The former coal industry executive and statewide business advocate was unanimously backed Tuesday by the economic-development committee following an hour-long hearing.
It's the first in a series of hearings on Gov. Tom Corbett's Cabinet nominations that must be confirmed by the full Senate.
One subject that didn't come up was the Legislature's "walking-around money," tens of millions of dollars a year in special grants that legislative leaders dole out - mainly through the department's programs - for lawmakers' pet projects back home.
Corbett has vowed to stop the practice. Walker told reporters that how that is done is up to the governor.