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'We knew there'd be push back': Former Gov. Scott Walker reflects on collective bargaining and taxpayer savings from Act 10, a decade later

Posted at 4:33 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 19:28:40-05

TMJ4 is taking a deep dive into the Capitol Chaos that sparked protests as a result of Act 10 in Wisconsin, 10 years ago this week.

The passage of Act 10 completely changed the political landscape here in Wisconsin.

The images from the state Capitol are still embedded in our memory and there's a good chance no matter which side of the debate you were on back then - it's also where you are today.

TMJ4's political expert Charles Benson, who was there on day one and covered it all, looks back on those days and what it means today with former Republican Governor Scott Walker, Milwaukee Democratic state Senator Lena Taylor, and a former reporter now researcher, Jason Stein.

Walker says Act 10 saved taxpayers billions of dollars.

Benson: What do you remember from those days and the launch of Act 10?
Walker: We knew there'd be push back, we thought we'd be getting it done in a week or two, little did we know the national significance would rise within days after our first kickoff.

Tens of thousands would arrive at the state capital, taking over just about every public square inch inside the capitol building. Times were tense.

"We had death threats, I had death threats against myself, against my wife Tonette, against our children," said Walker. "Certain state lawmakers received threats."

The political battle was over Act 10. It would not only change the state's long history of supporting collective bargaining but a way of life. Public employees - except police and fire - would be required to pay more for their health and pension benefits to close a massive budget deficit.

The newly elected governor says his transition team initially raised doubts about eliminating collective bargaining for most public employees.

"They say you can't do that, collective bargaining is the way, it is in the law, and I said well isn't the Republican legislature now in the majority in the Assembly and the Senate? Can't we change the law to make this work? And you could almost see a light bulb go on," said Walker.

Republicans pushed ahead and passed Act 10 without a single vote from Democrats.

That led to a million people supporting Walker's removal from office, only to see him survive by a larger margin of victory in a recall election.

"We put the power to run schools and local and state government again back in the hands of the people who are duly elected," said Walker. "And that means that a school, they can staff, based on merit, they can pay based on performance."

Watch the full report tonight on TMJ4 News at 6.

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