In a press conference this evening, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker bluntly said the state was “broke” and that the lawmakers were left with no choice but to make “tough decisions,” including requiring more union concessions.
“We’re broke. Like nearly every state across the country, we don’t have any more money,” said Walker, noting the state’s $3.6 billion shortfall over the next two fiscal years.
Talking about President Obama, who called Walker’s proposal an “assault” on unions earlier this week, Walker said “He should stick to balancing the federal budget.”
He also addressed the unions’ new willingness to negotiate. “I’ve now heard, after several days in, that some union leaders at the state level, the same unions who tried to cram through a series of employee contracts in December … [are] now suddenly are talking about being interested in negotiating,” Walker remarked.
During the lame duck sessions of the previous governor, Democrat Jim Doyle, lawmakers had frantically worked to set new long-term contracts for union members, even pulling one assemblyman out of jail (he was serving a sentence for drunk driving) to cast a vote. The efforts failed in the senate, thanks to one Democrat senator’s surprise decision to vote against the contract.
But Walker doesn’t think it would be fair to agree to enter into contract negotiations. “We don’t have any money,” he said. “We can’t make a good faith effort to negotiate when we don’t have any money.”
He also stressed the importance of overturning most collective bargaining rights.
“For our local governments, we can’t expect … that somehow magically because a few people are suggesting that they might be willing to come to the table now that we can ensure that every district and every jurisdiction is able to achieve these savings just because a few people are now, at the eleventh hour, claiming they want to negotiate,” said Walker.
And he emphasized the value more budget-flexibility — something that hinges on eliminating most collective rights — would have for local governments. “In this bill, we’re going them [local governments] the tools to ensure they don’t have to incur massive layoffs and they don’t have to cut core programs at the state and school district level.”
Walker shrugged off the charges – made by Democratic state senators currently hiding in Illinois – that he had pushed the legislation through too quickly.
“Apparently two years ago 24 hours was time enough to raise taxes on the taxpayers of Wisconsin by $1 billion,” he said, talking about how 13 of the 14 absent Democratic state senators had voted for the tax hike. “Now a week … is not long enough.”
“The reality is, they’re not doing their job.”