Washington, D.C. – Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker defended his efforts to reform government employee unions while addressing the Reagan Banquet at CPAC as the keynote speaker tonight. Walker’s move to bring about reform in Wisconsin has resulted in him facing a major recall effort that could see him removed from office before the fall, making him a cause célèbre for conservatives and right-to-work activists.
Walker noted that since he started challenging the entrenched government employee unions, he has received all kinds of threats involving him and his family, but that his support is still strong in the Badger State.
“Every week when I am out visiting the factories and farms of my state and there are people that come up to me and tell me ‘Governor, we are praying for you and your family,’” he said.
When Walker took office he was staring down a major state budget deficit of approximately $3.6 billion. When this came up as an issue on the campaign trail Walker said that one of the ways he would plug the hole was by asking government employees to pay more toward their pensions. To those paying attention it was not a secret that Walker was going to change the way budget problems were addressed in Madsion. Walker felt that long term changes needed to be made instead of using short term stopgaps.
“Some states have also chosen budget gimmicks to balance the budget. We did not do this in Wisconsin because that is part of what caused the budget deficit in the first place,” he said.
Sounding like a presidential candidate, Walker explained how the collective bargaining reforms helped local communities.
“We chose long-term structural reforms that helped us balance both our state and our local governments budgets for years to come. We thought more about the next generation than we did about the next election,” he said
Walker mentioned how he has made Wisconsin more hospitable for private businesses, but the heart of his speech was about his budget reform efforts.
“Collective bargaining is not a right. In the public sector collective bargaining is an expensive entitlement,” he said.
Walker’s reform efforts severely limited the ability of unionized government employees to collectively bargain, increased the amount they pay toward benefits, and altered the way union dues were collected.
Before closing Walker made a pitch to those present to help him beat back his recall effort, saying, “This election is about making courageous and bold decisions now and in the future.”
Walker's complete prepared remarks are here. Be beware: He deviated from them frequently.