OTR Interviews

GOP Governors 'Stand With Scott'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker, just got backup from his pals at the Republican Governors Association. The RGA is launching a radio and TV ad campaign that the Wisconsin governor has to love. So here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a sea of red ink in Madison, and while Senate Democrats are fleeing their responsibility, Governor Walker is leading, balancing the budget without raising taxes so Wisconsin will be open for business again and asking state employees to contribute to their own benefits, just like everyone else. In Wisconsin, leaders don't run away from tough problems like the senate Democrats. Instead, they stand and lead like Governor Scott Walker.


VAN SUSTEREN: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is one of those supporters. Earlier today, she went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY, R-S.C.: Hi, Greta. How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. And I see that the Republican Governors Association has released an ad. And do you stand by Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin? Is that right?

HALEY: Absolutely. Governor Walker is doing the right thing. You know, all of us that have been newly elected have had to deal with really tough budgets. And Governor Walker is fighting the good fight. He's saying we all have to trim. We do it at home. We do it in our businesses. This is not any -- it's not exempt in public government, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is collective bargaining a problem that you have in your state? Do your public employees have a collective bargaining right?

HALEY: No, we do not. We are a strong right-to-work state and so we do not have to deal with collective bargaining.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, one of the issues, at least the union members, the Democrats have raised in Wisconsin, is they say that they have given Governor Walker what he needs. They've agreed to contribute to the pension, contribute to the health care costs. What they're unwilling to do is to give up on collective bargaining as to everything except, I guess, the governor will allow them to collective bargain -- or would agree to it as to wages. So haven't the Democrats and the unions come a little bit -- haven't they come far enough for the governor?

HALEY: Yes, I think what we have to look at is the bigger picture. We are all in a situation where we are dealing with budgets that are going to hurt. We are having to trim down. We're going to have to say this is a time where we're going to have to go through the burn. And everybody's got to make sacrifices.

And we have watched the private sector time and time again have to make those sacrifices. I think the governor was elected to take care of his taxpayers, and I think that's what he's trying to do. This is not just about collective bargaining rights. I mean, I think we have to look at the fact that he's dealing with a $3.5 billion budget hole that he has to fix. And that makes for some hard decisions. And I think what he has done is he's stood strong. I talked to him last week. He's continuing to stand strong. And I think he's doing right by the people of his state.

What I think is terribly wrong is the fact that those senate Democrats -- Democrat senators left their state. I was a legislator. You know, our job is to make hard decisions. The last thing you ever do is flee your state to keep from making a decision. I think it was incredibly cowardly and I think it was terrible for the people of Wisconsin.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you do to get those Democratic senators back, if you were the leader of that state?

HALEY: I would let everybody know that that's the slate that has to be taken out the very next election cycle. I mean, when you have to go and represent your people, you don't go and run from the issues. You go and you stand strong wherever you may be, right on one side or the other. You stand strong and you stand with your people you represent. To go and flee your state is unconscionable, and I would do anything and everything to make sure we got them back into the state and to let the people of their districts know that they were cowardly and they walked out on them at the time that they probably needed them the most.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's an enormously tough issue, I realize for the governors on both side, and also an emotional one. And when we were there last week, we saw the firefighters who were joining the teachers. Now, the firefighters and the police are exempt from this. The governor has exempted them from this.

HALEY: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: But what do you say to the firefighters who, you know, risk their lives every single day and they say to the governor, Governor, we don't want this for our colleagues in the government or public employees, the teachers?

HALEY: Well, you know, and I think Governor Walker, what he did was, he saw the sacrifices that the firefighters make, and that's why they were exempt. I think what he had to do was make some tough decisions. And he went to these teachers and he basically said, Look, this is something that we are having to do. You know, we have to -- we can't continue to give you these perks and benefits that you've been having because, honestly, if you look at multiple states, the average salaries and benefits that are being made by public employees is much higher than what's being made in the private sector.

And so when we look at trimming down our budgets and when we look at filling those budget shortfalls, unfortunately, we do have to deal with state employees. But private sector employees are dealing with that every day. Small businesses are dealing with that every day. And this is a time where we really need everybody to come together and say, Let's hunker down. Let's make the tough decisions. And let's make sure that next year, we never put ourselves back in the same situation again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, if my memory serves me correctly, last time you were in Washington before this past weekend, you had some tough words or bold or blunt words for President Obama. I'm curious if this trip, if you had a chance to speak to him, if you were equally blunt with him, and if you think that he understands the problems you have in your state as governor.

HALEY: I absolutely had a conversation with him. And what I asked him this time was that, you know, the Florida ruling said that the health care reform bill was unconstitutional. I had asked governors from across the country to sign a letter with me that would ask the Supreme Court to expedite that case. Twenty-nine governors signed the letter, and I asked the president if he would join us and get the Supreme Court to expedite the case so that we could tell the states exactly what they had to deal with. As far as I'm concerned, it's unconstitutional. Our states should not have to deal with it.

The president responded by saying that he would not expedite, nor would he stall, that he continues to believe that it is constitutional. And you know, what I will tell you, Greta, is our states right now are having to deal with the fact, are we going to move forward? Are we not going to have to move forward? The time and the money that is being spent in the efforts to plan that is not good for the states. And you know, as our leader, he should want to expedite this as much as anybody else.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you ask him why he didn't want to expedite it? Because for the life of me -- I mean, this is a question that needs to be answered by the Supreme Court. Everybody agrees. So you know, I don't understand why anyone would not want to have it quickly done so that we could all live our lives, whether it's constitutional or unconstitutional.

HALEY: You're exactly right, Greta. If the president truly believes it's constitutional, he should want it faster than anybody else in front of the Supreme Court. What he said is that there's been rulings, some for, some against, and that he's not going to do anything. He's going to let this play out.

The problem is all this is doing is buying him time. All this is doing is buying him time to convince states to do this. What he doesn't realize is he's buying time where states are realizing they absolutely can't afford it. The citizens of our states don't want it. There are other things that we could be doing, and this is just not one of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think he's being stubborn or tactical or both?

HALEY: I think both. I think absolutely both.