Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Public Jobs

Wisconsin state legislators are voting on a new measure that challenges the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Purposed by Governor Scott Walker as a much needed "austerity measure," public employees have come out in protest over the last few days.
AP Photo

From the Huffington Post:
Wisconsin is facing a $137 million budget deficit. In order to close it, Walker wants to sharply curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions, effectively preventing them from negotiating benefits, hours and working conditions. (They would, however, still be able to bargain over base wages, and Walker decided to exempt firefighters and police workers from his measure.) Public workers would also have to contribute more money toward pension and health insurance plans.

What has attracted the most attention is Walker's threat to call out the National Guard in order to respond to a walk-out or any resistance to his plan.

The governor has insisted that he's not targeting public employees.

"I'm just trying to balance my budget," Walker told The New York Times. "To those who say why didn't I negotiate on this? I don't have anything to negotiate with. We don't have anything to give. Like practically every other state in the country, we're broke. And it's time to pay up." The Huffington Post was unable to get a comment from him on Wednesday.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin has said that Walker's plan will save Wisconsin $30 million over the next three months and $300 million over the next two years.

But some questioned whether his proposal is really financially necessary. The governor himself claims that Wisconsin can save $165 million by the end of next June simply by restructuring existing debt. Additionally, the share of corporate tax revenue funding the state government has fallen by half since 1981 and, according to Wisconsin Department of Revenue, two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes.
Walker is claiming that if he doesn't pass these measures the alternative is, "to look at 1,500 layoffs of state employees or close to 200,000 children who would be bumped off Medicaid-related programs." This is wildly untrue in regards to children on medicaid though. The state doesn't have the power, but it was a nice touch don't you think? This is a far cry from the "first state to grant collective bargaining rights to public employees more than a half-century ago".

This video sums up some of the issues nicely:

One of the major stumbling blocks in any discussions about public labor unions is the idea that public workers are making some shocking amount of money when compared to private sector workers. The problem is this just isn't true. When you consider the fact "59% of full-time Wisconsin public sector workers hold at least a four-year college degree compared with 30% of full-time private sector workers," private sector workers actually earn more.

From the Economic Policy Institute:
When we compare apples to apples, we find that Wisconsin public employees earn 4.8% less in total compensation than comparable private sector workers. The comparisons—controlling for education, experience, hours of work, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship, and disability—demonstrate that full-time state and local public employees earn lower wages and receive less in total compensation (including all benefits) than comparable private sector employees.
Another interesting fact is that the state's fiscal bureau found that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures. In fact, the bureau claims the state could even end the fiscal year with a surplus if it wasn't for Walker's own tax cuts. So basically Walker pushed through $140 million in new spending and now wants teachers and nurses to pick up the tab. Walker can claim he isn't targeting anyone group till he's blue in the face, but as long as Police officers, firefighters, and state troopers are exempt we all know what an obvious lie that is.

Even though there is no way Democrats can stop this bill with Wisconsin's Republican controlled congress, the Republicans still need one Democrat to be present at the vote (20 senators are needed to vote on a bill and there are 19 Republicans) and none of them decided to show up today in protest. The Wisconsin State Patrol will be sent out to look for them, if it hasn't already, so there's no telling how things are going to unfold. The worst part in all this for me is the way these workers have been made out to be our enemies. They aren't. People are so quick to label them greedy bastards swimming in wealth while ignoring the truly wealthy that get to benefit from tax breaks at the expense of the middle class. It's pure craziness.


  1. Wow. I apologize for not having some intelligent comment to make on this post. I'm just too floored. >.<

    Thank you for sharing, though.


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