Of course, Walker did win, beating languid Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to take over the governorship from the unpopular Jim Doyle. Throughout the campaign, Barrett had the confused look of someone wondering how Lady Gaga managed to turn meat into a dress.
Even before he took office, Walker stood up to supporters of building a train between Milwaukee and Madison. He argued that the $810 million allocated to the project by the federal government would be better spent elsewhere and killed the project.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, a supporter of the plan, chided Republicans for not being open to “new” ideas, like, um, trains. Perhaps Cieslewicz will now offer a futuristic plan to run rickshaws between Milwaukee and Madison.
Sadly, my references to 2010′s biggest star, Antoine Dodson, didn’t make it through the editing process:
Filed under: Budget — Christian Schneider @ 8:54 am
At the very last minute on Wednesday night, Democratic lame duck Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker changed his mind and switched his vote to kill the union contracts his caucus had hoped to rush through. In fact, Democrats were so desperate to ram these contracts through, they broke a disgraced legislator out of jail to pass the deciding vote in the Assembly.
But WisconsinEye caught this secret video of Decker’s last minute conversion to bad guy:
Filed under: Budget — Christian Schneider @ 3:21 pm
Back in October, when the campaigns were in full swing, we here at WPRI tipped the public off to a legislative maneuver that seemed pretty far fetched. In a column I wrote for the Wisconsin State Journal on October 17th, I warned the public that the legislative Democrats might actually ram through the state employee contracts during the lame duck session – a scenario so preposterous, I’m not sure I even believed it at the time.
Well, here we are now. Democrats are trying to scrounge up the votes to pass the state worker contracts before Scott Walker can take over as governor. And today, the ridiculousness reached a completely new level.
Short on votes, Assembly Democrats have turned to one of their jailed colleagues for help. According to reports, disgraced State Representative Jeff Wood, currently sitting in jail due to multiple OWI arrests, has been allowed to leave jail for the day to return to Madison to vote on the union contracts. Walker has said passage of these contracts could cost the state up to $154 million, while he is attempting to close a budget deficit in excess of $3 billion.
So we are left with this: State union contracts being rammed through the Legislature at the last possible moment, by a body that voters threw out of power a month ago, with the deciding vote being cast by a legislator who had to be let out of jail to vote for the agreements.
Wood’s trip down to Madison means the public employee unions are one step closer to getting what they want – locking contracts into place that put the state further into a deficit before Walker can undo them. We’ll see how many drunks sitting in jail get the day off so they can do a $154 million favor for a powerful interest group.
At least the unionized prison guards will be nicer to him now.
UPDATE: In fact, Wood cast the deciding vote on 16 of the 17 union contracts. They each passed by a vote of 48-47. For those 48 legislators without shame, the time to be embarrassed is right…. now.
Filed under: Budget — Christian Schneider @ 10:29 am
Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel uses our polling data to make the case for more state employee benefit “flexibility:”
What’s surprising is that Walker is willing to consider what amounts to abolishing public unions. And with the news Wednesday that Walker’s Republican colleagues might introduce right-to-work legislation next year, the climate for labor is growing chillier by the day.
Tough talk. But when it comes to the public employee unions, it’s justified.
Walker is not asking the impossible here: He merely wants state workers to pay more of their share for their benefits – just as most employees at companies do.
Walker wants them to pay 5% of the contributions to their pension plans – they don’t pay at all now – and to pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums – up to 12% from 4% to 6%.
These eminently reasonable ideas would save $154 million between January and June 30, he said.
There is little doubt that a fed-up public is on his side. In a statewide poll conducted last summer for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Refocus Wisconsin project, 76% thought that public employees should contribute to their pensions. Only 17% said it was understandable that they did not.
As the Great Recession rolled across the heartland, Wisconsin’s budgets got harder and harder to balance. In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the state faces a shortfall of at least $150 million. That gap grows to a whopping $3.3 billion in the next biennium.
Trimming worker benefits is one tool needed to fill those budget holes. To do that, the state needs more flexibility.
They don’t say specifically what type of “flexibility” would be needed, but the board objects to the idea of “stripping the unions of their bargaining authority.” Of course, any unilateral mandate the state imposes on unions (requiring more of a contribution towards health care and pensions, for instance) will be viewed by the unions as “stripping” them of their bargaining rights. But as we’ve shown in report after report, state employee benefits are a primary driver of state spending, which has to be curtailed to fill the $3 billion hole Wisconsin faces.