Why I would veto and why it's important I say it.
Fighting for labor
Kathleen M. Falk
Wisconsin deserves a governor who will stand up and fight for what is right for our economy and for our middle class. And we need a governor who is open, honest and transparent.
As the granddaughter of a Milwaukee bus driver, I learned early on how important collective bargaining has been to building the middle class in America – like my family and the rest of us.
It’s a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. This idea, and core American values like the GI Bill and negotiated safe working conditions that built the middle class and allowed us to lead the world’s economy.
Governor Scott Walker has a different view. Friday, he told a conservative convention in Washington, D.C.: “Collective bargaining is not a right. In the public sector, collective bargaining is an expensive entitlement.” This extreme ideology does not reflect Wisconsin’s 50-year history of workers’ rights. It does not reflect our values.
I served for 14 years as the Dane County executive and balanced 14 straight budgets. After the market crashed four years ago, I sat down with the county’s eight unions three years in a row and negotiated $10 million in savings for taxpayers through reduced salaries and changes in health care.
This was a win for taxpayers and a win for workers. We did it together. With shared sacrifice
This is why I have said that as governor, I will restore workers’ rights through the state budget and if that budget comes back to my desk without those rights, I will veto it. Governor Walker abolished our rights in his budget repair bill and I will use the budget to get them back.
You deserve openness, honesty and transparency and that’s why I am telling you where I stand, what I would do and how I would do it. More than one million people signed recall petitions because they want the doors of the State Capitol reopened for them and they want leaders who will tell the truth about their plans.
We’ve had enough dishonesty from our governor.
During his nearly two-year campaign for governor, Scott Walker never said he would end 50 years of collective bargaining rights for nurses, teachers and public employees.
“We must take immediate action to ensure fiscal stability in our state,” the new Governor said publicly at the time.
In private, he told his Republican allies sitting around him at the Governor’s mansion the same week he planned – in his words -- to drop “the bomb.”
Within days of his launching his attacks on workers, the state’s public employees told Governor Walker they would agree to changes to their pensions and health benefits. They asked him to sit down with them to work out an agreement. I would have sat down and negotiated immediately. That Governor Walker refused shows this was about breaking the unions – nothing less.
Instead of sitting down and getting the job done, he jammed his changes through the Republican Legislature – prompting me to file the first complaint under our state’s Open Meeting Law.
Walker’s hidden agenda thrust Wisconsin into chaos. Right when we needed a leader to unite us, he divided us. He turned neighbor against neighbor.
Along with his unprecedented stripping of worker rights, Walker then rammed through a state budget that handed out big tax breaks to a few, while cutting public education by more than $1 billion and taking action to remove 65,000 men, women and children from their health care.
And after all of this trauma it’s painfully clear now that the Walker Way isn’t working.
During the last six months of 2011, Wisconsin lost jobs every month: the worst record of any state in the nation. We just learned from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau that the state – despite Governor Walker’s claims – now has a budget deficit larger than the one Gov. Walker dishonestly used to end workers’ rights. And the latest: Governor Walker taking $26 million from foreclosure victims to pay for his budget deficit failures.
Again, it didn’t have to be this way.
During my years as County Executive, job creation in our area was the state’s highest. I invested in critical public infrastructure; I brought environmentalists and the development community together; I created programs to move kids and families up the economic ladder; and I held the line on taxes because of my self-imposed limit.
Now Governor Walker is crisscrossing the nation raising millions of dollars from millionaires in Texas and Missouri and New York so that he can bring their national, extreme right Tea Party agenda to our state.
Those aren’t our values here in Wisconsin. We stand up for what’s right. We are honest with each other.
We can do better and together we will.
February 14, 2012
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Kathleen Falk is a Democratic candidate for governor and the former Dane County Executive.