Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker related a lesson learned in childhood that drives his desire for fiscal responsibility in government when he appeared Friday night at the Lake County Republican Federation's 50th Anniversary Spring Gala.
"In my household, my grandmother always reminded us that she and my grandfather didn't pay for anything on credit, except the mortgage and the farm my mother was born on," Walker told 600 guests in Lincolnshire Marriott Resort's main ballroom.
"Everything else was paid in cash. You bought a car, you saved up for it and you paid for it in cash," he added to hearty applause. "She always told me, 'Don't spend money you don't have,' and that's incredibly important in government."
Walker has been criticized and praised for his successful push to have public workers contribute more to their pensions and health insurance, while losing the ability to collectively bargain benefits and work conditions in an effort to reduce Wisconsin's budget deficit. Voters will determine whether Walker continues as governor in a June 5 recall election.
Although Walker received a warm reception inside the hotel, about 100 protesters started lining up about 5 p.m. on Marriott Drive off Milwaukee Avenue to provide a frosty greeting for the Republican governor and others arriving to the dinner.
"When you've had enough, it doesn't matter what the weather is like," said protester A.J. Rozdilsky, a union autoworker from Stone Park. "We're sick of watching folks like Scott Walker help big business get richer without seeing anything on our end."
Many of the protesters came on buses after gathering at the United Auto Workers hall in Lincolnshire. They broke into various chants, such as "Union-busting is disgusting," and held signs including "Scott Walker Go Home."
"We drove all the way here to show solidarity and to show Scott Walker that we're tired of his tricks," said Patricia Ewing of Chicago.
Two busloads of protesters that pulled up to the hotel's main entrance on private property were escorted by Lincolnshire police to the public Marriott Drive. Security was visible around the hotel's main ballroom where Walker spoke Friday night.
As for other parts of his speech, Walker said his initiatives have caused Wisconsin property taxes to decline and that tort reform has reined in costly, frivolous lawsuits. He said there is much at stake in the June recall election.
"For us, it's simple: Are we going to go backward or are we going to go forward?" Walker said.
He also criticized how states typically fund education. He said the message often is that schools will decline in quality if taxes aren't raised for more operating revenue -- something that wouldn't occur at a private-sector business.
"We need to spend our money like it's our own, not somebody else's," Walker said.
Walker's appearance in Lincolnshire came a little more than a year after five runaway Wisconsin state senators made a pit stop at a Grayslake hotel to watch his budget address. The senators fled Wisconsin in protest of Walker's position on the public worker benefits.
An estimated 4,000 demonstrators were on hand for Walker's visit to Springfield on Tuesday. Many of the protesters were union members from Chicago and elsewhere.