OTR Interviews

Wis. Governor Explains Falling for Prank Call, Stands Ground on 'Budget Repair' Bill

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 23, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, Governor Scott Walker needs caller ID! He gets a bizarre prank call and falls for it big-time.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (IMPERSONATING BILLIONAIRE BUSINESSMAN DAVID KOCH): What we were thinking about the crowds was planting some troublemakers.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: Well, the only problem with the -- because we thought about that. The problem with -- or my only gut reaction to that would be, right now, the lawmakers I've talked to have just completely had it with them.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, that's only part of the call. The governor's right here and he's going to tell you all about getting punked and answer some very direct questions.

And how about those 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators? They're still missing. They just won't come home! But that's not all. Things are just heating up. Now Ohio and Indiana are at war with the unions. "On the Record" hits the road to take you right to the heart of it all. We went to Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker went "On the Record."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, sir.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Good to be with you in person.

VAN SUSTEREN: And it's lovely to be back home. I love Wisconsin.

WALKER: Wisconsin! It's great to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you got a lot of very angry firefighters out there we talked to. What do you say to the firefighters?

WALKER: Well, one, our bill doesn't affect them. But in the larger context, this really is about workers and it's about balancing our budget. We're giving workers all across the state the opportunity to take the money that previously has been automatically deducted out of their paycheck, and instead, give them the right to choose where that's spent. Some cases, up to $1,000 or -- I mean, think about that. In some households, it might be up to $2,000...

VAN SUSTEREN: They don't want it, though.

WALKER: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, these firefighters, they don't want it. They think it's just union busting and that -- and they realize that they're not covered by your bill. But they just don't want it.

WALKER: Well, in terms of that statement, no, absolutely not. For us, it is all about balancing the budget and making sure that local governments have the long-term plan because we don't need a short-term fix. The reason we face a $3.6 billion budget deficit is because previous governors, previous legislatures, have used short-term fixes, one-time fixes to push us to the problem we have today. For me, we've got to make a commitment to the future and ensure that my kids and kids all across the state aren't saddled with this burden for years down the road. The only way to do it is in what we're proposing in this "budget repair" bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let -- let me back up for a second. As I understand it -- correct me if I'm wrong -- what this bill is, that the teachers unions -- the unions have agreed to the financial aspect to it. They've agreed to pay into the pension fund and the health care. What they object to is the provision having to do with collective bargaining rights. You've said in terms of collective bargaining that they could still collectively bargain about their salaries. Is that right?

WALKER: Base salary up to the CPI, so that communities' real ability to pay is adjusted for. But why you need to do that permanent -- and I know that, as a former elected official at the county level -- if you don't make that sort of permanent change, it's just a one-time fix. This is not a permanent fix. They're not taking away collective bargaining for health care or pension payments. It's a one-term offer that, by the way, they really can't guarantee in the 700 -- or excuse me, the 424 school districts, 72 counties, the thousand-plus different municipalities across the state. All those will see less state aid in the budget I introduce next week.

Think about that. Governors across the country are cutting billions of dollars from schools, local governments, universities. Heck, the governors of New York and California, both Democrats, are cutting billions of dollars from schools and other local governments without any tools. What we're giving these local governments is the tools not just for today but so that we make a commitment to the future so they don't have to keep coming back and having these sort of budget battles.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're saying that the collective bargaining provision is an economic one, because they're...

WALKER: It's 100 percent.

VAN SUSTEREN: They're saying they're giving in on all the money -- money on the health care and the pension and that that is what you asked for...

WALKER: It's just not...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and that this is a union-busting provision.

WALKER: It's not at all, and I'll give you a couple of examples. Certainly, we need the 5 and the 12 percent on the pension and health care, which, by the way, is well below what most people are paying outside of government here in the state of Wisconsin for pension and health care.

But beyond that, again, as a local government official in the past, I saw this all the time. At the school district level -- prime example of this. Many of our school districts across the state, because of collective bargaining, are forced to buy their health insurance at the WA Trust. That's the state teachers' union's company that actually sells that. If we pass this bill -- when we pass this bill, those school districts will no longer be mandated to buy that through the WA Trust. They'll save $68 million a year just by buying into the state employee health care plan.

Another prime example. A county official today contacted us and said, Do you know that in our county, because of collective bargaining, our parks workers have negotiated a deal where their work time is from 7:00 until to 3:00 every day. So in the summer, when people are out in the afternoon in the parks, if employees are going to come in and work at those parks, they have to pay them time-and-a-half.

