Wisconsin state Sen. Julie Lassa, one of the Democrats who fled the state in order to block the three-fifths quorum for Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget and its anti-public union proposals, said on MSNBC Friday that public employees are willing to make sacrifices — but that Walker isn’t willing to negotiate with them.
Lassa was recently an unsuccessful Democratic nominee for the House during the Republican wave of 2010. She ran for the seat vacated by longtime Democratic Rep. David Obey that was won by Republican Sean Duffy. Lassa remained a member of the state Senate, however, as her seat was not up for election — and she is now a fugitive from politics, along with 13 other Dem state senators.
During a phone interview, MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer asked Lassa for her opinion of concerns that some people have, that benefit agreements for public employees were “crushing” state and local budgets. “Should there be — maybe this is not the way to do it — but should there be a reformation when it comes to the way that unions approach, especially public workers’ jobs?”
“Well, we need to make sure that — you know, the public employees of the state of Wisconsin, in our school districts as well as our local municipalities, have said repeatedly and clearly, that they are willing to be part of the financial solution, to helping the state and our local municipalities and school districts, to help balance their budgets,” said Lassa.
“So they are willing to come to the table, they are willing to pay more for their health insurance, they’re willing to pay more for their retirement. But so far, Governor Walker has refused, and repeatedly refused, to meet with these workers, who are willing to be part of the solution. All they are asking is that the Governor come to the table, and to negotiate with them.”
Under Walker’s plan, as TPM has reported, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn’t rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index. Walker and state Republican leaders have said the plan to limit the collective bargaining rights of state employees is necessary to deal with the state’s budget shortfall.
According to the Associated Press: “The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.”
As a result of the controversy, the state Capitol has been filled with protestors all week, and many schools have shut down due to teachers calling in sick en masse.