Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was in Hudson today, just across the state line from the Twin Cities, to visit a Hudson manufacturer and talk about his budget plan.
Last week, Walker signed a bill that ends most collective bargaining rights for many Wisconsin public employees. That bill caused huge protests, led Democratic state senators to flee the state to delay a vote and is now the subject of a lawsuit.
Walker visited Empire Bucket, a small equipment manufacturer off of Interstate 94. They make and repair steel shovels for backhoes and excavators and other big construction machines.
There were hundreds of protesters on the street outside at one point, and Walker acknowledged the conflict that had marked his first months in office, but he didn't express any regret.
"What I've found in the calls we've received even in this past week, its from potential employers coming from other states who really look up to the fact that we've, not just me, but the Legislature and others have been willing to tackle the tough tasks," Walker told reporters in the plant. "Other states have failed to do that. That makes those states unstable in terms of their business climate and their government climate. our actions, while it was intense for a month, will provide long term dividends in terms helping to turn this state around."
He also said that he takes seriously the talk about recalling him. But if he has any concern about the conflict his administration has sparked, or any regrets about taking on the state's public employee unions, he's didn't talk about it in Hudson.
Empire Bucket General Manager Sue Olson said the company started back in the early 1970s, in Little Canada, but moved to Hudson in 1986. She said property taxes and workers compensation costs and the business climate in general was better in Hudson, so they've been there for about 25 years.
In a lot of ways, it's an example of what Walker says is right about Wisconsin. He said his fiscal policy has drawn more interest than ever from businesses that want to relocate to his state, including some from Minnesota.
Walker said it was also the kind of business that he hoped would help revive the state's economy. Speaking to about 30 employees he said he wanted to grow a quarter million jobs in the state in his first term.
The workers there listened quietly, even though the sales manager there said that one of the workers was the spouse of the head of the local AFSCME chapter.
Walker also said that he was trying to pay up on the $58 million his state has owed Minnesota since the breakdown of a tax reciprocity agreement. He said it was part of his budget repair bill -- the part that didn't involve collective bargaining -- and that now that lawmakers are back in Madison, he hopes to get that passed and pay off the state's debt to Minnesota.