Wisconsin Governor Takes on Unions to Solve Budget
Elements of Walker’s proposal include state employee wage increases limited to the rate of inflation unless approved in a voter referendum. State workers — other than police, fire, and inspectors — would lose many bargaining rights and could opt out of paying union dues after current contracts expire, with dues no longer collected automatically.
State workers will have to raise the amount they contribute to their pensions to 5.8 percent of salary, and double their contribution to health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent of salary. Wisconsin’s unfunded pension liability is $252.6 million, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
People aren’t happy:
The proposal drew outrage from labor unions and Democrats in the state, which has a $137 million budget deficit in the fiscal year ending June 30 and larger deficits to come.
“If Republicans get their way, workers will no longer be able to negotiate over the hours they work, the safety conditions they labor under or the health insurance and retirement benefits they and their families depend on,” Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller said in a statement.
Republicans–who control the state legislature–anticipate a tough road but think they have no other real options.
“We are out of money and the options are few. We can either raise taxes — which is absolutely off the table — reduce spending or lay off workers,” Jeff Fitzgerald, the Republican Speaker of the State Assembly, told local radio.
“I expect the Capitol to explode” with protests, Fitzgerald said. “It’s going to be a very difficult week.”
Nonetheless, it is expected that the Governor’s plan will pass.