All those things have real fiscal consequences that have led to the dire consequences we're in today both the state and for many, if not most, of our local governments, we've got to give them the long-term stability to balance their budgets.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, are you going to budge at all?

WALKER: Well, I'm willing to listen, to talk. I mean, the best thing...

VAN SUSTEREN: But are you willing to -- I mean, is there -- are you coming -- Will you come off your position at all for the 14 Democratic senators, or are you...

WALKER: Well, one, they got to come back.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, but the minute they come back, they think that they're in session and then you can push the vote.

WALKER: Well, come and talk to me. I mean, I...

VAN SUSTEREN: They can call you on the phone.

WALKER: I've talked one of them on the phone and he was fairly reasonable. The others don't apparently want to listen. But the...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what if they call you on the phone? Because they don't want to come back into Wisconsin.

WALKER: I've said I'd love to take that call. I take calls all the time from people across the state, across the country...

VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to talk about the calls, too!

WALKER: Well, I'll talk to employers in the state, the whole bit. I'll talk to people. The one call I'm wishing to get the most is from one of those 14 state senators who said they're willing to come back and do the job they were elected to do. They weren't elected to hide out in another state. They were elected to do the job of serving the people, make their case. You know, democracy requires you to participate. The arena is here in Madison, Wisconsin. It's not in Rockford. It's not in Freeport. It's not in Chicago.

VAN SUSTEREN: Collective bargaining's a real sticking point with the Democrats, and I'm trying to understand if this is truly just going to be - - you know, if it's going to be a standoff on it because...

WALKER: I hope not. I...

VAN SUSTEREN: No, and I understand that, but if -- if -- you know, and I'm not saying that you should or should not come off your position. I'm just trying to understand if there's any sort of wiggle room with you on this collective bargaining or not, or have you -- you know, you put down your marker, and this is the -- what -- what you're (INAUDIBLE)

WALKER: We're willing to -- I'm willing to listen. If there are other creative ideas that can get around these things and still ensure the kind of savings we need at both the state and the local level, there's no doubt I'm willing to listen. Believe me, people are giving us ideas all the time.

A week ago, when we took 17-and-a-half hours of public testimony in front of our Finance Committee, we made a series of changes to ensure that teachers had the same sorts -- the same types of protections that state workers have. One of the things that -- the big myth of many of the protesters outside when they talk about worker rights is that their rights go away. Wisconsin in 1905 passed the strongest civil service protection in the country. Our employees have protections that have nothing to do with collective bargaining. (INAUDIBLE) agreements codify (INAUDIBLE) but the law that we're not changing protects worker rights when it comes to their hiring, just cause for discipline and termination. All those things remain. All those protections are in place for our workers.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in terms of...

WALKER: It really is about (INAUDIBLE)

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. In terms of listening, are you willing to take a phone call so they don't have to come back to the state?

WALKER: Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK.

WALKER: If they -- honest to God, if I got a phone call from the senate majority -- or minority leader, Mark Miller, who's the head of the Democrats, I'd take that in a heartbeat.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, as I understand Wisconsin law -- correct me if I'm wrong -- is that in -- because this is an appropriation bill, you need 20 for a quorum. And so you don't have the 20 because the 14 Democrats are gone. And if this -- if this were a non-appropriations issue, then you would -- you could get by with just -- with Republicans. Explain to why you don't sever off the collective bargaining issue because then it would be a non-appropriation and vote on it that way.

WALKER: Because the two intrinsically go hand in hand. Today, I released information that shows that the savings that will be achieved, nearly a billion-and-a-half dollars savings over the next biennium for our school districts, our counties, our towns, our villages, our technical schools, are achieved through this budget repair bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's -- so the collective bargaining is -- you say it's an appropriations issue. It needs 20.

WALKER: Right. You can't...

VAN SUSTEREN: You can't carve that out.

WALKER: Well, what we're saying is you cannot do the next budget that I'll present next Tuesday if you don't have the savings. Again, unlike what Cuomo's done in New York and what Jerry Brown's doing in California and other governors are doing, where they're just cutting billions of dollars from their schools and the local governments, my goal -- and I said this throughout the campaign -- was to give those local governments the tools to offset the cuts that are going to come next week because we're going to cut over a billion dollars of aid to local governments. The key is, because of this bill, we're giving them just under $1.5 billion worth of savings to offset those reductions.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Is there any hint the Democrats are coming back?

WALKER: You know, I don't know. I mean, I think increasingly, as days go by -- what they said about a week ago was they wanted to slow things down. They wanted to have more public scrutiny. I think nearly -- literally nearly everybody in the state of Wisconsin knows what's going on. They follow this debate.

