Governor Walker's Own Statement Proves that His Assault on Public Employees Has Nothing to do with Wisconsin's Budget Shortfall
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a long history trying to break public sector unions. But last week, as the Milwaukee Business Times reported, he insisted that "his bill was strictly based on the need to cut the budget and was not based on any political agenda." Indeed, the bill was introduced by the governor as an "e mergency measure... needed to balance the state budget and give government the tools to manage during economic crisis."
But a close reading of the governor's own press release announcing the measure shows just how misleading that claim really is.
Here's the problem, according to Walker's release:
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.
There is a $137 million shortfall for this year. Regarding the Patients' Compensation Fund, Politifact reports that "a court ruling is pending in that matter, so the money might not have to be transferred until next budget year."
But here are three important points from the governor's release that show quite clearly that this bill has nothing at all to do with closing Wisconsin's budget gap in the near-term -- as an emergency measure that wasn't even subject to public debate.
1. "The budget repair will also restructure the state debt, lowering the state’s interest rate, saving the state $165 million." That's right, restructuring the state's outstanding debt yields more savings than the projected shortfall, and nobody is objecting to that provision.
2. "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." Yes, those give-backs would yield less than 20 percent of what the debt restructuring would bring in. And, as I mentioned earlier, the public employees' unions offered to make those concessions in exchange for losing the provision that would bar them from negotiating their benefits package in the future, and the GOP flatly refused the offer.
3. The collective bargaining provision wouldn't kick in until after the current contracts expire, meaning that the measure would yield exactly zero savings in the current budget.
Random Lengths News' Paul Rosenberg caught this, and adds that Walker is also sitting on an "unused cache of $73 million" in the state's economic development fund -- "more than twice what’s being sought from public sector workers.”