I have hesitated to comment on the chaos in Madison because things are so incredibly fluid at this point. Initially, I was frustrated by Gov. Walker's mistakes when he rolled out his budget repair bill. The Governor's mention of the National Guard was exceptionally stupid and ill-advised. Gov. Walker seemed unprepared for the backlash that followed. I think the Governor botched the bill at the beginning, but my issues are almost entirely on style, not on substance.
Today, I am disgusted by the actions of the unions and the Democrat Senators. First of all, WEAC has been nothing short of dishonest in their dealings with local school districts and their members. The repair bill does not eliminate anyone's pension; on the contrary, it preserves them by asking teachers to contribute their share - and it is their share, it's just that the taxpayers have been paying it for a very long time. Now, WEAC is encouraging the "sick-outs" and essentially threatening school districts that try to prevent shut downs. The teachers at the capitol are engaging in an illegal strike. They risk their jobs, not just their take-home pay, by doing so.
Then we have the cowards in the Senate. They are acting as spoiled children who run away from home the first time their parents tell them no. They are abdicating their responsibility to the voters and only making matters worse for their side. I have spoken with some capitol staffers who tell me that any sympathy their bosses had for the unions or the Democrats is gone. Simply put, they have gone too far.
And really, this is amazing. Union members at Harley, Mercury Marine, and Kohler have conceded far more than the public employees are being asked. They did so to keep their jobs and ride out the recession. Now, state union leaders are asking their brothers and sisters in the private sector to stand by them as they protest a 50% share of their pension - something most private sector unions no longer have - and a mere 12% of their health insurance.
Yes, stripping the collective bargaining rights is a huge step. It's one that I believe should be in a separate bill, but the simple fact is that the state is broke. We have no alternative. We face a $3.6 billion deficit in the next budget, and when you take into account the stimulus money we used to plug the last budget hole, the figure jumps to $6.6 billion. We need these concessions. The civil service protections of all state employees remain in place. The pension remains in place. We simply ask them to pay their fair share.
And what of the opponents to this bill? What is their alternative? I have not heard a single Democrat propose an alternative to balancing the budget. Is the answer massive tax increases? What should we cut? What should we require of the taxpayers or the public employees? There has been no alternative given.
The choice is clear. Either state employees contribute to their own pensions and health care premiums or 1,600 workers are laid off by June 30 and another 5,000 - 6,000 in the next budget. Are the union leaders really so selfish that they would sacrifice those workers to keep their power?
Based on the protests in Madison, it looks like the answer is "Yes."