Gov. Walker makes budget announcement flanked by extra security, says he may call out National GuardWisconsin News
-- With extra security at his side, Governor Scott Walker said thousands of state employees would have to be laid off if he and the Legislature do not remove almost all bargaining power from public employee unions.
MADISON - With extra security at his side, Governor Scott Walker said thousands of state employees would have to be laid off if he and the Legislature do not remove almost all bargaining power from public employee unions.
Four Capitol police officers were at the news conference in Madison where the Republican Walker explained his plans to cover a $137-million deficit in the state budget that expires in June. Union leaders were angered when Walker refused to bargain with them, while repeatedly saying that state workers need to pay more for their pensions and health insurance. Today, Walker explained that silence by saying he had nothing to negotiate. In his words, “Good-faith negotiations require give-and-take,” and the state does not have finances to offer. The governor said the state’s been broke for years and quote, “It’s about time somebody stood up and told the truth.”
Walker’s plan would only allow state-and-local public unions to negotiate their wages – and nothing more than the rate of inflation, unless voters approve higher raises in referendums. But police and fire unions – who supported Walker in last fall’s election – would be exempt from the rollbacks. Also, employees who don’t join unions would no longer have to pay union dues like they do now. Walker called his plan modest, and he said it’s in line with what the private sector’s doing.
But opponents of the plan and public union leaders disputed that. Rick Badger of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees called Walker’s plan “radical” and said it was not “something anyone could roll over and just take.” Badger said the governor was pitting public workers against themselves. “This is not a modest proposal, this is a radical proposal,” Badger said Friday. “What’s really sad about this is, the governor never chose to speak to the affected parties.” Badger questioned how stripping his members of their bargaining rights will help improve the state’s economy. “Does this really make the state of Wisconsin better, if we basically gut benefits and make it impossible for people to bargain fairly for wages? How does this help the 250,000 jobs that the governor hopes to create, by making the jobs that already exist, worse?”
Walker said he would not ask employees to take more unpaid furlough days beyond the 16 they were supposed to take over the past two years. He told employees in an e-mail that quote, “Our citizens expect great service and you have delivered.” Also today, Walker told reporters he was prepared to have the National Guard respond if there’s any unrest among state employees – and he has briefed the Guard and state agencies about his security plans. Walker said he’s confident employees will keep showing up for work, and he does not except problems. Still, Walker said he’s been working on contingency plans in case state employees do walk out or make trouble. Walker’s measure would still make public employee strikes illegal in Wisconsin.
Governor Walker wants state lawmakers to vote next week on his budget repair bill that tries to take away bargaining rights from most public employee unions. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said his members would ask lots of questions, especially about the plan to let most unions negotiate only their wages. Fitzgerald said last night he was not sure if he had the votes to pass the measure in the Senate. But today, the Republican governor said he had no doubt that both houses would pass the bill – because if they don’t, 1,500 state employees would be laid off before June 30th, and up to six-thousand more would have to be let go in the following two years.
Members of the state government’s largest employee union were told today that their current contract extension will expire on March 13th. The state’s Office of Employment Relations sent a letter to the Wisconsin State Employees’ Union which said their latest contract extension would run out in just over a month.