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Walker marks 100 days in office

Gov. Scott Walker says he may have to again consider laying off state employees if his collective bargaining law remains tied up in the courts for much more than the next week or two.

“(But) for now, we’re still ready to implement it once we get the green light from the courts,” Walker told WisPolitics.com as part of an administration effort to mark his first 100 days in office today.

The Republican guv adds the state has no plans to retroactively collect the higher health care and pension payments from state employees if the courts clear the way.

He also said he didn't want lawmakers to take up the collective bargaining changes again in an attempt to get around the open meetings concerns raised in the complaint that’s held up the first bill.

“I think it’s a dangerous precedent because the Legislature, I think very clearly, has made the case that they passed the law legally,” said Walker, adding he believed the changes would take effect once the court case was through.

A Dane County judge put on hold implementation of the changes to pension and health care payments, along with collective bargaining powers. The state DOA last week asked the Supreme Court to lift the injunction, and Walker is hoping for action from the courts within the next two weeks.

During the debate over the changes, Walker warned they need to be in place by April 1 or he would have to consider laying off the equivalent of 1,500 state employees. He said passage of other pieces from his budget repair bill has given the state some breathing room.

Walker said not having those public employee changes in place was the only disappointment during his first 100 days in office.

He says his efforts to change the business climate are partly responsible for some of the positive jobs numbers the state has seen this year.

While acknowledging any gains in January couldn’t be attributed to his policy changes, he said a number of businesses took a wait-and-see approach last year to whether they wanted to expand in Wisconsin. But he said companies got off the sidelines once he won and started to lay the foundation for his jobs plan.

“Just talking about what we were going to do, I think, has helped the business climate. Now that we’re doing it has helped even more,” Walker said, indicating he’d signed more legislation in the first 100 days than any guv in the last 30 years.

Walker is signaling compromise on his plan to eliminate recycling grants to local governments.

He said he’s suggested to lawmakers the option of phasing out recycling grants instead.

GOP members of the Joint Finance Committee have expressed concerns over Walker’s budget plan to eliminate the grants.

Members have also expressed opposition to various other changes, but Walker said they'd likely find there's not a lot of room to maneuver in this budget.

“For any other thing where it takes money, they’re going to find you have to make it up somewhere else,” Walker said.

He also said he continues to support lifting Wisconsin’s moratorium on new nuclear power plants, but any changes would be part of a broader energy package. His appointee to be PSC chair, former state Rep. Phil Montgomery, has long been a proponent of lifting the cap.

Walker attributed some of the missteps of his administration in the first 100 days to normal growing pains.

That includes the hiring of a prominent lobbyist’s son for a job over more qualified people despite a light resume and two drunken driving convictions on his record.

“Do you make dumb mistakes sometimes? Yeah. But I don’t think the measure of an administration is whether they make dumb mistakes or not,” Walker said. “It’s what they do to correct them.”

He said the most disappointing thing about the episode is it overshadowed what he said was the most qualified, most experienced cabinet the state has ever seen.

Listen to the full interview.

See Walker's testimony this week before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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