With a $3.6 billion budget gap as a backdrop, the Wisconsin governor must confront reality and re-tool the state’s fiscal problem before it weighs down future growth and crowds out investment. And, unlike the federal government, states are obligated by law to balance their budget. Thus, Gov. Walker is acting like the grown-up in the room.
Wisconsin’s newly-elected Governor, in a press conference speech given late Friday in the rotunda of the State capitol, explained to the press and the audience that “We are broke.” He went on to say that the majority of workers and citizens alike in the state support his bill. He wants state workers to pay one-half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health benefits. Currently, most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance.
Governor Walker reminded everyone that a lot of untruths are being spun about his plan, and even responded to a reporter’s question about how the president interjected himself into the fray. “I know the president has enough to worry about regarding the federal budget, he should let our state take care of our own issues,” said Walker. Obama told a Milwaukee television reporter,
“Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions."
This interjection reminds me a lot of the Louis ‘Skip’ Gates’ debacle in the summer of 2009 where Obama gave his opinion on an incident where a Massachusetts police lieutenant attempted to arrest a friend and Harvard colleague of the president’s.
Mr. Walker also gave a brief history lesson about unions and the state. He said that Wisconsin civil service laws date back over one-hundred years and are considered to be the best of any state. Thus, any collective bargaining rights that the public sector unions think they’ll lose is moot. Simultaneously as he made the aforementioned remark, and what seemed like a well-orchestrated play, the distinct murmurs and noise from thousands of labor supporters chanting outside the building, could be heard.
Walker even acknowledged the crowd protesting outside while explaining how it’s their right to peacefully assemble. But it is not o.k. for politically-elected state senators to flee their responsibility and hide in places like Rockville, Illinois. Instead, these recalcitrant public officials should do their job.
Another unique twist to this story that has the nation watching is how the Obama administration seems to be colluding with politicians and union leaders in Madison. Former Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine, now the chairman of the DNC, is gathering behind-the-scenes help from the White House’s political operation, Organizing for Obama, who got involved quietly Monday authorizing chapters to try to strategize other pro-union rallies in states like nearby Ohio.
Even former progressive president Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew the implications of public sector union overreach when he wrote at the height of the New Deal:
All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.
To be sure, public sector workers, whether they are unionized or not, are a very important part of our society. They support all citizens. In municipalities, towns and cities alike, they can be counted on to teach our children, to protect our streets and homes, to ensure families receive the necessary care and help that they need; they even collect our trash.
However, the bare truth is, the inordinate amount of unfunded liabilities associated with public sector unions like in Wisconsin and elswhere, cannot be sustained without necessary reforms.
Larry Kudlow explains:
Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America -- which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
Unions are not unlike a cartel. They eschew competition and subjugate the taxpayer's to unnecessary demands. A vicious circle follows. Public officials who generously compensate workers often receive votes, contributions and campaign assistance from those same employees and their union leaders. The taxpayer does not get such preferential treatment.
See Gov. Walker's FULL 14 Min. Feb. 18, 2011 Press Conference Here