MADISON — When did Gov. Scott Walker decide that cuts to collective bargaining would be the centerpiece of his strategy to balance the state’s budget? Newly uncovered documents contradict what Walker told Congress.
The key question is: did Gov. Scott Walker plan to cut collective bargaining all along, as a way to cripple the Democrats, or was he simply reacting to Wisconsin’s fiscal crisis, trying to balance a budget with a bold move?
In this discussion, the timeline is important.
It’s clear Walker campaigned in 2010 on job creation, not collective bargaining.
“We can no longer live in a world where the public employees are haves, and the taxpayers are have nots,” Walker said.
At a December 7th, 2010 appearance at the Milwaukee Press Club, Walker signaled he was ready to play hardball over public employee contracts.
“Anything from the decertify, to modifications, to current laws in place – we’ve got to get control over wages and benefits,” Walker aid.
In the transition, Walker wrote to lame-duck Governor Jim Doyle, telling him not to act on new labor contracts in the final days of his administration.
Still, the lame-duck Legislature in 2010 controlled the Democratic Party and could have passed another labor contract. It appeared they would, until Democratic Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, and fellow Democrat Jeff Plale switched their votes and sided with Republicans.
Walker introduced his collective bargaining bill in February of 2010, saying he wouldn’t negotiate. That triggered a month-long protest, but the bill finally passed as the controversy lingered.
In response to allegations people didn’t see this coming, Walker said…
“I can point to a flyer the unions put out, where they mentioned collective bargaining and the things we put out. What I did throughout the campaign was say to balance the budget without tax increases, you have to have wage and benefit reform, and I said any number of times when I was interviewed and in forums, I’m willing to look at the full range of options. I didn’t say at this day, at this time, I’ll do this, but there’s no doubt I was open to all these options,” Walker said.
In April of 2011, Walker was invited to testify before Congress. Walker appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where he was asked when he got the idea for Act 10.
“In December, after the elections, but before I was sworn into office,” Walker said.
Records obtained by FOX6 News show it was actually November when the Legislative Reference Bureau – the state office that essentially creates bills – was directed to start drafting what would become Act 10.
An internal memo entitled “Alternative Approach to Collective Bargaining” sketched out plans to require unions to recertify every year, and to prohibit them from collecting dues.
An email spells out a strategy for “prohibiting public employee unions from collectively bargaining over health care benefits.”
This all occurred before Walker had taken office.
Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett says the documents raise questions about the December timeline Walker laid out before Congress.
“Quite honestly, this is the first time I heard that that was in drafting in November, so it does go back to your question as to was he telling the truth when he appeared before Congress? I think that’s another instance where he was not truthful at that time,” Barrett said.
In response to whether his testimony before Congress is accurate, or the Legislative Reference Bureau is accurate, Walker said…
“We’ve looked at it for some time. In fact, as Lee Holloway (Milwaukee’s former County Board chairman) pointed out last year — who is obviously not a political ally of mine — who said anyone who didn’t see this coming hadn’t been watching me for the last eight years. What reaffirmed that for us and where that’s consistent with what I said in front of that Congressional committee, is after the elections, but before I was sworn in, AFSCME and the other public employee unions ran out to the lame-duck Legislature with a lame-duck governor and tried to push through contracts, that ultimately, a couple Democrats in the state Legislature voted against, figuring that the new Legislative majority and the new governor should have a chance to be involved in that process, but each of those points aren’t inconsistent with the other,” Walker said.
“Truthfulness is an issue in this campaign. I think it is important to have a leader in this state who will tell the truth,” Barrett said.
That’s exactly what Walker says he is doing.
“For the citizens of the state of Wisconsin over the next 12 days, as they consider who they’re going to put their trust in to be the governor for the remainder of this term,” Walker said.