I used to serve in the state legislature. I don't ever recall a public hearing where they took 17-and-a-half hours worth of testimony. People know what's in the -- in fact, I informed both the senate and the assembly Democrat leaders before the bill came out, almost two weeks ago, what was in the bill in detail.

So anybody who says they don't know the details is just ignoring the facts. The facts are, and they're are clear, that we've debated this bill. We've had a good discussion. But Senate Democrats need to come home and do what they were elected to do...

VAN SUSTEREN: How...

WALKER: ... debate the bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: How aggressively are you looking for them?

WALKER: I mean, for us, you know, I'm not going to bring -- I'm not going to require somebody to come back in handcuffs. But eventually, I think some of them are going to be willing to be found. Some of them are going to occasionally come back into the state of Wisconsin. I think they'd like to have this over, as well, because up until now, we've done some tremendous things to change the business climate in the state, to show that Wisconsin's open for business, to make it more attractive, create jobs. And many of those have included Democrat votes. I think they want to get back to that.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if -- let's say that a Democratic senator sneaks into town in the next 24 hours and gets picked up for speeding crossing the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Does he get hauled in here, or she hauled in here?

WALKER: Well, what we're going to do...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, is it that aggressive, looking for them?

WALKER: No, I mean, what we're going to do is continue, as has been the tradition in this state, when there's a call to the house, to send out officials to ask for them to come back. We're not going to force them back. But if they're there, if there's a willingness -- if there's an interest in coming back in the state of Wisconsin, to me that suggests that they're at least somewhat willing to participate in democracy again, and they should be compelled to come back. But we're not going to take (INAUDIBLE).

VAN SUSTEREN: But compelled is that you just -- you just try to talk them into coming back. It's, like, there's...

WALKER: We're -- we're...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... going to be no sort of -- we're not -- you're not going to nab them.

WALKER: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: No nabbing.

WALKER: I mean, in the end -- this is -- we've had a civil process up until then. And to me, for all the people pouring in from across the country, if people want to add to the debate, if they want to inform the discussion, that's fine. But they shouldn't be coming in to interfere with the debate. And I don't want to do anything that escalates the civil discourse we've had up until now in a way that would really sever things in a way that we can't get back to that civility.

VAN SUSTEREN: Friday seems to be sort of a drop-dead date. That's the date where you have to do the refinancing on the bonds or not. If they don't show up, there'll be no refinancing on these bonds? What happens Monday morning?

WALKER: Well, for us, I mean, we had $30 million, so just a small step to begin with. The big savings are in the next budget. The $30 million worth of savings for the changes starting April 1, for the pension and health care contributions and the other changes we make in this bill. The majority, as you mention, is through the debt restructuring to take care of things like a one-time payment to Minnesota that was lapsed previously in the last year under the previous governor. If we don't make that, we still owe that money. That's still a one-time hit, but it's still owed.

VAN SUSTEREN: So someone's going to be -- so someone's going to be responsible for this -- for this hit, basically.

WALKER: Well, and that's my...

VAN SUSTEREN: Either -- either you're going to be blamed for it, or the Democrats are. Somebody's going to be hit with this.

WALKER: Well, I think it's pretty clear. The dire consequences we face -- and this is one of the additional reasons why I think, eventually, at least some of the senate Democrats will want to come back is we're going to have to start preparing at-risk notices. We're going to have to start at risk for lay-offs. We said there'd be 1,500 equivalent lay-offs if we didn't save $30 million. Suddenly now, you've got $195 million instead of $30 million, and you have a much larger universe of lay-offs of state and local government employees. That's just unacceptable. This is a tough economy for people in both inside and outside of government. I don't want any more people laid off. But we don't have of a choice if the Senate Democrats don't come back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Straight ahead -- well, that prank phone call Wisconsin's governor will not be forgetting. He thought big-time Republican supporter David Koch was on the other line, but it turned out to be an impostor. Who was really on the line, and how did the governor get duped? The governor tells you coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's more of our interview with Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: You got pranked...

WALKER: I did.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... by someone who said that -- you thought you were speaking to the Koch -- one of the Koch brothers. How did that happen?

WALKER: Multiple calls out there. We get employers -- we get people calling us from all across the state. I get employers both who live here, as well as those people who have employment here. This is one of our employers here in the state of Wisconsin. Amongst the multitude of calls I get from people across the state, across the aisle, across the country, he got through. I think the clear thing is anybody who's looked at the transcript realized I said the same thing on the call to him that I say every day.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, except for something you said you got layoff -- you said -- you quoted as saying, I've got layoff notices ready.

