Scott Walker says Wis. budget repair bill protected middle class
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says his controversial budget repair bill protected the state’s middle class by avoiding layoffs and government expansion that average Wisconsinites would have ended up paying for.
Walker was at the Sheraton Hotel in West Des Moines on Wednesday for a fundraising dinner benefiting the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank located in Washington, D.C.
“Think about it. Historically, who pays for the expanse of government?” Walker asked. “The poor don’t pay for it. The wealthy, if they’re smart, have different ways of putting money other places and doing things like that. Who disproportionately pays for the expansive growth of government? It’s the middle class.”
Walker gained national attention earlier this year when he pushed a bill stripping most collective bargaining rights for public workers and requiring them to pay more for health insurance, among other things. Public safety officers — police and firefighters — were exempted from the new rules.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators came from around the country to protest the measure, which Walker thinks actually helped bring jobs to the state. He noted a business magazine that said the national focus on Wisconsin drew employers in.
“They said not only unlike other states around the country, but unlike Greece, Portugal and Spain and other places around the world, they saw a state that actually got its act together, that made long term decisions to put things in the right place,” Walker said.
The protests were ultimately not about protecting state workers, or even about state workers paying more for health care or pensions, Walker said.
“This was ultimately about big government union bosses who didn’t want us touching their money,” he said. “Not the peoples’ money, not the workers’ money. But the biggest thing they got upset about was the simple fact as part of these reforms I said no public employee in my state has to be forced to be part of a union.”
About 100 people gathered outside the hotel to express their displeasure with Walker, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and what they see as a nationwide attack on workers’ rights. Branstad said on Wednesday he and Walker aren’t anti-worker.
Walker made light of the demonstrators, saying “it’s not uncommon for me to have protestors from another sate. I had a lot of them earlier this Spring.”
“I also got a kick out of the fact that just to make me feel at home not only did I get to share some of the stories but you brought some of my fan club outside the hotel on the way in here tonight,” he said.
Walker said he understands a lot of people are frustrated right now and their voices should be heard. But he also noted he didn’t let the thousands of protesters in Wisconsin shift his focus.
A recall effort is now underway for Walker and some state lawmakers in Wisconsin, But Walker said he isn’t “looking at it as a drag or discouragement.”
“I look at it as a unique opportunity to go again go to the voters, the people of the state of Wisconsin and tell them the story of how our reforms are working,” he said.