MILWAUKEE (AP) - One day after a Wisconsin lawmaker promised to introduce right-to-work legislation, Gov. Scott Walker said the state Legislature should not take up the issue, calling it “a distraction.”
Rep. Chris Kapenga of Delafield, one of the most conservative members of the Assembly GOP caucus, said Tuesday he’s convinced that right-to-work legislation, which would prohibit unions from forcing private-sector workers to join or pay dues as a condition of employment, is right for the state. He said he plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming session that begins in January.
But Walker said Wednesday that he thinks Republican leaders should be focused on education, tax and regulatory reform, and balancing the budget without raising taxes.
“The right-to-work legislation right now, as well reopening Act 10 to make any other adjustments, would be a distraction from the work that we are trying to do,” Walker said, after speaking at a Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce meeting in Milwaukee.
The governor’s signature legislative achievement has been getting passed a law known as Act 10 in 2011 that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers and prohibited those workers from being forced to join a union or pay dues. Walker has not proposed making Wisconsin a right-to-work state, and he largely dodged the issue during his re-election campaign.
Walker said Wednesday that most other states with a right-to-work law that are doing well have other factors such as a lower tax burden, no income taxes or a more favorable regulatory climate, working in their favor. He once again would not say whether he would sign a possible bill.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in July he didn’t intend to pursue the issue in 2015 but on Monday issued a statement saying he looked forward to discussing the benefits of becoming a right-to-work state.
Act 10 drew tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol for almost three weeks. Democrats were so angry after the bill passed that they forced a number of Republican officeholders, including Walker, into recall elections. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said Tuesday that if the bill gains momentum, the state can expect to see massive protests again.
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