If you are sensing a pattern here, it's because there is one. Walker is raising his national profile and speaking out on national, rather than merely state, issues. He is also positioning himself relative to other possible 2016 contenders.
In his discussion on immigration. Walker said "he supports a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants but said that people who are waiting in line should have "first preference."
You’ve got to find a way to say that people who are in line right now have first preference," the Republican governor said at POLITICO’s third annual State Solutions Conference in Washington.
And while Republicans — including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — have recently been outspoken about the need for immigration reform, Walker said that the issue is the country needs to deal with and not just Republicans.
Walker said that in addition to not having enough visas for immigrants is that the system in general is broken.
"We just have a broken system. And to me, if somebody wants to come in and live the American dream and work hard … we should have a system that works and let’s people in," Walker told POLITICO’s Jonathan Martin at the event.
He added: "The vast majority of people want to come here for the right reasons. They want to live the American dream."
WALLACE: With Washington headed for the sequester, the nation's governors are in town, and they are warning those federal spending cuts may drive their states back into recession.
Here to talk about it, Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Democratic Governor Jack Markell of Delaware, head of the National Governors Association.
And, gentlemen, welcome.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: Thank you.
WALLACE: Let's start with the sequester and what it will mean to your two states.
Governor Walker, according to a study, it will cost Wisconsin $1.8 billion and 36,000 jobs, and mean big cuts in health services for mothers and children and special education funding. How worried are you about the sequester in terms of Wisconsin? And do you support congressional Republicans' willingness to let the cuts kick in if the alternative is to raise taxes, the Obama idea?
WALKER: Well, I think all of us as governors have a real concern about the impact is going to be on our respective statements, both in terms of the potential, the cuts, if they do nothing, but also, in terms of what some of the alternatives might be. I mean, we already had the first wave of impact of tax increases from the last budget deal, just a little over a month ago.
And we are seeing the impact -- I mean, a typical family making $50,000 now is paying $1,000 more a year in terms of taxes. That's money out of the economy as well.
And, so, if we're not careful, a tax increase at one end can be a problem. Severe cuts on the other end could be a problem. One of the biggest problems in this city, too many times they kick the can, doesn't matter which party, down the block, if you will, and that don't really solve the problem.
So, our hope is between now and March 1st, to find a way to provide some better alternatives to the cuts in the sequester.
WALLACE: But you wouldn't support the Obama deal of a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts?
WALKER: Well, I'm confused, because when the president proposed the sequester back in 2011, he said the cuts are so bad in this that the Congress and administration will come back and provide a better alternative of cuts, and not new taxes. They already have the tax increases. That came at the end of this last year when we avoided -- at least temporarily avoided the fiscal cliff.
The challenge now is to find better, long-term ways to solve the fiscal problems facing this country right here in Washington.
Governor Walker, let's turn to a specific issue with you. The last time we talked, you were battling and beating the public workers unions on their collective bargaining rights. The issue is still in the courts and still being appealed.
But, what has the effect of your reforms been both on the budget and the -- for the state and for localities, and, for the unions?
WALKER: Well, it's been positive for the taxpayers. The taxpayers won, not only in our recall election. They won every time we've been upheld in the courts, in both state courts and the federal courts.
And the real impact, we just announced last Wednesday, in our state budget, was we went two years ago from a $3.6 billion budget deficit to nearly a half a billion dollar surplus. We took that money and invested it in tax cuts. We increased funding, based on performance for our schools. We invested in things like Jack talked about with workforce development. Those are things we're able to.
WALLACE: Did that specifically come from the fact that the public workers unions couldn't negotiate? Couldn't collectively bargain?
WALKER: Well, in terms of collective bargaining, we knew two years ago, unlike what they're doing here in Washington, we had to tackle the biggest part of our budget. In Washington, they're not tackling entitlements.
We knew that the biggest driver in our budget -- every state is different -- was aid to local governments. And we know if we're going to reduce that, the only way to do it without crippling local services was empowering -- much as I had been a local official for eight years -- was empowering local governments to be able to make changes, not just in terms of pension and health care contributions but even things like stopping overtime abuse, work rule changes, schedule things that make things more financially available for our schools and our local governments.
We did that, and, in turn, we were able to balance our budget. Our economy got better.
WALLACE: Well, I want to stay with ObamaCare, though, if you will -- because, Governor Walker, you made a very different decision. You have refused the expanded Medicaid even though the feds were talking about picking up all the cost -- as Governor Markell mentions -- for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter.
And you also said, "We're not going to run the health exchange. We're going to let Washington do it."
WALKER: Well, for us, every state is a little different. Governor Markell and I talked about this, not only between Democrats and Republicans, but even sometimes amidst members of the same party.
In our case, it was a better deal for us not to take the funds, and, instead, we're able to do an alternative, we reduced the number of uninsured, by 224,580. We actually reduced the number of people on Medicaid, put 87,000 people into the marketplace and replaced them with 82,000 people who currently are living in poverty today but weren't eligible under a cap in the past from my predecessor.
WALLACE: We're getting a little in the weeds. But I want to ask you, because you pointed out the fact that there has been some difference within the parties. As you well know, seven Republican governors have agreed to the expansion of Medicare, to 133 percent of poverty, here they are up on the screen, including well-known conservatives like Rick Scott of Florida, this week, John Kasich of Ohio.
And, they say they are doing it because of, if you will, free money, the fact that they said, our taxpayers are having to pay into this system, so they've got to get the benefits of it and if the government is willing to pay 100 percent of the cost, we'd be crazy not to accept it.
And critics say that your decision is, one, that's going to cost your state millions of dollars and, two, going to mean a lot of people in Wisconsin are uninsured.
WALKER: Well, actually -- but, again, every state is different. That's why I won't criticize them, be at those Republicans or Democrats, because every state is different. In our case we reduced the number of uninsured, we reduced the number of people on Medicaid, and we actually saved a little bit of money.
WALLACE: But is part of it also that you are afraid that the feds aren't going to live up to this?
WALKER: No doubt about it. The federal government has a $16.5 trillion debt today. Just for my cost to continue Medicaid in the state of Wisconsin without any expansion, it costs me $644 million more in this budget. Thirty-nine percent of that is because the federal government, under the Affordable Care Act and other provisions, is pulling back from the previous commitments. That's today. That's without the expansion.
So, I really look at that and say, if they can't fulfill -- if Congress can't fulfill the commitments they've made, I'm concerned where they're going to be in the future. But that's unique to Wisconsin.
WALLACE: But let me -- no, it isn't unique to Wisconsin because --
WALKER: But the numbers are unique. What I'm saying is every state is a little bit different --