Governor-elect Jim Doyle will be sworn in Jan. 6 as the first Democratic governor to serve Wisconsin in 16 years. A $2.6 million budget deficit is just one of the challenges facing him. However, many people said they feel Doyle has the experience and qualities necessary to meet them.
\He's tough. That's his biggest strength,"" said Mitch Henck, Doyle's Communications Director from 2000-'01.
Henck, now a WIBA-AM radio host, added he believes Doyle will be fair when deciding which programs to cut.
Fixing the budget deficit will be the first problem Doyle addresses, according to spokesperson Thad Nation.
""That has to be the first priority,"" Nation said.
Nation said Doyle will draw on the knowledge he gained from serving as state attorney general for 12 years. Besides having run a statewide agency, he also served with two governors and learned a lot from their decisions, Nation said.
UW-Madison political science Professor Don Kettl said he agreed that the budget is the primary concern, but other measures, such as appointments, could bear equal weight on the shape of Wisconsin's future.
Doyle recently appointed Susan Goodwin, his campaign manager, as his chief of staff. However, Kettl said Doyle still needs to make many important appointments, including education and health advisors. In addition, Kettl said Doyle ""could instantly change the balance of power in the Board of Regents"" where nine out of 17 seats are currently up for grabs.
However, Doyle must make decisions before the new Republican-controlled Legislature convenes, according to Kettl and UW-Madison political science Professor Dennis Dresang.
A legislature controlled by the opposite party, a recent result of the 2002 elections, may be a problem for some executives, but Henck said it could be beneficial for Doyle. He added that Doyle's biggest challenge will be his own party, as it will be harder to cut spending increases and programs with a Democratic-controlled Legislature than a Republican one.
""He'll keep focused on the fiscal reality, and he won't cave to people who will try to promote liberal guilt,"" Henck said.
While Dresang said Doyle would have to be careful of missteps with the legislature, he also added that there is a willingness between Doyle and the legislature to solve problems, especially after the recent caucus investigation. That inquiry looked into the use of state employees on state time by political campaigns, something illegal under Wisconsin law.
""There is a new spirit that seems to be evident of people working together,"" Dresang said.
Although Doyle and the Legislature face many challenges, Dresang and Henck said the governor-elect would also have many opportunities.
""He has the opportunity to prove to the state that Democrats can handle the economy and a tough fiscal crisis,"" Henck said.
Despite these challenges, Nation he believes said Doyle will be able to serve the state well by drawing on his knowledge of his constituents.
""He knows the people of Wisconsin. He has a very good sense of what they expect from their elected officials,"" Nation said.