million to 46 million.
Continuing, Joe Bast pointed out that unlike Bill Clinton when he sought re-election, President Obama is not moving toward the middle. The results of the 2010 election –which saw the biggest turnover of legislators from one party to the other since 1938 — seem not to have influenced the agenda of the current administration.
Joe Bast, in a display of subtle and whimsical humor, related what to expect should Obama be re-elected. “Obama will continue to do the same if he wins in 2012, even testing a ‘new’ theory that higher taxes result in economic growth and jobs.” Laughter and smiles followed Bast’s comment.
In speaking about The Heartland Institute twenty-eight year ago, Bast told of a beginning budget of $21,000. There were fewer than fifty donors; $5,000 was the largest contribution. What a change to now when in the last three months, 3,000 new donors were added.
Early on in the night came the announcement by Joe Bast that the publicized speaker, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, had to cancel out when his wife was hospitalized with an appendectomy. We were informed that Mrs. Walker was resting comfortably in the hospital.
Sent in Walker’s place was Mike Huebsch, Wisconsin’s Secretary of the Department of Education. Secretary Huebsch was Gov. Walker’s right-hand man during Walker’s two-year fight to rein in state spending and require that union members pay a bit more for their state-provided benefits. Mike Huebsch was involved in every aspect of Walker’s kerfuffle with Wisconsin’s Democratic state legislatures.
Given Huebsch’s insight and the story he told, no one seemed to be upset over Governor Walker’s absence. Mike Huebsch spoke about what is going on now (and past actions) in the Wisconsin State Capitol at Madison.
In praising The Heartland Institute, Huesch told of an incident when both he and Walker were serving together in the Wisconsin state legislature. The issue of global warming came up. Information distributed by Heartland was consulted “to show that the emperor has no clothes.”
Both served together for seven years. Huebsch was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1995 to 2011, representing people of the 94th Assembly District. Governor Walker won a special election to the State Assembly in 1993. He left the State Assembly in 2002 after winning a special election to become Milwaukee County Executive. In 2011 then Governor Walker appointed Mike Huebsch as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
Mike Huebsch presented a glowing and enlightening report about Gov. Walker and what Walker faced upon taking office. Huebsch considers Walker’s conservative credential beyond reproach. Huebsch further related how Walker never waived throughout his subjection to all the Democratic shenanigans or to the anger expressed by Democratic legislators because of Walker’s unwillingness to back down, even when Walker faced a recall election.
The day after Walker was elected in Nov. of 2010, he informed Huebach, “Let’s get together and decide on a budget.”
Previous administrations had spent hundreds of millions of dollars more than was coming in. The administration prior to Walker’s election had taken two million dollars out of a fund that was declared illegal by the supreme court.
Governor Walker realized that he had no choice facing a situation where future generations of Wisconsinites would be left with a bankrupt state. As both Walker and Huebach have two sons, no way were they going to subject their sons to the type of failed state that Wisconsin was moving toward. Immediate action had to be taken.
Over were those days when Wisconsin would be running a budget deficit of $3.6 billion and then some.
Gov. Walker made a promise that he would only spend the amount of money that was available to spend. Walker further realized that government doesn’t create jobs, but that people do. Government can only create an environment where people either want to stay or to leave a state.
Though Gov. Walker’s policies Wisconsinites are beginning to notice the positive results. The Wisconsin state government has saved over one billion dollars through reform by asking public employees to pay more for their benefits. This year is the first time in a decade when Wisconsin will be starting with a small surplus.
Under former Governor Jim Doyle and the Democrats, Wisconsin’s business climate ranked 41st. Since the election of Walker Wisconsin has improved 21 spots, to 20th in the nation.
Mike Huebsch did admit that despite trying to anticipate union opposition when collective bargaining reform was introduced in the House and the Senate, what wasn’t anticipated was how negative and prolonged the opposition would become. It was thought that within a week or so the proposed reform legislation would pass through the two legislative chambers.
Nor did Republican legislators realize that legislators from across the aisle would so love Illinois that they would camp out in Illinois for a few weeks.
As it was, government ground to a halt when unions bussed in people from all over the country to occupy the state capitol in Madison.
Mike Huebsch related how he was able to don a t-shirt and cap and walk among the protesters whereupon he found that some of the protesters 1) believed that Gov. Walker had evil intent, 2) others were grey-haired folk with ponytails from the 60′s era who were delighted to be protesting again, 3) while further into the crowd the protesters became much more militant.
A low point for Huebsch came early in March of 2010 when control was lost of the first floor of the Capitol building.
Many police officers would be required to handle a crowd of 1000 or so individuals that was being forming and would reach the Capitol in the early evening (Through social media it was possible to track the formation of protest groups and about what time action would take occur.).
Most of the policemen for crowd control were drawn from the city of Madison in Dade County, who were not interested in keeping the protesters out of the Capitol building and even refused to comply. Democratic lawmakers opened the ground floor windows of the Capitol building to allow sympathizers to come in, circumventing the building’s security. We all will remember the Capitol sit-in by the protesters. It wasn’t a pretty picture.
The high point for Huebsch was when the Republican legislators and Governor Walker were able to escape from the Capitol building following the vote on Act 10 without the protesters being able to block their exit.
A tunnel connects the Capitol building to the Justice Center across the street. Buses parked outside the Capitol were thought by the protesters to be the way legislators and Walker would escape. Not so. The buses were only decoys. Before the protesters figured out what had happened, SUV’s parked near where the tunnel ended at the Justice Center allowed all to be taken to their cars on the other side of the Madison.
The legacy of what happened in Wisconsin is twofold, according to Mike Huebsch:
1. Other states will have the courage to take action similar to what Gov. Walker did in Wisconsin to rescue their states from financial ruin..
2. The power of the people was released as counties and municipalities were no longer locked into collective bargaining contracts that ties their hands and imposed unnecessary expenses.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought about the mess here in Illinois and how the positive reform happening in Wisconsin under Governor Walker could transform Illinois into one in which business and people could thrive without the heavy burden of taxes and excessive regulations.
Illinois ranks as the third worst state to do business; among those states levying corporate income taxes, Illinois’s rate ranks third highest; and Illinois ranks 2nd highest in public debt.
Will Illinois follow Wisconsin’s lead, and elect leaders able to take on the public sector unions and restore financial order to the state? Only the voters in Illinois could make it happen. One thing is certain. Until they stop voting into office time and again the very politicians whose policies produced the current fiscal and economic crisis, Illinois voters can’t expect anything different than the failed policies of the past.