Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he won't cave in to union and Democratic demands that he compromise on his effort to curb employee benefit programs. He also vows he won't "kick the can down the street" when it comes to dealing with his state's fiscal woes.
Appearing Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" with David Gregory, Walker laid out his plan to save his state from fiscal bankruptcy while destroying several false claims about his legislation, which Senate Democrats are delaying by refusing to appear for a final vote.
Among the significant issues covered during his "Meet the Press" interview, Walker:
Denied he is destroying public employee unions.
His proposed law still allows public employee unions to exist and engage in collective bargaining for their wages. The state denies the unions the use of collective bargaining to seek pension and health benefits.
Claimed that unions are not acting in good faith.
Public employee unions have been claiming they will accept cutbacks in their benefits, but Walker says they can't be trusted and have been rushing through
contracts that give their members extravagant benefit packages.
Walker told Gregory: "We [have] seen that actions speak louder than words. For us to balance the $3.6 billion deficit we have — but not only now, but to ensure we can continue to do that in the future so our kids don't inherit these same dire consequences — we've got to have assurances. And over the past two weeks, even after they made those promises, we've seen local union after local union rush to their school boards, their city councils, their technical school boards and rush through contracts in the past two weeks that had no contributions to the pension and no contribution to health care. And, in fact, in one case in Janesville, they actually were pushing through a pay increase. Actions do speak louder than words."
Explained that the law helps local governments curb union demands.
Walker said: "This bill precisely helps local governments, and it's effective once it passes. In fact, we're, we're facing a $3.6 billion deficit. Like nearly every other state across the country, we're going to have to cut more than a billion dollars from our schools and local governments. You know, in New York and California, where there are Democrats for governors, they're doing that. The difference here is, with this budget repair bill, we give those schools and local governments more — almost a billion and a half dollars worth of savings. So the savings they get from our budget repair bill exceed the amount."
Said public employee unions are making unusual demands on taxpayers.
Walker said: "In Wisconsin, a great example of that is, we have, in many of our school districts, a requirement through collective bargaining contracts that they have to buy their health insurance from a company that's owned by our state teacher's union, WA Trust. Because of that, it costs them up to $68 million more than if they could just buy it from the state employee healthcare plan. Those are real costs about putting real money in the classroom instead of into these collective bargaining agreements."
Pointed out his new plan is consistent with how the federal government handles many employees.
Walker explained: "Well, our proposal is less restrictive than the federal government is today. Under Barack Obama, he presides over a federal government where most federal employees do not have collective bargaining for, for benefits, nor for pay. So what we're asking for is something less restrictive than what the federal government has."
Explained why police and firemen are exempt from his new law.
Walker said: "We saw two weeks ago, when this debate first started, teachers here in Madison walked off the job for three days. Now, that was an inconvenience for a lot of parents. I know I've got two public — kids in public school. Anytime you have a disturbance like that, it's an inconvenience. But that, contrasted to the fact that even if there was one jurisdiction across the state where firefighters or police officers weren't on the job in full force, I can't afford to have a fire or crime committed where there's a gap in service. And it ultimately just boils down to public safety."
Walker concluded by telling Gregory that he stands by his statement, "This is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history."
Walker told Gregory: "It's one of those where, for year after year after year, not just the last governor, but governors before, legislatures before, have kicked the can. They've taken one-time fixes to push the budget problems off into the future. We can't do that. We're broke. Like nearly every other state across the country, we're broke. And it's about time somebody stood up and told the truth in this state and said, 'Here's our problem. Here's the solution,' and acted on it. Because, if we don't, we fail to make a commitment to the future. Our children will face even more dire consequences than what we face today."
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