WALKER: I do.

VAN SUSTEREN: You do?

WALKER: I said that two days ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who do you have layoff notices for?

WALKER: I said for us, it's the at risk notices that will go out early next week. I said that on channel 3, one of the local affiliates, a day-and-a-half before the call.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about this one, about -- where Koch is saying -- is accused of some -- or he's quoted some profanity, the fake Koch. And it says, We sent Andrew Breitbart down there. And you go, yes.

WALKER: Look, yes, I didn't even know who that is.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know who that is?

WALKER: I do not.

VAN SUSTEREN: Never heard of him?

WALKER: I've never met the Koch brothers before. This is obviously why someone calling could prank be on it because I've never talked to him before. I know he's an employer in the state. And in the end -- I mean, I think it's interesting because the prankster there tried to insinuate at least that this person was going to push for people to come in and cause a disturbance amongst the protesters. I made it very clear that's not right. That's not -- that doesn't work. That adds no value.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you said you'd thought about it.

WALKER: Well, he did.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: ... in the transcript, when you brought up the part about, basically, dirty tricks in the crowd, you said, Well -- he says, You -- as least you're quoted as saying, "You know, well, the only problem with that, because we thought about that, the problem that my only gut reaction that is right now, the lawmakers I've talked to have just completely had it with them. The public is not really fond of this."

WALKER: Right. Because in the end, the protesters have not overwhelming. They realized they've come in from other states...

VAN SUSTEREN: But you thought about it.

WALKER: We do. We had people contact -- I'd had people -- I even had lawmakers and others suggesting riling things up. What I pointed out increasingly, and I've said it all over the media, I've said it in all my interviews, is that we've had a civil discourse amongst people here in the state of Wisconsin. My great fear is that people come from other states -- my biggest fear was last Saturday, when you had protesters both for and against the bill coming in. I thought you were going to have a major collision between the two. And thank God, we didn't have any disturbance. I think that's because the people of the state are the ones driving this.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Koch says, "Beautiful, beautiful. You got to love" -- and makes a reference to another anchor at another network and says, "She's a real piece of ass." Walker, that's you, "Oh, yes."

WALKER: Like, Oh, yes, I don't know -- I mean, what is he talking about? He's talking about MSNBC. I said in the end, you know, it's one of those where I'll go on...

VAN SUSTEREN: "Piece of ass" is probably -- I mean, probably don't like (INAUDIBLE) heard referring to an anchor as a piece of ass, I imagine, "Oh, yes." I mean, you didn't say that, but you did say, "Oh yes."

WALKER: Yes, like, Oh, yes, what is he talking about? He's talking about MSNBC. I said I'd go on any network out there to make our case about what's going on here.

VAN SUSTEREN: Koch is quoted as saying, "Well, I tell you what, Scott. Once you crush these bastards, I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time." Walker, "All right, that would be outstanding." And then the suggestion is there might be a...

WALKER: And for us, the bottom line is I have never met the guy before. I don't even know where he's talking about in terms of that place. For me, I felt uncomfortable from the point where when he first started talking about disrupting. I said, We're not going to do that. That's something that doesn't make any sense strategically. We've got a good, civil debate. And here again, for us, I've talked about the same things in front of the public. I talked about it in each of the press conferences. We're going to continue to be accountable and open to the public.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know who the Koch brothers are?

WALKER: Oh, I'm aware of them, very much so, in the last couple weeks.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have they -- have they funded you at all at any point in your campaigns?

WALKER: From what I read, they were one of the multitudes that -- we had one of the largest-spending campaigns in state history, about $11 million. As to what they've given exactly, that I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any -- any estimate how much?

WALKER: Again, I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Never met them?

WALKER: I have not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, Governor Scott Walker just told you about that bizarre prank call. We went back and listened carefully to the prank call, especially the part regarding the TV host Mika Brzezinski. Now, after listening and wanting to be fair to the governor, we're not so sure the governor even heard the comment about the TV host. But here's the tape. You listen yourself and you decide.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE IMPERSONATING DAVID KOCH: You got to love that Mika Brzezinski.

WALKER: Oh, yes.

"DAVID KOCH": She's a piece of ass.

WALKER: You know, a couple weeks ago -- I'd known Joe before, but I -- I was having dinner with Jim Sensenbrenner when I came into D.C. for a day to -- to do an event that -- in -- was going over to do Greta's show, had dinner with -- with Congressman Sensenbrenner, and right next to us was the two of them, and then their guest was Axelrod. So I introduced myself.

(END AUDIO CLIP)