Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

Gov. Scott Walker says the fundraising report he files in July will tell people whether he’s serious about running for a third term.

If his past campaigns are any guide, that would mean a haul in the neighborhood of $1.1 million to $3.5 million.

Walker told WisPolitics.com he doesn’t have a “magic number” for what he should raise in the first six months of 2017 ahead of a possible re-election bid the following year. Still, he said the first report he has to file in 2017 will send a message about his efforts to gear up for a potential run.

Looking at the first half of 2009, while he was still Milwaukee County exec and was preparing for a guv run, Walker raised more than $1.1 million. In 2013, having survived a recall attempt the year before and ramping up in case his re-election bid became another national cause, Walker pulled in $3.5 million for the first six months of the year.

“I think my past record shows we can raise a lot of money quickly,” Walker said.

The guv’s presidential campaign still had $140,635 in debt at the end of November, though that report didn’t include the bulk of the money he raised during fundraisers in Philadelphia and New York that came late in the month. Walker said he hoped his next report will show he was able to meet his goal of paying off that remaining debt by year’s end.

For Walker donors, a 2018 bid would come on the heels of four elections in just five years: the 2010 campaign, the 2012 recall, the 2014 re-elect and his ill-fated bid for president that he dropped in 2015.

But Walker said he has no fears of donor fatigue.

“To me, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” Walker said. “My real opponent will be the special interest groups, some of those in particular based in Washington, and so I think people will be energized and help out.”

Walker has said he plans to make a decision about seeking a third term after the budget and said he’s sticking to that timeline. He also said a third term would be his last as guv if he runs and wins.

Walker said generally speaking, when people talk about term limits, he believes 12 years is “the magic number.”

“I’m probably pushing my luck with my wife to do a third term if I ran,” Walker said. “There’s no way. If I ran for anything after that, I’d be a bachelor.”

Walker leaves door open for at least one transpo fee boost

The guv has consistently vowed to veto any budget that raises gas taxes or fees without a corresponding tax cut elsewhere. But Walker left the door open to charging the drivers of hybrid and electric cars more than they pay now, though he said that may not happen in this budget.

In his 2015-17 budget request, DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb proposed requiring owners of hybrid and electric cars to pay an additional $50 to register their cars on top of the current $75 fee. At the time, that was projected to generate $5.7 million over the biennium.

As the debate over transportation funding has progressed, some have suggested owners of hybrid and electric cars should pay a higher registration fee because they’re avoiding the gas tax, which helps fund road work, while still creating wear and tear on the state’s highway system.

Walker said that’s worth considering, though the revenue increase would be small.

“To me, if you’re ever going to address it, it probably would be not an add on, it probably would be part of some — and I don’t have the answer for this now — but some new way of aligning how we pay for transportation in the future,” Walker said.

Walker growing to like Trump

When the guv dropped out of the presidential race in September 2015, he called for others to follow his lead so Republicans could rally around a real conservative and oppose Donald Trump.

Then when the presidential primary hit Wisconsin, the guv actively campaigned for Ted Cruz, prompting Trump insults.

But he said in the interview he’s grown to like Trump.

“I certainly don’t embrace everything about him or every way that he goes about conducting himself,” Walker said. “But I love the possibilities that are clear by having him in the White House, and the House and the Senate, that we wouldn’t have before.”

Walker said he still has concerns about Trump “occasionally,” but also likes the president-elect’s candor and that he’s not wedded to anything in Washington. This prompts the guv to believe Trump would be “willing to try just about any reform out there.”

The party of the president in the White House typically has a tough midterm election, and some are already raising the possibility of a snapback against Trump in 2018, when Walker could be seeking a third term.

The guv predicted Trump and Republicans would do well if they deliver on promises such as tax changes that encourage American companies to bring back jobs they now have overseas.

“If for some reason they don’t, they’ll blame the people who made those promises and then didn’t do them. But I don’t think I’m in that category,” Walker said, adding even those who don’t agree with him know he follows through on his promises.

Listen to the full interview

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