NBC News   |  February 18, 2011

Wisconsin governor: ‘We are broke’

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker makes a statement regarding the recent unrest among labor unions concerning the right to collective bargaining.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> not going on in the state capitol . first off, i want to begin, certainly acknowledge the thousands of people outside protesting. many of whom are from the state of wisconsin . many more lately have been. co-ing in across other parts of the country. it's their right to be heard, but i want to thank the 300,000-plus state and local workers from across wisconsin who, unlike those here today, didn't skip out on work, showed up for their jobs, did their jobs the way they have done in the past and i believe will do the future ch. and that's good, professional public servants and we continue the work they do. the folks outside have every right to be heard, bru there's 5.5 million people in this state . the tax pairs have a right to be heard. we're not going to allow for one minute for the protesters to feel like they can drown out the voices of those millions of taxpayers all across the state of wisconsin . what we're asking for today and what we continue to be pushing for in this capital is bold when it comes to politics. it's a bold political move, but anytime you challenge the status quo, it's going to be bold. but it's a very modest request of our government workers all across the state . when i was traveling around the state , it's something worth repeating. we've been hearing it time and time again when people contacted us. when i was talking to blue collar workers across the state earlier this week, it reinforced to they're paying anywhere from 25 to 50% of their health care costs. most of them don't have pensions and those who have 401(k)s, many of them have seen the contribution from their employer has been suspended in the last year or two, i should say. as the economy has made it difficult in order to preserve jobs. that's in contrast to the modest request we're asking for, a 5.8% crick to the pension system , and a 1.6% contribution from state workers. that's half the national average. to the workers i talk to around the state , they think that's a deal they would love to have. i know when i talk to others in my family, they point out my brother, who's in many ways a typical middle class family. and his wife both work. they're paying $700, almost $800 a month for their health care and the money they set aside for their 401(k). with what we're asking for a reasonable piece in balancing the budget. we're broke. like nearly every state across the country, don't have any more money. we've been broke for years. two years ago, they kind of delayed the pain by taking $2.2 billion of stimulus money and instead of using that for one-time costs like infrastructure, the previous governor and legislature used that to pug a $2.2 billion hole in termses of medicaid and school aid deficit. that's part of the reason why we're here today. they failed to make the tough decisions two years ago we're making the tough decisions now, not only to ball lants our budgets and help local governments balance their budgets but to make sure two, four, six, signature years down the road to make sure our kids and our kids' kids don't have to deal with these crises. i was elected, i interviewed for this job over the last two years and told the voters what i would do to get wisconsin working again. we made bold changes in terms of turning the business climate around, to make it easier for private esector employers to put people to work by easing taxes and cost of health care . now we need to balance our budget and to do it in a way that's prudent for the future, not only for the state but ultimately so local governments can have the same tools. that's really what's at the heart of what we're talking about today. i've now heard from several days in, the same unions who tried to cram through a series of employee contracts in december, who after the election, before i was sworn in, who had no interest in talking to us then about negotiating, but wanted to get that pushed through while they still had the previous majorities in place, unfortunately for the taxpayers of this state , they failed to do so. now suddenly are talking about being interested in negotiating. again, we don't have any money. we can't make a good faith effort to negotiate when we don't have any money. but more important than the fact that at the state level in the state gek dek cade, the average amount of time for a contract negotiation has taken 15 months. the reality here beyond that is for our local governments . and i used to be a local county executive , for our local government , i know this well firsthand. we can't expect for our 72 counties, for our 424 school districts and more than 1,000 municipal governments across the state of wisconsin to somehow magically, because a few people are suggesting 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 11th hour claiming they want to negotiate. the bottom line is to ensure what's going to happen in a week, when we introduce our budget, and there are going to be reductions of significant size when it comes to aid to local government from the state , just like nearly every other state across the country. but unlike new york and california, for example, where they cut billions of dollars in their proposals from their school, from their university system and ultimately from their local governments without getting any tools to balance it off. in this bill, we're giving them the tools to ensure they don't have to incur massive lay yauchs and they don't have to cut core programs at the state and school district level. that's what this is all about. to protect our school, our local governments , we need to give them the tools that they have been asking fsor, not just for years but for decades. and once this measure passes that's exactly what they'll get. it seems as more national and political figures come into this capital, the facts seem to be stringing further and further away from the truth. we heard some pretty big doozi doozies. we have a short fall when it comes to medicaid, a gap when it comes to the correction system. we have a gap when it comes to the public defender . in addition, we owe nearly $60 million to the state of minnesota because of a failed payment from the previous governor. we have bill collectors waiting for us to collect bills and it's time we step up and take care of the bills that we owe and the fact that the bills will be forthcoming more so in the future. we're going to do what it takes to get this budget on track and equally, if not of greater importance, we're going to make sure we're set up come july 1 when the next budget begins that we have the tools no the only to balance the state budget but to ensure all of our local governments have the tools they need to balance their budgets with these very modest proposals to allow all of us, myself included, my cabinet, the legislature, to help make more in terms of pension and premium, health care premium contributions. so that's kind