Politics

Why the Wisconsin hype? Details of the bill show it may not be all that bad

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

Public sector union bosses in Wisconsin are saying newly elected Gov. Scott Walker’s budget — designed to combat the state’s large and rapidly growing deficit — isn’t fair to their workers. Wisconsin Senate Democrats turned their backs on the controversy on Thursday, fleeing to avoid a vote. But the details of the governor’s bill have largely been overshadowed by the drama of the debates and protests.

Walker’s proposal, which is part of his plan to address the $137 million deficit in Wisconsin’s current budget and projected $3.6 billion shortfall over the next two years, would allow public sector unions many of the collective bargaining privileges they enjoy now.

Some key points:

  • Public sector employees would still be allowed to collectively bargain on wages, but not on health-care or pension plans.
  • Raises would be tied to the inflation rate, unless the state’s voters deemed the employees worthy of larger raises.
  • Public sector employees would have to pay slightly higher rates for their health care and other benefits, but those rates would remain lower than those of the average private sector employee.
  • Public sector employees would be required to pay 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums; they currently pay about 6 percent.
  • Public sector employees would have to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions under Walker’s plans; currently some pay nothing. From 2000 to 2009, public sector employees paid $55.4 million into a pension system that cost $12.6 billion.
  • Police, firefighters and other public safety workers would be exempt from the new collective bargaining restrictions.

Walker promised not to lay off or furlough any of the 170,000 government employees in the state, saying about 5,500 state jobs and 5,000 local jobs would be saved if the unions give in to this plan.

  • Pingback: A Wisconsin Union Battle Primer

  • cradulich

    Actually the whole thing is a lie. It has nothing to due with the deficit.

    1. There was no deficit until the legislator passed a 117 million tax cut.
    2. They want the union to have a vote every year on certification.
    3. They don’t want the dues subtracted from the pay check.
    4. The union was perfectly willing to negotiate on salary and pension.
    5. How many of you are willing to let your neighbors vote on how much money you should make?

    • barryaz

      Try a private sector job if you don’t like someone voting on your wages, then you will have to prve your worth via hard work and are compensated for that.

    • intrepid_one

      cradulich Your wrong it is about the deficit. Point one is a red herring being used by the unions, if you would do just a tiny bit of research you could easily learn the facts, but I doubt that is your motivation for posting here.

      As for points 2-3, it there a problem with that, if the unions are adding value to their members, neither of these should be a problem.

      I doubt point 4 is the case based upon the over-reaction that we are seeing, kinda hard to negotiate when you are calling the other side Hitler.

      5. If I work as a ‘public servant’ who is dependent upon the taxpayer for my salary then why would I not expect them to have a say in my salary. Besides, how do you think private sector salaries are set, arbitrarily? If my neighbors don’t buy my product or services then I don’t have a job, my salary is totally dependent upon them voting with their wallets.

    • grayzel

      ow for the rest of the story, to steal the late great Paul Harveys line>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>According to The Weekly Standard and Robert Lang that’s a bunch of whooey.

      “Robert Lang, the director of the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau (the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office), the purported $121 million surplus does not account for $258 million in other other shortfalls, including money owed to the state of Minnesota.”

      • truebearing

        Were you at the Tea Party rally in Madison? I thought I saw where you were going to be there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chuck-Norton/197402182 Chuck Norton

    TRUE Talking Points:

    1 – How many of you pay at least 12% or your health insurance? At least 5% of your retirement? Most of you pay more and this is what Governor Walker is asking the public sector union to do. And at 12% donation they are still paying $100 a month less than the average Wisconsin worker for the gold plated benefits they get.

    2 – The unions have made it clear that the state should raise taxes and go into more debt to make you pay for their gold plated benefits and fat yearly raises. The reason that the state is moving to limit the bargaining on the benefits is because the union is willing to take a temporary increase in partly paying for their benefits for now, but will negotiate all of it back next year and they expect you, who are suffering in this recession, to pay for it. The state cannot afford that and neither can the people.

