Gov. Walker: Public union leaders didn't protect taxpayers

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," June 4, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": From Madison, Wisconsin, this is it, do or die, the final hours before voters in this state decide whether to make their governor the third to go down to recall defeat. There have only been three in American history.

It didn’t fare well for those other two. Scott Walker hopes to make it the exception today.

Welcome, everybody. I am Neil Cavuto coming to you from the Badger State; where right now both sides are badgering each other and trying to taking advantage of a vote that is too close to call.

And to Republican Governor Walker telling me earlier today he is confident he will win out. He is confident, he says, because the trend is his friend, the economy is picking up, the unemployment rate is coming down, he says all because of the very measures that have led to this new recall election now.

But Governor Walker reminding me he is fit, he is ready, and he is going to survive.

Governor Walker earlier today.


CAVUTO: Governor, pleasure to have you.

How you holding up?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: I’m doing well. The voice is a little bit short, but, other than that, everything else is doing well.

CAVUTO: Polling is always all over the map. And there are wide potential swings for error here. But it looks good thus far. If you win, what do you think it means?

WALKER: Well, I think it’s a victory for courage, not only here in Wisconsin, but I think across the country.

For years, I have heard people tell me, voters tell me -- didn’t matter if it was Democrat or Republican alike -- people complaining that politicians at the local level, at the state level, particularly at the national level, didn’t have the courage, didn’t have the guts to take on tough issues.

And it is -- everybody knows we have got to take these issues on, but politicians, when they get into office, failed to do that. To me, this -- a victory tomorrow would be a victory for everyone across the country in a local government and a state government and even those people like my friend Paul Ryan in Washington trying to do equally as courageous a thing, it would be a victory to say that voters really do mean it when they say they want us to take on the tough issues.

CAVUTO: What do you think about that Barack Obama has not been here?

WALKER: Well, I think it is interesting.

For all the hype -- President Clinton was here a week ago, and they asked me about it. And I said, it is more interesting to me that when the president of the United States is literally just on the other side of the Saint Croix River in Minnesota in the Twin Cities, when he was about the same time in Chicago, just south of the Wisconsin border...

CAVUTO: Yes, was a Marine One trip away.

WALKER: Yes. I think it is really -- it’s kind of confusing, I think, to voters here, because they wonder why would you not come in?

Two years ago, my same -- same person I am running against now was my opponent back then. And he came in and campaigned for the mayor at that point. I think it is a sign there is real concern, what I have seen over the weekend, which are voters who tell me they voted for my opponent or they tell me they are Democrats, but in each case they tell me they are voting for me now either because they like the courage to take on the tough problems or a number of them who are Democrats tell me they do not like the recall process.

And my guess is the president and his folks just want to shy away from that.

CAVUTO: You know, what is weird, Governor? When I look at polls in your state that show you and the president roughly the same 50-plus percent approval ratings. That is weird.


Well, our state, like many in the Midwest, is fiercely independent. We are not strictly one party or the other. People like to vote for the person. And so I think some of it is driven by that.

And I think part of it now is, voters like that we were able to tackle these tough issues. Remember, it has been a year-and-a-half that I have been under siege. I mean, last February and March, the national special interests groups from Washington in particular came in and poured money attacking me, bringing in people to attack me.

It continued throughout the spring in the Supreme Court race, the state Senate recall elections in the summer, all throughout last fall into early this year, in terms of the recall petition itself. We have been under about a year-and-a-half’s worth of attacks, and yet we finally have gotten our numbers up above 50 percent, because the truth is on our side. When people hear the truth, when they see the facts, when they see that our reforms are working, then it’s tough...


CAVUTO: Well, your opponent says the reforms are not working. And then it’s a battle of how many jobs you have created vs. not created. Clearly, the unemployment rate has ticked down, 6.7 percent in the latest read.

So you are below the national average. And that is the wind at your back. But, regardless, if it is a close election, even with the wind at your and even if you win, close to half those likely voting, if that is the case, if you just go by polls, feel it is not good enough. What do you say?

WALKER: Well, I think it is part of that year-and-a-half’s worth of attacks.

If we are able move on and move forward after Tuesday’s election, I think we get back to where we started, which was, last January, overwhelmingly bipartisan support for our jobs initiatives. It was not until the national forces came in that you started to see a bit of a difference of opinion here.

If we get back to that, we start helping small business again. I mean, think about this. Two years ago, when I ran for governor, only 10 percent of our employers surveyed thought that Wisconsin was heading in the right direction. That same survey a couple of months ago was conducted for 2012; 94 percent of our employers said Wisconsin is headed in the right direction.

The biggest concern though they had on their list in terms of things that would keep them from hiring people in 2012 was the recall. They are concerned about the recall. They believe we are doing positive things. They believe we are moving the state forward. But they scared to death that if the mayor got in, he would take things backward. And we saw that before.


CAVUTO: When you say take things backward, that it would be union- friendly environment or that he would go back to collective bargaining rights, the kind of stuff unions disparage you...


WALKER: Oh, I think it’s even bigger than that.

I think if you go back to what the mayor wants to do to -- completely undoing our reforms, going back to the old collective bargaining system that is when a handful of big government union bosses were in charge at both the state and the local level.

What we did was change that. We put the hardworking taxpayers in charge, not just in state government, but in every one of our local governments as well. That was good news for small businesses. That was good for...


CAVUTO: Did you envision that it would get as rough as it did? They attacked you, Governor, as coming in with this Machiavellian plan. On the stump, you said one thing. But when you came in, you were full-barrel out to destroy unions, that you were, as one I think union leader said, out to disembowel them. What do you say?

