Walker's message, says chamber president and CEO Doug Whitley, makes him “someone whom we should be paying attention to” in Illinois.
“Scott Walker represents the bold approach – swallow the castor oil today and you’re going to be better in the long term," says Mr. Whitley. "In Illinois, we’ve been doing the incremental approach. We’ve been doing right things but haven’t been bold enough to move the needle.”
Illinois raised income taxes last year, but the state Chamber of Commerce complains it did nothing to solve the state’s financial crisis. Instead, Whitley says, Illinois needs to look for solutions in restructuring Medicaid benefits and the state’s five public pension systems to make them more sustainable.
Walker could stand to benefit from his appearance if Illinois business people opt to contribute to his campaign to defeat the recall, but he didn't rally the Chamber of Commerce audience to financially support his campaign Tuesday.
Governor Quinn did not comment on Walker's appearance in Springfield, but his office did issue a handout to reporters that was meant to contradict many of Walker's assertions. It said, for instance, that Wisconsin lost 21,000 jobs last year and, in the first 13 months of Walker's tenure as governor, ranked last in job growth, citing the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Walker, for his part, likes to emphasize job growth in the private sector, saying 17,500 such jobs were created in January and February, and noting that Wisconsin's unemployment rate has been falling.
About 2,000 protesters, primarily representing labor organizations, gathered outside the hotel where Walker spoke Tuesday.