Latest Developments in Wisconsin: Early Reports of Unquantified Concessions; Pre-Mature Floor Votes
It is now being reported that, in exchange for leaving inviolate collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin’s public labor unions are purportedly ready to discuss monetary concessions. Some newspapers have reported this development as full capituation by the unions on all matters of monetary compensation in the bill. (Let’s keep in mind that this would still place their compensation above that experienced by the private sector). That these newspapers may have been overly optimistic, however, becomes clear upon an examination of the actual words uttered.
The Milwakee Journal Sentinel, for example, reports that
[state Senator Jon] Erpenbach said the offer was “a legitimate and serious offer on the table from local, state and school public employees that balances Gov. Walker’s budget.”
Not, “the unions have agreed to Governor Walkers term’s if he will abandon his proposed changes to collective bargaining”. No, the union has made an offer that balances the governor’s budget. Okay. On what basis does it balance the budget? How much of the offer involves the union’s compensation and how much pertains to budget cuts unrelated to the union’s contract?
And this, from the Wisconsin State Journal.
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, and Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME Council 24, said in a conference call with reporters that workers will do their fair share to narrow Wisconsin’s budget gap.
Again, not agreeing to Gov Walker’s terms; agreeing to take on their “fair share” of the budget gap. What does their vision of “fair share” look like?
Whatever the monetary concession involved, by the way, Governor Walker has declined to omit the language from his bill which would partially restore management rights. Or, to phrase it in public union-speak, the governor refuses to back away from his wholesale attack on collective bargaining and on unions and workers around the world.
An editorial in yesterday’s Milkawkee Journal Sentinel correctly draws our attention back to the parties responsible for Wisconsin’s budget mess – its prior elected officials.
Walker’s predecessors are the real problem here. At least Walker is being honest about the gravity of the problem. Gov. Scott McCallum collateralized a humongous settlement with tobacco companies to plug a big budget hole. Gov. Jim Doyle raided the state transportation fund and the Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund (which now, under court order, must be repaid). These one-time gimmicks allowed them to ignore the real problem and claim political success. All the while, the cost of Wisconsin’s current services exceeded the revenue that was coming in.
I would only add, don’t leave out prior Assemblies, who possessed the ultimate power to nix all of these bad budgets and, instead, chose to codify them.
Meanwhile, in the current Assembly, the government geek part of me was fascinated, not to say considerably amused, by an attempt of the House to bring Gov Walker’s bill (yes, that bill; the subject of all of this uproar) up for a vote.
In the Wisconsin Assembly on Friday, Republican leaders had called lawmakers to the floor at 5 p.m. to take up Walker’s bill to fix a budget shortfall by cutting public worker benefits and bargaining rights. But they began business just before that hour, when Democrats were not yet on the floor.
Democrats charged into the chamber and shouted to stop the action as Republican staff urged their leaders to “keep going, keep going.” Republicans took the voice vote, putting the bill in a stage that prevented it from being amended in that house. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Democrat, called the move an “illegal vote” and demanded that Republicans rescind it.
“Unbelievable!” Barca screamed. “Unprecedented! Un-American! Not in keeping with the values of the state! You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Minutes later, Republicans agreed to effectively cancel the vote by allowing the bill to return to a stage in which Democrats can offer amendments.
Fabulous! The drama resumes Tuesday when the Assembly reconvenes, presumably once again sans AWOL dem senators.