Now that Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s Republican governor, has fended off a recall effort and will serve out his first term through 2014, can we conclude perhaps that the unions and the Democrats just don’t get it?
Walker is the only governor in American history to survive a recall.
After Walker’s collective bargaining reforms were signed into law–and they have largely survived various legal challenges –the unions tried and failed to defeat Wisconsin Supreme Court justice David Prosser for reelection.They then tried and failed to tip control of the state senate to the Democrats in a previous recall election. Now they have failed to unseat Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.
Contrary to low-ball estimates, Big Labor poured in about $20 million in an failed effort to unseat Walker in yesterday’s recall election. Isn’t it about time that union bosses listen to what the voters are saying?
Walker won with about 53% of the vote, which means he overperformed when compared to many of the pre-election opinion polls and certainly yesterday’s exit polling. Walker’s margin of victory may have been higher if you minus out the shenanigans that could have occurred in certain Wisconsin precincts because the state’s photo ID law has been blocked for the time being by a liberal judge, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld photo ID laws in other states.
President Reagan once described his strategy for the Cold War as follows: “We win, they lose.” Perhaps the mild-mannered and soft spoken Wisconsin governor nonetheless subscribes to the same philosophy.
This whole mess started when the governor tried to prevent the state from going bankrupt by passing reforms in among other things public sector pay and benefits. Last year, state senate Democrats abandoned their constitutional work stations last year and hid out in Illinois to prevent a vote on the collective bargaining reforms and protesters trashed the state capitol in Madison. The bill, Act 10, was finally voted into law last year.
During the recall campaign, the unions unions never explained why the Wisconsin taxpayer should continue to be bled dry to pay for jacked-up salaries, benefits, and pensions for government workers when everyone else has had to tighten their belts. As explained by the National Review…
The people of Wisconsin have decided to reject the kind of government that rewards organized public employees with perks and promises well beyond those available to the vast majority of Americans working in the private sector. In so doing, they have taken an important step in equalizing the playing field between those holding government jobs and those working in the private economy that supports the government jobs.
Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s Democrat foe, according to the Weekly Standard, was unable to name a single public school that was harmed by Walker’s collective bargaining reforms. Nor could he name a single policy that he’d try to implement as governor to create jobs.
A Marquette Univ. poll found that 55% of Wisconsin voters now favor restrictions on collective bargaining for public employee unions.
Contrary to doom-and-gloom scenarios, the Weekly Standard further explains that Walker’s reforms have been successful:
Walker took office with a projected deficit of $3.6 billion, and in two years he’s erased it. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue projected last month that the state will have a budget surplus of $154 million by the summer of 2013.
Restricting public sector collective bargaining freed the state and local governments from the de facto veto unions could exercise over their budgets and allowed taxpayers to ask public employees to contribute more—in some cases to begin contributing something—to their own health care and pension benefits. Before the reforms, most public employee union members paid less than 1 percent of their salary toward their pensions and contributed 6 percent of the cost of their health care premiums. And in fact, Wisconsin public employees still have a good deal—with most contributing 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pension and up to 12.6 percent of their health care premium, well below the averages for the private sector.
Act 10 also ended mandatory public sector union membership and automatic dues deductions. As has been widely reported, once union dues became optional, union membership nose-dived in Wisconsin. The Wall Street Journal has the figures:
Wisconsin membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—the state’s second-largest public-sector union after the National Education Association, which represents teachers—fell to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, according to a person who has viewed AFSCME’s figures.
Walker’s legislation, according to the Journal, also allowed school districts to save millions on health insurance and avoid layoffs:
The Walker reforms have given local school districts the ability to renegotiate union contracts and save money, preventing teacher layoffs. In such communities as Ashland, Kimberly, Baraboo and Appleton, officials were able to dump union-affiliated health insurance plans in favor of cost-saving private competitors.
In endorsing Walker before the election, the generally liberal Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said in part: “…And while we think Act 10 – the law that clipped the wings of most public-employee unions in the state – was an overreach of political power, we understand and supported the need to rein in the state’s labor costs.”
One of Walker’s first orders of business may be to modify the recall law so that it applies only to official misconduct. It would seem that this will attract bipartisan support.
The GOP also won three of four state senate seats yesterday that were up for recall. The other seat appears to be heading for a recount. Even if the Republican loses, the Democrats will only narrowly control the senate for a short time because there will be new election in November which will be based on reconfigured, GOP-friendly districts.
Yesterday’s recall cost the Wisconsin taxpayer about $18 million.