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.”
In Indiana, where Republicans came close to enacting union-busting legislation until Democratic legislators fled the state, GOP leaders are singing a different tune. The bill should never have been introduced — “It was a mistake,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a potential GOP presidential candidate, calls the Democratic tactic of denying Republicans a quorum “perfectly legitimate” and even saluted them for using approach. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is trying to push changes in collective bargaining law that fall well short of Walker’s proposal, also defended the Democratic tactic, saying that when he was in Congress he might have tried something like that himself depending on the circumstances.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval — cited by Walker as as an ally — has made it clear that he won’t try to ban collective bargaining by local government employees. (Nevada law already outlaws it for state employees.)
In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad wants state employees to start sharing in the cost of health insurance, but he says he doesn’t want to push changes of the sort that Walker has pursued.
“This is not Wisconsin,” Branstad said. “It’s Iowa and I’m proud it’s Iowa and we are going to do things that we think make sense to make Iowa more competitive.”
In Florida, where public employees haven’t seen a raise in five years, Gov. Rick Scott says that “as long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine.”
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie took a similar stance Wednesday.
“I don’t think that there are a lot of parallels between what’s going on (in Wisconson) and what’s going on in New Jersey. In New Jersey, I’m ready to embrace the collective-bargaining situation, but don’t tell me that I can’t go back to the legislature to undo some of the things that you got done through the legislature.”
The Republican Governors Association is trying to drum up statements of support for Walker, setting up a “Stand With Scott” website. So far, four Republican governors — Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Bob McDonnell of Virginia — have posted general statements of support. While all four laud Walker for trying to reduce spending — “I commend Governor Walker for dealing with government sector wages and benefits,” — Barbour says — none comment directly on collective bargaining.
– Jay Bookman