Wisconsin governor urging others to take stands against unions
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 10:51 PM
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose efforts to curtail the rights of public-employee unions have thrust him into the national spotlight, is pushing other new Republican governors to follow his lead.
He said he communicates regularly with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and has spoken with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. And Walker has suggested that his counterparts in Michigan and Florida seek to address their budget problems in part by demanding major concessions from public workers.
"There's a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big," Walker said this week. "This is our moment."
His comments about his GOP brethren came in an unusual forum: a recorded telephone conversation with a liberal blogger purporting to be conservative financier David Koch.
Walker's standoff with unions in Wisconsin has also prompted tea party groups to put together an extensive schedule of national grass-roots organizing, with the goal of supporting governors and lawmakers who are pushing for pension reform, restrictions on public-sector collective bargaining and deep cuts in spending.
FreedomWorks, a Washington-based group led by former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), said it will send paid workers to Tallahassee; Indianapolis; Harrisburg, Pa.; Columbus, Ohio; and Salt Lake City in coming weeks as part of the effort.
"This is clearly just the beginning of many state battles that are happening around the country," said FreedomWorks state coordinator Brendan Steinhauser.
The uproar over Walker's efforts has meanwhile spurred liberal groups and unions, including MoveOn.org and the AFL-CIO, to reinforce the protests in Wisconsin and to plan rallies in every state capital on Saturday as part of their own push to shape the national debate.
In the recorded phone call, Walker reaffirmed his view that rolling back unions' negotiating power is essential for fixing Wisconsin's budget ills. He also clearly relished his new high-profile role in U.S. politics, mentioning his multiple national media appearances and comparing his stand to President Ronald Reagan's efforts in the 1980s to break a strike by air-traffic controllers.
Walker said that on the evening of Feb. 6, after the Super Bowl, he hosted his cabinet members at a dinner at the governor's mansion, pulled out a picture of Reagan and spoke about the budget legislation he was about to release.
"I said: 'This is our moment. This is our time to change the course of history,' " he said in the recorded call.
The conversation took place Tuesday afternoon, and Walker's office confirmed its authenticity Wednesday.