MADISON, WI -- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) just finished a press conference early this evening, in which he continued to warn about the specter of layoffs of government workers if his budget does not pass, and called upon the absent state Senate Democrats to return to the state. Predictably, he continued to face questions over the biggest story of the last two days: His phone call with blogger Ian Murphy, who was posing as Republican financier David Koch.
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Walker took five questions in total. The first two questions were both about the "Koch" call, followed by three questions about the budget bill itself and his efforts to end collective bargaining for public sector workers.
In his initial speech, Walker said he had spoken to a small businessman in Wisconsin, who was concerned about the strife going on in the state, and who asked why Walker did not simply take the deal of the increased contributions by public employees to their health care and pensions.
"You look at what's happened at the local level over the past two weeks with this measure...actions speak louder than words," Walker said. "Over the past few weeks we've seen in cities and counties and schools in a rush to pass contracts that don't have a 5 percent and 12 percent contributions. In fact, what I've seen, they have no additional contributions for pensions and health care costs for government employees. In fact, in some cases they've rammed through contracts that have an increase in the salaries."
Walker also spoke of the concern that he said he had for state workers. He said he wanted to avoid layoffs that would hurt people's families, and in response to workers' concerns would strengthen civil service protections on issues of grievances, terminations and discipline etc.
"We've also got to give those workers the right to choose," Walker said -- restating his point from yesterday's press conference that he would give workers the ability to save about $1,000 per year by not paying dues to a union.
But a great deal of interest still focused on Walker's statements on the recorded prank phone call released yesterday morning.