Thursday, March 10, 2011

Talking through Governor Walker's budget repair bill

As expected today, I got a lot of questions/comments about the passage of the modified version of Governor Walker's budget repair bill.  At times like these no one remembers the fact that I am often critical of the Governor, I guess that just goes with the territory.  Here are some of the items that I found myself repeating during conversations today, and a few that didn't come up, but I wish they would have.

1.  The Senate was able to pass the bill without any Democrats because they took out the fiscal items.  Yes, asking public workers to take a pay cut is in a sense "fiscal," but in this case fiscal is referring primarily to times when the state takes on new spending obligations (so there is a higher bar for consideration, that 20 Senators be present).

2.  Yes, Walker has been telling us this is a fiscal item.  That is a political argument, and not likely to bear on any pending legal case.  This is a problem that should be solved at the ballot box (either in 2014 or before if there is a recall).

3.  What you are hearing about the 24 hour notice has to do with a requirement in Wisconsin law on opening meetings.  The State Senate Clerk (not a partisan official) notes an exception to the 24 hour rule, so it is possible that no violation occurred.  This argument may still have some legal legs, but it is far from the slam dunk that some have portrayed it as.

4.  With passage in the assembly, the fight moves to legal challenges and the recall efforts.  Unfortunately, many people can't even name their state senator, so a successful recall effort will most likely be rooted in fear and anger.  These will be directed at the Governor, and channeled into the recall by those with interests in the outcome (including out of state interests).

5.  Recall of the missing Democrats will go on, but without the galvanizing figure of an unpopular Governor, may be at a disadvantage.  (See item #4.)

6.  There is a State Supreme Court election in April.  It could easily become (likely will be?) a referendum on Walker.  If you thought there was too much outside money in the court race before, I suspect you ain't seen nothing yet.  Oh, and if most people don't know their state senator, how many will know the court candidates?

7.   I don't think you can overstate the impact of the public perception of teachers and public schools on this debate.  You may show me studies that they are underpaid relative to the private sector, but I wonder if the differential shouldn't be greater given the desirable schedule and more secure employment (relative to the private sector) that teachers enjoy. (By the way, I think the opinion of teachers is much like people's opinion of congressmen - "my kid's teacher (congressman) is great, but it's all the others that are the problem.")

8.  No, I don't believe public sector wages collected as union dues amount to taxpayer funding of the Democratic party.  I do believe that having the state collect dues amounts to a taxpayer funded Accounts Receivable department for big labor.  Is it so bad that we put a stop to that?

9.  I'm sure the union will still accept dues checks every month.  Whether members are willing to send them or not is another question.  Perhaps we will get some real world data on just how much public sector workers value union membership.

10.  An end to public sector collective bargaining may end a 50 year tradition on Wisconsin, but federal employees and several states don't have collective bargaining for public sector workers, including states like Virginia and North Carolina.  Are they much worse off than Wisconsin?

11.  I don't believe this new law, or the proposed budget will "gut education" or "hurt kids".  His proposal will reduce per pupil spending from a little more than $10,000 to a little less than $10,000 (pdf).  If we cannot educate children at the K-12 level for a little less than $10,000 per child, I'd say we have a problem.

There is still much more to be said, and I don't see this as the end of the process by any means.

Be sure to let me know what you think.


YLW said...

12. Apparently most people don't know the difference between a budget and a budget repair bill.

13. I'm sick of Hitler quotes along with "history repeating itself" and comparisons to "fighting for freedom" like those in Egypt/middle east. What a bunch of spoiled Americans!

14. Lots of us are not happy with laws that have been passed in our state/country. I know I'm not happy that abortion is legal. If people don't agree with a law that has been passed by the representatives elected they can do what I do: vote for change when possible and PRAY for God to take care of the rest.

Anonymous said...

Impacts education because teachers now must work for the same salary they presently earn until they retire.They're allowed a salary increase via a referendum [like thats gonna happen] They are allowed a CPI adjustment or less should God or Walker bless them with such.This will maybe keep them even with INFLATION but not increase their purchasing power.They pay part of their own salary with taxes but are denied any means of advancing ecmomically. Not much reason to make education your career choice! opportunity

John Foust said...

1. I think removing an existing institutional process for resolution of employee grievances and offering no replacement does imply a fiscal component. Doesn't any state agency have an obligation to properly administer their employees? HR must be freaking.

2. Yes, Walker has been purposefully deceptive. This is not leadership. It's not good business sense, either. Do you think employers should deal with their employees this way?

3. The spirit of Wisconsin's open meetings law is clear. There are no doubt a few layers of Senate and Assembly rules as well as custom that are no doubt relevant. If the Republicans didn't like it when Doyle & Co. wrongly railroaded a budget, why is it right and proper this time?

4. Yes, we're going to enjoy months if not years of legal challenges and recalls.

5. Are you suggesting that all these people who were once motivated to drive to Madison and stand and yell in the cold will somehow forget their dislike of Walker?

6. Ignorance is no excuse. If you search for ignorance, it's easy to find.

7. Whatever happened to the good ol' mantra "What the market will bear"? If rural school districts in Wisconsin have a shortage of math teachers, wouldn't that drive up the wage that would need to be offered? If MPS is not the most desirable place to work due to students and this offsets the supposedly desirable schedule and job security, wouldn't that drive up wages? If everyone wants to be a teacher in Shorewood, might that reduce offered wages? Or maybe that district wants to pay more to attract better teachers. Does that drive up the mean or the median?

8. The employee agreed to a compensation package. From within that, a fraction is given to the union. At some point, the state agreed to do that. Would it be better to charge the union for the cost of collecting those dues? Are you sure that isn't already happening? Did anyone ask if this would be an acceptable compromise on this point? Wait, I'll ask Scott Walker. He said "We will not negotiate." Which business school, which government policy school edumacated him to think like that?

9. Who is "we"? Why shouldn't this be a decision of the union members? It's their money. You think they are getting paid too much? Use the system to reduce their wages. You don't like a local union because it increases your school tax? Convince them to decertify. You think it's a good idea to make these rulings from on high and disregard the local decision-making process?

Anonymous said...

8. The unions pay the state for collecting dues. This isn't any different than having a flexible spending account, like for parking, put away every month taken directly out of your check. Should that also be illegal? What about direct deposit? These are things that are quite similar to union dues deductions.

Dad29 said...

Impacts education because teachers now must work for the same salary they presently earn until they retire.

That's interesting. "Step-grade" increases are void? "Additional education" increases are void?

How did wages sneak into the 'health and pension' areas of your personal spreadsheet?

Dad29 said...

J, this whole thing is over with except for the shouting, although it's difficult to tell when one is at Ground Zero.

The Unions have already decided to change the subject and make this into a "civil rights" issue; the President will no longer discuss it (which means it's a political loser); and public opinion will gravitate toward Walker's position over the next several months as union intimidation-and-violence tactics ramp up.

Further, unless there's a clear, 'bright-line' Constitutional violation in the enactment of this bill, the courts will not wish to interfere with Legislative rule interpretations.