MADISON, Wis. — Democrat Mary Burke is promising that if she's elected as Wisconsin governor she will work to repeal a law signed by Gov. Scott Walker and opposed by veterans that makes it more difficult for victims of asbestos exposure to receive damages.
Walker, a Republican seeking a second term, has made his record on veterans' issues a focus of his re-election campaign. But he has taken heat for signing the asbestos bill in March despite opposition from three veterans' groups representing more than 100,000 members.
Walker also angered some veterans by repealing a 2009 law that had expanded the rights of veterans and other protected groups to file state employment discrimination lawsuits seeking damages.
In a statement from her campaign released Thursday, Burke said she would work to reinstate that law as well as repeal the asbestos law.
Walker's campaign said Monday in response that the governor "has a strong record of supporting Wisconsin veterans and their families."
Walker, who declared 2012 the "year of the veteran," has bolstered staff at veterans' homes, invested millions to help shore up a veterans' trust fund and offered incentives to help ex-military members find a job or start a business. Walker also signed into law a bill allowing veterans to use military education, training and other experiences to fulfill requirements for professional credentials.
"As governor, my priority has been putting the needs of Wisconsin's veterans ahead of politics and petty partisan differences," Walker said on his website.
Burke, a former state Commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle Corp. executive, also announced the formation of a statewide group of veterans and military family members who will be working to get her elected and with whom she will be consulting throughout her campaign.
Burke said if elected she would restore or add a number of committees to work with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, including ones focused on increasing access to and improving programs that help veterans get jobs and an education, and to ensure veteran input about operation of the state's veterans homes.
Burke also said she would require that the department establish a federal liaison office to work with the Federal Aid Management Service, create a university services program ombudsman, and re-establish a council to provide veteran input on the operations of the state veterans' homes.