Governor Scott Walker was on Meet the Press this morning. Host David Gregory immediately began parroting the Left’s talking points, but Walker acquitted himself well:
GREGORY: So that context is important, because there’s collective bargaining, which you’d like to limit. And there are those, the specific contributions that you ask the unions. They said they would do that. They would meet those demands.
So the question that comes up again and again, is if you want to deal with the budget and the deficit, why not take yes for an answer?
WALKER: Well, because we’ve seen that actions speak louder than words. For us to balance the $3.6 billion deficit we have, not only now, but to insure we can continue to do it in the future, so our kids don’t inherit the 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 contribution to the pension and no contribution to health care.
And in fact one case in Janesville, they actually were pushing through a pay increase. Actions speaks louder than words —
GREGORY: But governor, you could have extended the bill — you could have extended the bill to those local government agencies. You chose not to.
WALKER: No, that’s just the opposite. I was a local government official for eight years. 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 $1 billion 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 $1.5 billion worth of savings.
So the savings they get from our budget repair bill exceed the amount —
GREGORY: But —
WALKER: — that they’re costing that state budget —
GREGORY: — all right, but let me — let me be clear, if the unions, who — who it seems to me have been clear in saying that they would agree to those extra contributions, if they did that, and you say you’re concerned about the budget shortfall, why not accept that?
WALKER: But when I — my point is, they can’t. Because they, the two people that suggested [that] are statewide union leaders. There are 1,000-plus municipalities, there’s 400 — more than 424 school districts, there’s 72 counties. I know — I used to be a county executive for eight years — I know that collective bargaining has to be done in every jurisdiction. They can’t guarantee that. And the actions of those local unions in the past two weeks show that.
If they were serious about it, they would have offered up contracts that — that paid something for health care and something more for pensions. But they’re not. The reality is, even beyond the five and the 12, collective bargaining does have a cost. In Wisconsin, a great example of that is, we have — in many of our school districts, a requirement to collective bargaining contract that they have to buy their health insurance from a company that’s owned by our state teachers union, W.A. Trust.
Because of that it costs them up to $68 million more than if they could just buy it from the state employee health care plans. Those are real costs, about putting real money in the classrooms, instead — in — into these collective bargaining agreements.
GREGORY: What’s wrong — but governor let me just —
WALKER: And to me at this — at this county level I tried to avoid layoffs.
GREGORY: — but what — what’s wrong with collective bargaining? Let’s be clear so unions organize public employees, they’re able to bargain not just about wages, but also about health benefits and pension benefits. What you’re trying to do is say no, you can just collectively bargain when it comes to how much you make, but not those other benefits.
GREGORY: What’s so wrong with that, collective bargaining?
WALKER: Well, our proposal is less restrictive than the federal government is today. Under Barack Obama, he presides over federal government when most federal employees do not have collective bargaining for benefits nor for pay. So what we’re asking for something less restrictive than what the federal government has in fact —
GREGORY: But I asked you a more specific question, which is what’s wrong with collective bargaining?
WALKER: Well for us it’s — it’s about the fact that again, as a local official, I can tell you personally, time and time again, because of collective bargaining when we had tough budgets in the past when I was at the county presiding as a C.O. there, I tried to do modest changes in pension, I tried to do modest changes in health care.
In fact, one year, I literally tried to do a 35-hour work week to try and avoid massive layoffs and furloughs and the union said, forget it. Embodied, emboldened by the fact that they had collective bargaining agreements, they said go ahead, literally lay off 400 or 500 people. And to me, laying off people in this economy is just completely unacceptable.
GREGORY: Let me — let me ask you about —
WALKER: If we do not get these changes and the Senate Democrats don’t come back. We’re going to be forced to make up the savings in layoffs and that to me is just unacceptable.
Governor Walker’s point that union leaders’ supposed “offer” to accept pension and health care contributions was one they had no power to make, and one that was immediately contradicted by the actions of unions at the local level where they bargain, is one I have not seen acknowledged in the press.