Gov.-elect Scott Walker asked state legislative leaders Monday to wait until the next legislative session to approve labor union contracts.
Outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle reached tentative labor contract agreements this month, despite Walker’s requests that Doyle refrain from finalizing any state contracts in the final months of his tenure as governor.
Although Democrats have not officially called to have a special session to discuss the contracts, Walker said in a letter to legislators the labor union contracts affect the future Wisconsin state budget.
Approving the labor contracts could lead to greater spending cuts in the next budget, Walker said in the letter.
Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, the man expected to take over as Assembly Speaker in January, expressed his unease toward the labor union contracts in a statement Monday.
“Without proper review, we should not hurry through complex contracts in a lame duck session,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said Doyle is trying to repeat history by calling for a special session regarding the contracts.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, suggested Democrats listen to Walker rather than trying to push the contracts through.
“Instead of ramming through contracts with a secret price tag,” Priebus said in a statement. “Democrats should heed the advice of Governor-elect Scott Walker and out a halt to their reckless spending agenda.”
Jim Bender, a spokesperson for Fitzgerald, said the current budget is out of balance and the state is currently about $3.5 billion in debt.
As a result, it is important to see the information inside the contracts to assess the impacts they will have on the budget, Bender said.
“Even though the contracts are retroactive, we do not know what kind of language is going to be in them,” Bender said.
Bender added he believed it is irresponsible of Democrats to attempt to pass labor union contracts through on such short notice.
“Since the Democrats will not be in control in the next session, they are trying to rush these contracts through at the 11th hour,” Bender said. “For one thing, it is just not good government.”
Walker has the responsibility of writing the next budget, and he wants to be aware of the implications the labor union contracts will have on it, Bender added.
While there is Republican concern over a potential special session in December, Democrats have not officially called for a session to be held. The Legislature needs 60 percent of legislators to hold a special session.
The Assembly Democrats are going to be meeting in caucus tomorrow to discuss meeting for a special session.
However, two Dane County Democrats say the state budget signed in 2009 already set aside the money for state employee salaries and benefits.
“Republicans are attempting to make something nefarious out of the workers’ contracts, but these workers have been dutifully performing their jobs every day for 18 months, without a contract, based on money that has already been budgeted,” said Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, in a statement.
Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, said in a statement the contracts expire in seven months and what Walker decides to do in the budget after that period is his prerogative.