Do Over Button
Yesterday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had an editorial that recommends that the GOP-controlled legislature use Judge Sumi's final judgment in the Open Meetings Law lawsuit as an welcomed invitation to go back to the drawing board on the budget repair bill's provisions on collective bargaining.
The budget-repair bill went further than was needed to accomplish Walker's goals. Not only would it have limited collective bargaining to wages, but it also would have capped any pay increases at the rate of inflation unless voters approved more in a referendum. And the bill would have required an annual re-certification of unions and done away with automatic withdrawal of union dues. That's union busting, plain and simple.
Worse, police and firefighters were exempted from these restrictions, which would put cities such as Milwaukee in a vise. A big chunk of the city's budget is tied up in wage and benefit costs for public safety workers.
Legislators in Massachusetts, one of the most reliably liberal bastions in the nation, are trying a different approach. In late April, the House of Representatives in that state voted 111-42 to limit the ability of public employees to collectively bargain for health care. The legislation would give mayors and local officials the ability to set co-pays and deductibles after a 30-day negotiation period with unions. The reforms are expected to save $100 million.
Facing a state budget that is billions of dollars out of balance, Walker and the Republicans in the Legislature are right to try to cut labor costs. But they don't need such a broad brush.This is a sound recommendation by the editorial staff of the state's leading newspaper, which endorsed the governor last Fall. Everyday there is growing indication that the majority of the citizens of the state believe that the effort by the GOP on the budget repair bill was crass class warfare. There is clear indication that the GOP is losing the support of many editorial boards that supported the governor just four months ago. The Governor's approval rating is dropping in polls month-by-month. That isn't happening because he took a principled stand on collective bargaining, but because he unnecessarily demonized public workers and teachers and took away power for dealing with local problems from local elected officials. Parents around the state are seeing their own children's school staffs decimated by retirements of experienced teachers far in excess of prior years. Voters are seeing the proposed move to more extensively available school vouchers as a calculated effort to harm public schools for political purposes, and privatize K-12 education in the face of clear data showing that school choice has failed to deliver on its promises from twenty years ago.
This isn't just hopeful thinking by the opponents of the Walker administration and.Republican legislature. The Republicans can see the handwriting on the wall. That is why they are rushing to pass devoutly dumb new laws (voter ID, concealed carry, venture capital tax credit give-aways to insurance companies, killing renewable energy generation, politicizing the DNR, killing recycling) through the legislature before the recall elections. These new laws have nothing whatsoever to do with the governor's and majority party's purported mandate to create jobs.
It is time for the Governor and the legislature to put the word "compromise" back into the political lexicon in Wisconsin. There is a chance that they can salvage the situation presented by the recalls if they quit pandering to the worst elements of the Wisconsin electorate, the self-proclaimed "patriots" who are generally at their happiest when they are angry. If they doesn't quit pandering to this small silly segment of the electorate, they will undoubtedly find themselves in trouble this summer and in 2012.