The governor is now talking about bipartisanship, which is difficult for many people to accept because earlier this year, Gov. Scott Walker rammed through a law permanently stripping Wisconsin workers of their collective bargaining rights. While doing this he refused to talk to his employees who had offered major concessions. He even boasted in the media about his unwillingness to negotiate.
We are pleased that he now wants to switch his focus to job creation, which Democrats have been talking about since the first day of session when we introduced nearly a dozen job-creation bills. I met with the governor this past week, talked cordially, and I sincerely welcome these changes.
However, it’s not just elected Democrats the governor needs to work with – it’s the people of the state. Walker’s refusal to accept compromise when workers offered to pay more for their health care and pensions – without eliminating their rights – is directly responsible for the extreme polarization that led to two Republicans being recalled and the most expensive state senate campaigns in our state’s history.
If Walker is sincere in his newfound desire to move past the partisanship and division he created to start working together, he needs to follow the lead of Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich.
Shortly after Walker signed his anti-worker legislation into law, Gov. Kasich signed a similar bill. Mirroring what happened in Wisconsin, working Ohioans descended on the state capitol to protest. And after it passed, a grassroots effort resulted in the collection of 1.3 million signatures to repeal the Ohio law via referendum.
On Wednesday, the day after Wisconsin’s recalls ended with the removal of two Republican senators that supported Gov. Walker’s attack on workers’ rights, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republican lawmakers announced their intentions to discuss a compromise with Democrats and labor leaders to restore workers’ rights.
In his announcement, Kasich said, “It is never too late to reach an agreement if there are people that are willing to reach it.”
Apparently Kasich finally heard the message from both Buckeyes and Badgers alike: ignoring the voice of the middle class is a perilous, unsustainable way to govern.
The people of Wisconsin, like their counterparts in Ohio, want us to work together. But while Kasich responded to pressure to be bipartisan on workers’ rights, we see no evidence that Walker and his fellow Republicans are willing to bring stakeholders together to end the division they caused over the past seven months.
If Walker sincerely wants to bring Wisconsin together again he would be wise to demonstrate bipartisanship by showing he is committed to working on a deal to restore the rights workers in Wisconsin have had for more than 50 years.
Wisconsin has spoken. Recall elections resulted in a state senate where the majority of the body now opposes Gov. Walker’s divisive, anti-worker legislation. Let’s work together on job creation. Let’s work together on education and job training. Let’s include workers in finding solutions. It’s time to heal Wisconsin and bring us all back together.
As Kasich said, “It’s never too late.”
State Rep. Peter Barca is the Minority Leader of the Wisconsin Assembly.