Today has been a crazy busy day for me, but the events in Wisconsin have caught my eye. In case you haven’t heard, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is looking for a way to fix the state’s budget by asking state employees (ie. taxpayer-funded jobs) to pay more for their health insurance benefits and pensions.
From the release from Gov. Walker’s office:
The state of Wisconsin is facing an immediate deficit of $137 million for the current fiscal year which ends July 1. In addition, bill collectors are waiting to collect over $225 million for a prior raid of the Patients’ Compensation Fund.
The budget repair bill will balance the budget and lay the foundation for a long-term sustainable budget through several measures without raising taxes, raiding segregated funds, or using accounting gimmicks.
First, it will require state employees to pay about 5.8% toward their pension (about the private sector national average) and about 12% of their healthcare benefits (about half the private sector national average). These changes will help the state save $30 million in the last three months of the current fiscal year.
While some 10,000 workers are throwing a collective fit at the state capitol in Madison, the Wall Street Journal notes that if these if these measures are rejected by the state legislature, a cut of some 6,000 state jobs would be necessary to fill the budget gap. Given those circumstances, it would seem that the measures propsed by Gov. Walker are entirely reasonable.
Walker’s budget would also limit the ability of government workers’ unions to collectively bargin, which is the other problem some have with the proposal.
Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate, who lost control of that chamber in 2010, bolted to Illinois to prevent a vote on the measure; though Walker is preparing to send state troopers after them. President Barack Obama and other Democrats have chimed in on the proposal, calling it a assault on unions.
As the Washington Post notes, public perception is against government employees, who generally receive better pay and benefits than their private counterparts for essentially the same jobs. But unions are ingrained in culture in the north, so this could end badly for Walker and Wisconsin Republicans even though they are clearly doing what’s best for the state and taxpayers.
But while the media is covering the protests, there hasn’t been much coverage of some of the nasty rhetoric being freely bantered about. After all, we’ve frequently been told that the state of political discourse in our country is what caused the tragedy in Tuscon, Arizona. Yet signs like this aren’t getting any attention:
Doug Ross has more photos from the protests in Wisconsin, including some that depict Walker as Hosni Mubarak and Adolf Hitler. Classy stuff. You can check them out here.