Governor Scott Walker spent several hours before a Congressional panel defending his policies of the first three months of his administration. While speaking this morning before the House Committee on Oversight, the need for a business friendly environment was a common theme especially in his comparison of Wisconsin to Illinois.
“We love the fact that while our corporate tax rate is 7.9 percent, the effective tax rate in Illinois is now 9-and-a-half percent.” The Land of Lincoln is facing a budget crisis which Walker mentioned as a warning when these “issues aren’t taken seriously.”
Rep. Edlophus Towns (D-New York) asked Walker why he is perceived as being all about helping big corporations at the expense of the middle and lower class. The Governor responded saying it may be because of attack ads that Washington based groups aired in Wisconsin.
“Democrats voted for many of the measures that we pushed through that create a better business environment in our state.” During testimony he included the repeal of the state tax on health savings accounts which “benefits individuals” and added that business tax breaks are tied specifically to job creating companies.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) did not pull any punches. He asked how Walker’s proposal, that requires unions to allow individuals to vote annually on whether they want labor representation, helps the deficit.
“Can you please explain to me how much money this provision saves in this state budget,” asked the Ohio lawmaker.
The Governor responded he wants to give workers the right to “know what kind of value” they get out their union membership. Kucinich pressed harder getting Walker to admit it saves no state dollars then talked over the Governor for the remainder of the lawmaker’s allotted time.
The Republican Walker said decisions in dealing with unions were based on his experience as a Milwaukee County Executive for eight years in which organized labor was unwilling to budge at all on concessions. In addition to the recession he admitted both parties are at fault for Wisconsin’s fiscal challenges citing the previous raiding of segregated funds and the use of one time federal stimulus dollars.
The purpose of the hearing was to discuss challenges in balancing state budgets in a tough economy. Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, who said its possible to balance state budgets without taking away collective bargaining, also testified before the committee.