Walker Renews Calls For Union Concessions

Gov.-Elect's Term To Start In January

Published On: Dec 07 2010 01:16:11 AM CST   Updated On: Dec 07 2010 07:14:13 AM CST

Gov.-elect Scott Walker is renewing his call for state unions to pay more for their health care and pensions, saying it would help the state deal with a budget shortfall.

Walker said Tuesday that approving the union contracts before he takes office would tie his hands in dealing with an estimated $3.3 billion budget shortfall moving forward.

Democrats hope to convene in a lame duck special session as early as next week to approve the no-raise contracts.

The Republican Walker cites a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo that shows this year's budget could be $150 million short or higher. He said union concessions could plug that gap.

Walker, speaking to the Milwaukee Press Club, said state workers need to pay more for their health care and pensions yet this fiscal year.

"Every time we tackle something that's about the compensation base, we get the structural deficit in the future under control," said Walker.

Walker is proposing a 5 percent employee contribution to state pensions and for state workers to increase their health care contribution to 12 percent.

"There are good people who work in government, and they are public servants," said Walker. "But we can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and the taxpayers who foot the bill are the have-nots. Public employees can't be the untouchables."

The idea isn't sitting well with unions, most of which have tentatively agreed to contracts with the state for 2009-2011 and are hoping they will be approved by the Legislature next week.

"State workers and other public workers aren't about to sacrifice their benefits for some political future of a tyrant," said Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME, the largest state employee union. "This is all about Scott Walker kind of bringing back, instead of public service, it is public servitude. He's the master of the plantation and we're supposed to be his slaves; that's his philosophy here. So I think he'd be real happy if we were paid minimum wage and had no pension at all."

Democratic legislative leaders have told their members to keep days open next week for a possible special session.

But even if the contracts for this year get done, Walker will likely ask for the concessions in the next state budget.

He also mentioned "decertifying" state employee unions, although a decertification vote typically must come from union members. A spokesman for Walker said the comment was "aimed at ensuring all are options on the table as he works to bring public sector employee benefits in line with the private sector."