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Wednesday, December 08, 2010 12:24 PM

Wisconsin Governor-Elect Proposes Abolishing State Employee Unions

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In the midst of fiscal insanity by Congress and the Obama Administration comes common sense proposals in Wisconsin as the governor-elect may try to gut public union bargaining power. Please consider Walker looks at showdown with state employee unions

Governor-elect Scott Walker raised the possibility of essentially abolishing state employee unions on Tuesday as one option to control rising employee benefits costs and eliminate the state's budget deficit.

Walker, a Republican, said he's looking at a range of options that would weaken unions, including eliminating their ability to negotiate with the state.

"Anything from the decertify all the way through modifications of the current laws in place," Walker said at a luncheon sponsored by the Milwaukee Press Club at the Newsroom Pub.

"The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers and the people who care about services."

Walker's comments were an escalation of an aggressive posture he's taken with state unions as he prepares to take office on Jan. 3.

Walker said the state's red ink and his pledge to focus on economic recovery require cuts in workers' health and pension benefits.

"You are not going to hear me degrade state and local employees in the public sector," Walker said. "But we can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots."

As a short-term measure, Walker wants to require workers to make a 5% contribution to their pensions. State union workers have traditionally not contributed to their plans. He also wants to increase employees' share of health costs to 12% - up from 4% to 6%, depending on the bargaining unit. Those changes would save $154 million from January to June 30 alone.

Walker is following the path of other fiscally conservative governors, such as Indiana Republican Mitch Daniels, who used an executive order to rescind collective bargaining and union settlements for state employees on his first day in office in 2005.

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and outgoing Democratic leaders in the Legislature are working to pass 2009-'11 worker contracts in a lame-duck session, which Walker says would block him from achieving savings through cuts to union benefits, at least until the contracts expire in June.
The key question Walker faces is whether or not what he proposes is in violation of federal laws.

If outright abolishing unions would break federal laws, then gutting the effectiveness of those laws will have to suffice. However, some of those federal collective bargaining laws may change (hopefully) in the next US Congress.

It is disgusting that current Governor Jim Doyle wants to pass lame-duck measures the state cannot afford. In a sense, it is political-pandering insanity as it cannot do Doyle any good and it does go to show just how beholden politicos are to those who donate to their campaigns.

For further discussion, please see Is the Political Class Economically Incompetent or are they Simply Bought and Paid For?

After watching a $900 billion fiscally insane proposal gather momentum in Congress (see Cookies for Susie and Obama's "Temporary" Tax Compromise; Total Cost $900 Billion), the proposals of Walker are a breath of much needed fresh air.

Walker makes me want to stand up and salute just as does governor Chris Christie in New Jersey.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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