The past 15 months in Wisconsin have been tumultuous to say the least. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is facing a recall after labor unions and Democrats mustered nearly 1 million signatures from Big Labor activists to pursue their agenda which included the endorsement of union backed Kathleen Falk. This follows the recent recalls of two state senators; a third recall would solidify the power of labor unions in using giant cash reserves to manipulate state offices and swing control to the Democrats.
Despite the price tag for the gubernatorial recall reaching an estimated $18 million it appears the labor unions efforts will be in vain.
Scott Walker is being challenged because he stood up to Big Labor and implementing Act 10. The Budget Repair bill increases contributions by employees towards health care and pensions, places more restrictions on collective bargaining, and requires unions to be recertified every year. The law empowers city councils and school boards to cut labor costs without union approval which has enabled Wisconsin cities to address crippling wage mandates.
Since Walker has taken office, the projected budget for Wisconsin has turned 180 degrees. The economic downturn in recent years has put many state governments in tough economic positions in order to balance their budgets. Two years ago, Walker inherited a projected deficit of $3.6 billion and now the most recent projection for the state budget gives Wisconsin a $154 million surplus by this time next year because of Act 10.
Nevertheless, government unions are complaining because the reforms slightly lower their inflated compensations. Government employees now only receive pension benefits 4.5 times as valuable and health care benefits which are twice as valuable as similar private sector employees. Prior to the reforms, government employees were receiving a preposterous 29-percent more than comparable workers. Don’t worry though; government workers still receive 22-percent more on average than their counterparts.
According to last week’s poll, Walker holds a lead of 52-45 percent over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D). Support for Mayor Barrett has dwindled as he has been unable to back his claims of a faltering economy and public school system under Walker. Aside from turning the deficit around, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently verified that jobs in Wisconsin grew by over 23,000 in 2011.
In addition to being unable to make sound claims about the economy, Barrett has been unable to point to a single public school that has been harmed by Walker’s reforms. In fact, the few districts that have not yet been bound by Act 10, such as Milwaukee Public Schools, had to cut 7 percent of their staff.
Despite spending cuts, the Act 10 has enabled public schools to better balance their budgets without worker layoffs or program slashing. According to Wisconsin public school administrators, an estimated 75-85 percent of school budgets go towards labor costs so the spending cuts have not negatively impacted children’s education.
In the past, it has been difficult to stand up against government unions because unlike the private sector, employees do not need to worry about their company going under. In general, workers in the private sector must produce enough to compensate for their wages to stay employed, while government employees can simply feed off the taxpayers’ wallets. Prior to the reforms, government workers of similar employment made 29-percent more in compensation. It is doubtful that government workers were correspondingly almost a third more productive than the competitive private sector.
It is safe to say that these reforms are well deserved.
Although Big Labor has shown massive political clout, giving millions, and bussing paid protesters to back their favored candidates, the commotion of the past 15 months is fading. Since the recent data supports the successful impact Scott Walker has had on the Wisconsin economy, it would be hard to imagine voters ousting the governor they elected after he has done exactly what he campaigned two years ago.