Walker talks political climate, gun control, state budget

???We got a tremendous response across the board to Human Events???s honor!??? exclaimed Scott Walker Saturday afternoon.

Wisconsin???s Republican governor was referring, of course, to his being named ???Conservative of the Year??? for 2012 by the nation???s oldest conservative newsweekly. Human Events honored Walker for his reforms in the retirement and health care plans of some public employees in the Badger State and for enduring and emerging triumphant from an internationally-watched recall election last summer.

Walker, who is expected to seek re-election in 2014 and is already talked of as a potential presidential hopeful in 2016, told us that ???we have sent out the Human Events story, posted it online, and tweeted it. It???s awesome!???

Turning to Wisconsin, we reminded the governor how he spoke of calming what he called ???a fractious political climate??? after the recall election.

???And it has calmed down,??? he replied. ???I presented my budget a few weeks ago and, while Democrats [in the legislature] were not necessarily eager to embrace it, we are at least sitting down and talking now.???

One part of his budget that Walker strongly emphasized was its proposed expansion of choice in education.

???We are seeking to expand the voucher program???which actually started in Milwaukee with Democratic support???and we???ll try to expand charter schools as well. Look, wealthy families have a choice as to where to send their children to schools. We want to expand that choice to middle-class and lower-income families.???

Less than three months after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn,, the nation???s governors are discussing possible gun legislation at the state level. Walker pointed out that his state had its share of tragedy, with the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee last year that claimed seven lives.

???It???s a common issue for the governors of Connecticut, Colorado, Wisconsin and other states that have experienced tragedy,??? Walker told us. ???But the focus must be not on the weapons, but on the perpetrators of evil themselves.??? Because of the savings from his budget reforms, Walker noted, the state was able to secure $30 million in additional funding for mental health. This brought the overall funding for mental health last year to a higher aggregate amount than was spent on mental health by the state in the last thirty years, he said.

???And we do a better job at dealing with this issue at the state level rather than the federal level,??? Walker added.