By Charles Benson. CREATED Nov 25, 2013
MILWAUKEE -- Jobs, the economy and the collective bargaining battles that put Wisconsin on the national stage are expected to be big issues in next years governor's race.
TODAY'STMJ4'S Charles Benson recently talked with Governor Scott Walker and his likely Democratic opponent Mary Burke.
Burke believes firm but fair negotiations could have saved taxpayers money by holding public employee unions accountable to higher pension and health care contributions without Act 10.
Burke:I think we have to make sure that money we are spending is being used wisely.
Benson: So you think those could have been negotiated versus forced upon?
Yes, I think so. I think those options were on the table and we should have gotten those.
In his new book, Walker claims abuses by unions on overtime and work rules left him believing negotiating didn't work with unions.
Walker: My 8 years as a County Executive opened my eyes to those sort of abuses that needed to be fixed if we were truly to fix the state of Wisconsin.
Benson: So the conclusion you made as County Executive and Governor is that when government negotiates with public employee unions - taxpayers lose?
Walker: Yeah, there's nobody standing at the table for them.
On the jobs front, Walker and Burke each cherry picked different states to compare unemployment numbers to Wisconsin.
Walker says Illinois still struggles with huge budget deficits despite double digit tax increases.
"Today, Illinois still hovers about 9% unemployment and we are at six and half percent. In my predecessors last term - in which she was a part of it early on - Wisconsin lost 133,00 jobs. Under any measure we've gained jobs in the State of Wisconsin."
Burke was Governor Doyle's Commerce Secretary but she was not in office when Wisconsin lost those jobs during the 2008 and 09 recession.
Burke says Minnesota is doing just fine without any big political battles.
"I look next door to Minnesota and they have a 5.1% unemployment rate we have a 6.7% unemployment rate. I think the turmoil that Act 10 caused really weakened our economy and has been holding us back."