The budget stand-off between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the 14 Democratic state senators does not look like it will end anytime soon. This morning on "GMA" Walker told me that despite seven days of protests he can't negotiate because of the state's $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
“The bottom line is we are trying to balance our budget and there really is no room to negotiate on that because we’re broke,” the Republican governor said.
The 14 senators fled the state on Thursday to avoid the budget vote. Upwards of 70,000 protestors surrounded the capitol over the weekend – some union supporters calling on Walker to negotiate and others demanding the Democrats return.
“If the state senators would come back we’d gladly talk to them. The reality is they are hiding out in a different state, now they think somehow a handful of the minority can hold people hostage and the reality is if you want to participate in democracy you’ve got to come to where it’s at and that is in the arena and the arena is in Madison Wisconsin not in Rockford or Chicago or anywhere else outside the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said.
Unions and Democrats have promised to do their part to balance the budget -- saying they will make higher health care and pension contributions equivalent to about an 8% pay cut – but they argue that Walker’s real goal is busting their unions. The governor dismissed those concessions arguing they would “say anything in the midst of the debate.”
So the game of chicken continues. Neither side is budging on collective bargaining rights. But a real deadline looms this weekend. If there’s no agreement, the state will lose a chance to refinance the state’s debt, which will make the budget shortfall even worse. Walker shrugged that off.
“They’ve got to come to Wisconsin, do the job that they were elected to do, do the job they were paid to do, and if they would do that we’ll sit down and talk to them,” he said. “But the bottom line is we can’t negotiate over a budget because we’re broke and we need the money.”
Watch my interview here: