OTR Interviews

Wis. Governor to AWOL Senate Democrats: Come Home and Get Back to Work

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 17, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker joins us on the phone. Good evening, Governor. And Governor, it was expected there would be a vote in the state senate. And you need the -- you need one more state senator to show up, a Democrat. Where are they tonight, do you know?

WIS. GOV. SCOTT WALKER (Via Telephone): They're hiding out in another state. You know, unlike the vast majority of state and local government employees -- most of those employees, 300,000, showed up for work today, unlike those around the capital and unlike those 14 state senators, Democrats, who decided to hide out, apparently, down in Rockford, Illinois.

Other workers showed up. In the public sector, other workers, taxpayers certainly showed up. They're hiding out in hopes that somehow, that will test the resolve. If anything, I think it's made the Republicans in the assembly and the senate stronger. They're not going to be bullied. They're not going to be intimidated. I've said all along the thousands of people who are storming the capitol have every right to be heard, but I'm not going to let them overshadow the voices of the millions of taxpayers in the state of Wisconsin who deserve to be heard, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what's going to happen at this standout -- stand-off to get this vote? Do you have any way to get those state senators back from Illinois? Have they indicated they intend to come back, or is this going to be a -- you know, basically, a standoff to see who -- who cries uncle first?

WALKER: Well, I think the bottom line is we're making an appeal for senators to come and do their job. My hope would be, regardless of how they feel about the bill, pro or con, should all agree that people are elected. That if they talk about democracy, democracy doesn't come by hiding out in another state, avoiding any real debate about a measure. They should come to the senate. I've made a personal appeal to all the senators to come back, do their job, to take as much time as they want to debate, to offer as many amendments as they want, but to not hide out down in Illinois as a way of trying to not deal with this.

The voters have a right to have a say on this. And people are elected in November. We should have a right to have a vote on it. We're going to push this. Senate rules allow them (INAUDIBLE) they're going to try again tomorrow to compel them to come back. If they don't, senate rules allow them to have law enforcement go out and seek them out. But I'm beyond that, just make the personal appeal to members of the state senate that they should all show up and do the job they were elected to do and the job they're paid to do and not hide out.

VAN SUSTEREN: As a practical matter, can you send law enforcement to another state to pick up state senators? Is there any authority to do that? Or do you have to get the cooperation, for instance, of the state of Illinois do this?

WALKER: Yes, that's a really big question for us. I mean, the bottom line is very -- very much similar to when you've had redistricting battles, lawmakers go to other states, as well, from other states. I think in Texas and Oklahoma years ago, that happened. Again, I hope it doesn't get to that. That would be ridiculous.

I think a lot of parents in the Madison area, around the capitol, have become frustrated with teachers calling in sick, you know, making this apparently about the children when it's not about the children. All the children are not being asked to pay more for a relatively minor amount for pensions and for health care. You know, this is a bold political move, but it is ultimately a very modest, a very mild series of requests. We're still asking people to pay less than what the national average is for pensions and for health care, yet you'd act like you were taking their firstborn child here. This is what happens when you have these kind of political high stakes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me if I'm correct, and I've -- you know, I've gone through all the newspapers in the state, tried to read everything I can. But in exchange for bearing more costs and losing collective bargaining rights, or leverage, do -- are the workers promised no lay-offs and no furloughs? Is that what you're offering in exchange?

WALKER: No, what we've said -- it's not as part of a negotiation, but what I've set for this budget, which $3.6 billion short because of (INAUDIBLE) of federal stimulus aid and all the other problems of the past, that to balance that budget, we need to have these tools. And in doing so, we can save $300 million to state government employees alone for the next two-year budget. That's the equivalent of otherwise having to lay off 5,500 employees. I'm not laying off any mass group of employees in this next budget, and I'm not doing any furloughs. So things that have been done in the past would not be done there.

Plus, these people will no longer have union dues automatically deducted from their payroll. That's a $500, $600 or more savings for each of these union employees. There's a lot of things happening here that I don't think all of them are aware of.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I think it's sort of, as you say, historic note and one of the reasons why this might be particularly raw is, it's sort of interesting, is that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was founded in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1936. So there's a long history of interesting labor law and labor battles.

Governor, thank you. And of course, we're going to be watching. And maybe we'll even show up if this continues to go on. Thank you, Governor.

WALKER: We welcome you up to Wisconsin. Always good to have you back.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.