After days of attempting to stay mum on Wisconsin Republicans’ failed effort to dismantle the state’s government transparency laws, Gov. Scott Walker (R) weighed in on the controversy Friday morning, calling it “a huge mistake.”
In a radio interview with Charlie Sykes, the soon-to-be GOP presidential candidate played down his office’s role in crafting a budget provision that would have put new limits on what government documents would be covered by open records law.
“We brought up some things that we still think are legitimate in terms of records that involve things like having our staff giving you options on briefings and things like that. Not anything that’s external in that regard,” he said, according to Sykes’ Right Wisconsin website. “In the end, I think it was a mistake to even think about it in the budget, even though it didn’t come from us.”
The Thursday before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved a budget package including the anti-transparency provisions, which were quickly condemned by both liberals and conservatives. Republicans announced Saturday that they were dropping the measures in a statement penned by Walker and signed by his GOP statehouse counterparts.
Nevertheless, Walker’s initial refusal to elaborate whether his office was behind the budget language further fueled the fire, as many noted he was already facing a lawsuit for not turning over certain documents in a public records request.
Many Republican lawmakers who initially voted in favor of the provisions have since backed away from them, but some still say the changes to open records laws are necessary and promise to try to pass them through the typical committee process, rather than as provisions buried in the budget.
“I think it’s right to send it to the Legislative Council,” Walker said Friday.