By Bill Glauber
Gov. Scott Walker received a standing ovation from a crowd of around 250 business leaders Tuesday as he was introduced to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
"We're going to try to take our state forward instead of backward," he said.
"We've got the Packers, you've got the Bears. What could bring us together? The Vikings," Walker said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.
Walker, speaking without notes, reflected on the choice Wisconsin voters face in the recall, a constant theme of his campaign as he talked of going backward to budget deficits or forward to balanced budgets.
"Wisconsin couldn't wait, we had to take action," Walker said, explaining his move to push for reforms in a special legislative session.
He talked of tort reform and streamlining government regulations and touted the creation of 17,500 new private sector jobs in the first two months of the year.
"Our unemployment rate is now below 7%, for the first time since 2008," he said.
"We understand, it's not the government that creates jobs, it's the people who create jobs. The best thing we can do is get government out of the way ..." he said.
"We're turning things around, we're heading in the right direction, we're moving Wisconsin forward but we have a long way to go," Walker said.
"The simple reality is, Illinois and Wisconsin, like nearly every other state had big deficits to deal with. In our case it was a $3.6 billion deficit ... And we looked around, other states are going to make poor decisions, we want to avoid that in Wisconsin," he said.
"We avoided a tax increase," he said.
Walker said he brought an old bumper sticker to Illinois, after the state passed a 66% income tax increase. The bumper sticker said: "Escape to Wisconsin."
"When you raise taxes on individuals, on businesses, that wealth, opportunity and jobs go somewhere else," he said.
"We avoided the major tax increases," Walker said.
He also pointed out how Wisconsin didn't lay off public-sector workers compared with other states.
He said Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.) proposed cutting Medicaid by $2.7 billion.
"We added $1.2 billion more to Medicaid in the state of Wisconsin so that we could fund things like Badgercare and Seniorcare and take care of our needy seniors and families," he said.
"We put in place long-term structural reforms that helped us balance not just our state government but our local governments," he said.
Walker also said, "is it a handful of union bosses" who get to call the shots or "the taxpayers?"
He talked about how his Legislative reforms helped school districts across the state bid out on health insurance saving millions of dollars.
"It's not always about more money; it's about spending the money you have more wisely," he said.
"What we did is fundamentally pro-education; it's about the kids, not the bureaucracy," Walker said.
Walker discussed the recall saying "a handful of big-government union bosses" think he is standing in the way of their power.
"We gave the vast majority of public employees in our state the freedom to choose," he said, referring to union dues.
"I think on June 5 you're going to ultimately see that when we prevail" it will send a powerful message to state capitals across the Midwest and ultimately to Congress.
Walker talked of Abraham Lincoln emerging from Illinois, as well as the Founding Fathers.
"In times of crisis, be it economic or fiscal, be it military of spiritual, what has made America great ... is we have had men and women of courage stand up" to think about their children and grandchildren.
"Let this be a call to action," he said.
"It's time to think about the future," he said in wrapping up the speech. "It's time to move our state and country forward."
At the end of the address, the crowd gave Walker a standing ovation.