Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said Monday that collective bargaining cost his state money and reiterated that he would not stand down in a budget face-off that has become national news.
“The bottom line is we can't negotiate over a budget because we're broke and we need the money,” the first-term Republican said in an interview with ABC's “Good Morning America.”
Walker, who was elected in November, has proposed rolling back state workers’ benefits and their right to collective bargaining to help bridge Wisconsin’s budget deficits. But Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate have fled the state, leaving that chamber short of a quorum, and the state Capitol in Madison has become the site of protests against Walker’s plans.
In his Monday interview, Walker again criticized the state senators who had reportedly headed south to Illinois, saying they “think, somehow, a handful of the minority can hold people hostage.” He also signaled some skepticism that state workers would be willing to accept changes in their healthcare and pension benefits, as some union leaders have said.
“You can say anything in the midst of the debate,” Walker said. “In December, after I was elected but before I was sworn in, they tried to ram through a bill to push forward and lock in state employee health and contracts.”
Walker also stressed that his state already had what he called the nation’s strongest civil-service system.
“We had it long before collective-bargaining rights,” the governor said. “The rights that workers have in the state are based not on their contracts; they're based on that law which, again, is the strongest in the country and it protects things like merit hiring. It protects the grievance process, even termination with just cause.”