Updated at 12:43 p.m. on February 20.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said this morning that he would not compromise with unions and absentee Democrats in the state Senate over his plan to limit state workers’ right to collective bargaining.
The 14 Senate Democrats, who have fled to Illinois to stall a vote on the governor's proposal, have said they would come back to Wisconsin if the governor agreed to meet with them and take the collective-bargaining proposal off the table. But Walker, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, rejected that idea and urged the legislators to come back to the capitol and do the job they were elected to do.
“Democracy means you show up and participate, and they failed to do that; they are walking out on their job,” Walker said. “For us, this is about balancing the budget. We have a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We are broke.”
Walker's plan, along with curtailing collective-bargaining rights for many of the state's unionized workers, would force public works to put 5.8 percent of their wages into the pension system and pay a larger share of their health insurance.
Opponents argue that Walker helped create the budget shortfall by giving away millions in tax breaks to private businesses.
Walker said that collective-bargaining laws for state union workers have been an obstacle to allowing the state and localities to reduce their budget deficit.
“I was a county executive... we tried to tackle these same [fiscal] issues and what stood in the way time and time again was collective bargaining,” Walker said. “I want to give [municipalities, school districts and counties] the tools they need now and in the future; they can’t do that with current collective bargaining laws in this state.”
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on CBS's Face the Nation that he backs Walker's efforts to cut the state's budget deficit.
"This is an example of the kinds of fiscal and budget pressures all levels of government are experiencing," Ryan said. "... We have a huge budget shortfall here in Madison. What our governor is trying to do is address this in a structural way to ask for modest shared sacrifice among public employees and to give local governments the tools to do the same. These are things governors all around the states are looking at."
"The sooner we do this, the better off everybody is going to be," Ryan added.
Walker said that he hopes “cooler heads will prevail” and that the lawmakers return early this week.
President Obama said last week that he thought Walker’s proposal “seems more like an assault on unions.”
Walker said that Obama “should stay focused on fixing the federal budget.”