Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said Thursday that his decision to strip the collective bargaining rights of public workers "doesn't save any" money for taxpayers during a House committee hearing on ways to handle state and municipal debt.
Nearly all collective bargaining rights were stripped from Wisconsin public workers in March when the Republican governor signed a non-fiscal version of his budget plan into law.
During the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) asked Walker how the provision to strip the collective bargaining rights of public workers saved money for Wisconsin taxpayers.
"Let me ask you about some of the specific provisions in your proposals to strip collective bargaining rights," he said. "First, your proposal would require unions to hold annual votes to continue representing their own members. Can you please explain to me and members of this committee how much money this provision saves for your state budget?
"That particular part doesn't save any," Walker responded.
Congressman Eljiah Cummings (D-MD) also chastised Walker's targeting of unions during the hearing.
"I strongly oppose efforts to falsely blame middle-class American workers for these current economic problems," Cummings said. "[Walker] went much further by attempting to strip government employees of their collective bargaining rights. He demanded numerous provisions that had nothing to do with the state's budget, had no fiscal impact."
In contrast to his Democratic critics, Republican Committee chairman Darrell Issa of California, who invited Walker to testify in the hearing, praised the governor's efforts to reform Wisconsin's budget.
"Governor Walker's bold reforms seem reasonable to those of us in Washington who understand that our retirement and healthcare system at the federal level is not subject to collective bargaining," he said.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, conservative groups supported by the controversial oil industrialist Koch family, also testified at the hearing.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa dismissed Walker's appearance before the committee as "political theater."
"Rather than create good jobs for the hardworking people of Wisconsin, Scott Walker took away their collective bargaining rights," Hoffa said in a statement. "All he's interested in is payback to corporate backers like the Koch brothers."
"What does Scott Walker know about debt, other than getting into it? Wisconsin was projected to have a surplus of $121 million before Walker took office," he added. "He gave $116 million in tax breaks to corporations and now he wants to give another $83 million in tax breaks for corporations and investors."
Economists told the The Wisconsin State Journal that Governor Scott Walker's budget crisis is a fabrication invented out of whole cloth and predicated on a series of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Walker has repeatedly asserted that the state is "broke", but using the word "broke" they said, is a political tool.