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.