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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wisconsin Senate Passes Budget Bill

The Wisconsin Senate passed a budget repair bill, on a straight party line vote, with no input from the minority party, no floor debate between the parties.

Confused? That was May 12, 2008. About an hour after a conference committee made up only of Democrats and Governor Jim Doyle's staff came up with a repair bill it was brought to the Senate floor, and voted on with two readings, no amendments allowed, and no input from the minority party. The bill passed on a 17-16 vote with 0 Republicans voting for the bill, and 1 Democrat voting against it.

The GOP knew they'd lose the vote, and knew there was nothing they could do about the bill, but did their jobs and voted. Then, in 2010 they beat the Democratic party over the head with it to take control of both chambers and the governors mansion.

The Wisconsin Jewish Conference has a nice summary of the bill and timeline of it's passing, and the vetoes the (then) Governor used to reshape it.

State Representative (now State Senator) Leah Vukmir had this take on the bill. It's a warning from 3 years ago that this year's day of reckoning was coming.

That folks, is how our Democracy works. If the current bill is so flawed, the Democrats have about 18 months to sell that case to the voters, and take back control and undo the bill. I think the problem is they know the majority of the voters like the bill. In 10 or 12 months they won't be able to show that it wasn't a workable solutions, and that the state is still spiralling out of control.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Illinois Budget Solution Found!

The solution to Illinois' budget woes (another 8.5 billion in debt) has become clear since last Friday. Tourism is the answer. If we can get enough states to follow the lead of Wisconsin; as Indiana did today; and export their Democratic representives to Illinois in a few months we should be able to make a lot of extra money on hotel, restaurant and transportation taxes, helping to fill that shortfall.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Abandoning Wisconsin's Unions

Wisconsin's public employee unions are being abandoned by the media. Not the Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh media, instead liberals like Time Magazine's Joe Klein and The Washington Post's Charles Lane have dumped their support for the unions and their methods.

Klein kind of summed up the irony of the moments:

I mean, Isn't it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting "Freedom, Democracy, Union" while trying to prevent a vote?

After the Tuscon incident of only a few weeks ago we were all worried about civility in politics. Suddenly Madison has opened some left leaning journalists eyes, showing them their own group is as uncivil as any. John Jagler on Twitter points out that staffers at the capital in Madison have been told not to wear ties to work, evidently to avoid them being used to to assault them.

Lane points out the hypocrisy of the left coming out so quickly:

This is hypocrisy on an epic scale. I can't think of a more overwhelming refutation of the claim that incivility is the unique province of the American right -- as opposed to what it really is and always has been: a two-way street with both right and left lanes. No wonder so many Americans in the broad center of the political spectrum are turned off by both parties and their sanctimonious "bases."

Both at different points call out the Ed Schultz/Rachel Madow wing of the left for spewing false information, having it proven false, and refusing to acknowledge it.

President Obama, during the health care reform debate last year reminded us, as do Klein and Lane, elections have consequences. Though listening to the President this week you'd think he doesn't agree with that idea anymore; or at least the consequences when they aren't the one's he'd like.

The New York Times points out, it's not just Wisconsin going after public sector unions; though Walker is going farther than others. California and New York, led by liberal icons Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo are both attempting to reign in their unions lavish pay and benefits packages also, looking at 8 and 10% pay and benefit cuts. They didn't really mention Chris Christie in New Jersey, who's also gone after the pay and benefits packages, in a much more vocal way.

While the Times isn't quite as blunt as Klein and Lane, read the undercurrent of their article and you see little sympathy for the union's position.

Back to the President's (earlier) thought that elections have consequences. The whole reason Wisconsin flipped both chambers of their legislature and the Governor's office was simple, the people are tired of living in a tax hell. A big chunk of that hell is the personal income tax, which is still higher than neighboring Illinois' after a 66% increase in the Land of Lincoln.

The people saw that the only job growth in their state was in government employment, and realized it's an unsustainable model. Many probably looked at their neighbors to the south and saw that kind of dysfunction heading their way if something wasn't done, soon.

If more recent (than 2 months ago) evidence is needed, again, look to Illinois who did increase taxes considerably, but still has to borrow nearly $9 billion to pay it's past due bills because they didn't do anything about their spending when they jacked up taxes.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Union's Real Problem

Anyone watching the news in the last few days has seen the sleep ins, protests, and general unrest in Madison, Wisconsin.

The cause of the consternation is the "budget fix bill" proposed by the Governor, Scott Walker, that would require union members to pay 5.8% towards their retirement, and 12% (up from 6) of the cost of their health care premiums.

It would also restrict collective bargaining to wage packages only, other currently bargained items would fall under the same state laws (some of the most restrictive in the country) that non-represented employees are covered under.

If you spend a little time reading the articles, and especially the comments, in places like the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel you'll see many union members commenting that they'd be happy to bargain for those concessions, but not have them rammed down their throats.

I believe them, I think a good chunk would agree that they right now have a sweet deal that they can't justify to their friends in the private sector. At the same time, they don't want to lose their collective bargaining leverage on other issues, which I can't blame them for.

The problem is, it's not the rank and file pushing the issues, it's the union leadership, and frankly, they'd cave on the whole thing except for one small provision in the bill. That provision makes Wisconsin essentially a right to work state. It forbids the deduction of union dues from paychecks, and requires annual certification votes by members.
Once people start writing checks for due, it becomes personal. They start wondering what exactly they are getting for the money. When it happens unions generally fold, because workers doing their own cost-benefit analysis figure out they aren't getting much for that check.

They also don't like this because for years they failed to unionize many public employees. During the eight years of Jim Doyle's administration a number of laws were passed that took that choice from the workers, and put them in unions without a vote by anyone but a Democratic controlled state legislature.

How did they manage that? It was actually easy, just find a group of non-represented workers who work in an area with a union presence; the University system's admin and some support staff for example; and reclassify their positions into a group that's already represented. Voila! You suddenly have thousands of new dues paying members without needing a vote by the affected people.
So when you listen to the news reports about AWOL legislators, protesting teachers, and sick-outs, keep in mind that the rank and file union members probably aren't the biggest obstacle in Madison, the union leadership and their reduced funding is.

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