April 14, 2011- The controversial governor of Wisconsin defended his efforts to limit public employees' collective bargaining rights and make them pay more toward pension and health care costs at a congressional hearing on Thursday.
Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, compared his actions in Wisconsin to other states that are laying off public employees and increasing property taxes.
"While our idea may be a bold political move, I would argue it is a very modest request of our employees," said Walker to a packed House Oversight Committee hearing.
Walker called his efforts "progressive," saying it will give local governments the "tools to balance their budget not for one year, not for two years but for a generation to come."
Walker testified beside Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat who laid out the ways Vermont balanced its budget without tampering with public employee rights.
"You can balance your budget and you can create jobs in your state without taking on the basic right of collective bargaining," Shumlin said.
Republicans, including committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa of California, hailed Walker's methods, saying he's taking state debt seriously.
Issa said the mounting deficits in states add up to a combined hole of $112 billion in 2012, "an amount equal to approximately a fifth of their budgets, that if nothing is done, will pile on debt for the future," Issa said.
But Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member of the Democratic minority, criticized Walker's tactics, asking him what is "motivating this great effort to dismantle unions themselves?"