    3 – The public sector unions are trying to thwart the will of the people as expressed in the last election. The Wisconsin Republicans ran on getting this problem under control. Wisconsin has a shortfall of $4 billion dollars that they have to make up.

    4 – Now the public sector union is waging an illegal strike and in some cases are illegally bringing students with them. The kids are missing school. The kids are paying the price so the union can politic on your dime as they are using paid sick days to do it.

    5 – It would be one thing if the government union was giving you a superior product and service, but well all know that public schools do not offer a superior result and the union resists most efforts at reform. So instead of working to merit getting more of your money willingly, they want to politic to force government to take it from you.

    6 – The Democrats have walked out and fled the state so they do not have to vote and the police cannot bring them back. Every one of these office holders has taken an oath to faithfully execute their office; instead they are kicking it fat at a resort in Illinois. I wonder who is going to be paying that bill? You don’t defend democracy by running away from it. Now Democrats have fled that resort because they got caught.

    7 – Did Wisconsin try to pass these things with bribes or in a lame duck session at Christmas while no one was looking? We now know this is pure astroturf. The White House is organizing these protests and the shutdown of Wisconsin schools. When Obama introduced his latest budget busting and taxing budget he said that “We need to start living within our means”.

    8 – If the public sector unions were poorly paid the elite media would have what they are paid all over the place. Instead they are silent on it. The public sector union employees including the teachers union receive an average pay of $89,000 a year (some numbers show average $77,000) … and they are comparing the very modest proposals to get them to pay just a small portion of their benefits and retirement to Egypt.

    • barryaz

      At least nobody said “we have to pass the bill so you can see what’s in it”.

    • designerrant

      Well said! What is driving me crazy is how so many middle class people, not receiving such high class benefits, are still saying, “Go ahead, cut the pensions, but leave their collective bargaining alone.” How do they think the pensions/benefits got so high, if not for the collective bargaining? And what benefit is derived for us middle class, non-rich people for their gravy train to continue on our property taxes? People are blind!

  • Obamaroid

    Get up there and CLEAN HOUSE!

    DUMP those that want to bankrupt the state
    DUMP the lousy, the inefficient, the corrupt and the lazy

    Get Wisconsin back on track

  • intrepid_one

    All so much hyperbole from the left. The comments by Loudog and Joe Steele serve as nothing but distractions from the real issue. You would think the Governor was firing all teachers and state employees rather than asking them to pay a reasonable share for benefits at a level still far less than the average worker in Wisconsin.

    This isn’t about teachers or unions, this is about heading off an impending financial crisis, not only in Wisconsin but in many other states. Arguments about how much a CIO makes or workplace safety have nothing to do with this issue and are just plain ludicrous. Workplace safety for teachers and bureaucrats, really, are you kidding me, these aren’t coal miners, Joe Steele.

    This legislation also restricts the collective bargaining power of the unions to just wagers. This is needed because the unions have taken advantage of the symbiotic relationship between politicians and themselves. The deals that the unions have negotiated in exchange for votes for those on the other side of the table have gone too far. The pension plans in Illinois, California and other states are a fiscal nightmare. These are promises that politicians have made that they can’t keep and have to be changed.

    The unions need to wake up to the new reality. The gravy train is over. In a time of over 9.5% unemployment (more realistically, 18% resulting in significant decreases in government revenues) record foreclosures, increased usage of food stamps and welfare you would think that accepting reasonable increases, or what our liberal friends like to say, ‘paying their fair share’ would be done so in a gracious manner. Instead the unions have decided to double down and not only not accept the changes, but become belligerent and vitriolic.

    I’m telling you that this will not play well with people like me who have gone backwards financially during this recession. The unions are not helping themselves at all.

    • 1TrueOne55

      That was what I was wondering about, Work Place Safety(?), if they want work place safety in schools then they should not be firing teachers for telling kids to stop talking and sit down. This is not Welcome Back Kotter TV series, our kids need to learn and you can not learn when kids interrupt with outbursts and cell phone cheating.

      Schools need to get rid of internet access in class rooms and take it to the library and home work. They are spending to much time surfing the net for what only they know but grades sure show that it has not increased their ability to get a job yet.