WALKER: Well, in our case, clear difference between -- I have had great partners in the private sector, with private sector unions, were my partner in economic development. They worked with us on improving our infrastructure, and improving cost-effective and reliable sources of power.

They are even trying to help me streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining. My problem with public sector union leaders, the bosses, has been is that they stood in the way of protecting the taxpayer. I knew for eight years as a county official I saw the biggest barrier to protecting core services for our people and still protecting the property taxpayers was out-of-control special interests.

And so, we really stood up, drew a line in the stand and said I’m going to stand with the hardworking taxpayers. It has proven to be effective, first time in 12 years property taxes went down on a median- value home in our state. Instead of having a $3.6 billion deficit, we have a $154 million budget surplus. And unlike my opponent in Milwaukee, where unemployment has gone up during his tenure 26 percent, largely because taxes and fees have gone up 43 percent -- that is going backwards.

CAVUTO: But the unions, you know, counter that, as you know, Governor, saying you have done it on their back and it is not right, it is not fair.

WALKER: Well, I would say to any taxpayer out there who works outside of government, most of them would shake their head in disbelief at a statement like that, because what we did -- my brother is a good example.

I have got a younger brother, great guy, who works as a banquet manager in a hotel. He’s a part-time bartender. His wife sells appliances at a department store. They have got two daughters, my nieces, who are beautiful. They are a typical middle-class family, not just here in Wisconsin, but I think across America.

And last year, in the height of all of this, he scratches his head and says to me, I pay more than $800 a month for my health insurance. And the little bit I can set aside for the 401(k) I would love a deal like the one you are offering for public sector employees. They’re matching their pension contribution and they’re paying 12.6 percent for their health insurance.

Most of my hardworking taxpayers in this state pay anywhere from 20 percent to 25 percent of their health insurance. We are still offering a great deal.

CAVUTO: Well, you did mention that and you campaigned on that in this recall.

And now a lot of these union representatives, leaders, more to the point, Governor, are saying, oh, boy, he is going to go full-bore now after our benefits and really try to kill us off, if he wins.

WALKER: No, the great thing we’re going to do -- and we have seen it in other states that have been able to do this -- is we are going to reward excellence.

We are going to be able to be in a position where we can hire and fire based on merit. We’re going to be able to pay based on performance. That means we are able to reward great employees, particularly in our schools. In the past -- I have got two boys who go to a public high school here in the state of Wisconsin.

At their school, there was no way to differentiate between a great teacher and a teacher that needed some assistance. And now our schools all across the state can really focus in on merit and performance.

CAVUTO: How were those boys treated at school?

WALKER: You know, actually, surprisingly very well. It’s a great example. I think the overwhelming majority of teachers in our state are good.

CAVUTO: So they’re not picked on? You haven’t had family members picked on?

WALKER: Well, not at the school.

CAVUTO: Right.

WALKER: My kids were targeted on Facebook by protesters.

They got all sorts of grief. We had thousands of people bused in from outside of our community in front of our home. But at our school, with their friends, with their teachers, with their principal, who has just been exceptional, they have been just Matt and Alex, not just the governor’s sons.

CAVUTO: But what do you think of all this outside interest?

Critics have said of yours you have got all these outside investors, billionaires, Sheldon Adelson, and et cetera, et cetera? The other side has plenty of union interests coming from service workers, AFL-CIO, teachers, on and on and on.

WALKER: Right.

CAVUTO: A very small fraction from in this state.


In our case, the interesting thing is, more than 70 percent of our contributions came from people who gave us $50 or less. So whether it is someone here in Wisconsin in Beloit or it’s someone just across the way in South Beloit just over the state line in Illinois, there are people who understand what is at stake here.

They understand that if they do not stand up and help our campaign out, the stakes are that high, because we are being attacked by those special interests.

CAVUTO: Let’s say you lose, though. And you say what is at stake here. What will happen, what do you fear happens that brings a Nikki Haley here or a Chris Christie here, or a Bobby Jindal?

WALKER: Right.

CAVUTO: What do they say or tell you, and you them, that is going to lead to some apocalypse?

WALKER: Oh, I think it’s a combination.

It’s both the practical things that we see the mayor has no plan for economic development, no plan for a budget. So we have to assume...


CAVUTO: Well, his first goal, he says, would be to rescind your collective bargaining rights issue.

WALKER: Right. That’s the only thing he’s said.

He’s said nothing about how you would balance the rest of the budget, because the reality is, if people did not use our reforms, what would happen in Wisconsin is what we see happening in real time in Wisconsin. They raised taxes on individuals 67 percent and on businesses 46 percent.

They have now -- a year later, the budget is even worse off. And the governor has proposed closing 14 state facilities, laying off thousands of public employees. They have cut more than $1 billion out of Medicaid. Those are all horrific choices that place like Illinois...


CAVUTO: So you say, even if he were to win, he would have to be addressing these same issues?

WALKER: Well, he -- right. For all the talk out there that there is not -- collective bargaining would only make it more difficult to balance the budget.

What we did was make it easier to balance the budget at both the state and the local level. We are actually getting things in a way that moves forward. But in the larger context, I think, beyond Wisconsin, why many of my fellow reform-minded governors are here in the state of Wisconsin over the last couple of weeks helping us out is they understand that this is, really, a sign about whether or not elected officials will have the courage to take on these tough issues.


CAVUTO: Scott Walker.

But that is only half the interview. Tonight, on Fox Business Network, at our new time, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the governor gets down and dirty about the issues that everyone has been talking about: life after this, like this:


CAVUTO: There have been many who say that your name could be mentioned as a running mate, even this year, presidential candidate in a future year. What do you say to that?


CAVUTO: You are going to hear a lot more on that tonight on Fox Business Network, again, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, 7:00 p.m. in this locale.

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