As with all events, there are now two wildly different narratives out there explaining what's happening in Wisconsin.
In one of these two narratives, Governer Walker's Wisconsin is buried under mountains of debt. The debt is so bad, goes this narrative, that dealing with it is a dire emergency which the new Tea Party governor has rightly, and immediately, taken on by unilaterally eliminating collective bargaining rights for unionized state employees.
The protesters in Wisconsin, however, know this....
In Wisconsin, budget season is two years long. The current budget window was opened on July 1, 2009, and will close on June 30 of this year. If for unexpected reason, the state finds itself faced with a severe deficit within a biennial window, the legislature must pass what's known a "budget repair bill" -- to close the gap with spending cuts or other emergency measures.
The state has not crossed that threshold.
Right off the bat....Wisconsin had no emergency budgetary problems when Walker took office. So, he created a small one with $120 million in tax cutting. But even that didn't place Wisconsin's fiscal situation within the necessary parameters of a "budget repair bill."
Wisconsin protesters also know this....
The previous governor, Democrat Jim Doyle, passed a budget that left the state poised for a surplus this year. When Walker took office in January he chipped away at that surplus with three conservative tax expenditure bills, but not severely enough to trigger a budget repair bill. The current, small shortfall was "manufactured by Governor Walker's own insistence on making the deficit worse with the bills he passed in January," former Wisconsin Dem. Senator Pat Kreitlow said. But Walker cited that shortfall to introduce a "budget repair bill" anyhow -- a fully elective move that includes his plan to end collective bargaining rights for state employees.
Clearly, Walker created this "emergency" out of whole Tea Party cloth.
Additionally, Walker has yet to introduce a budget to cover the first two years of his term.....
Walker will soon have to introduce an actual budget, which will outline spending and revenue policy for the two years between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013. And the state's Legislative Fiscal Bureau -- the official scorekeeper -- does project that he'll face a $3 billion shortfall. But Democrats faced a shortfall twice as large ahead of the previous budget cycle and managed to close the gap.
Yesterday, just like Hosni Mubarak, Scott Walker was defiant in his response. Walker admitted, however, that what he was doing was a "bold political move."
"...What we're asking for today and what we continue to be pushing for in this Capitol, is bold when it comes to politics -- it's a bold political move. But any time you challenge the status quo, it's gonna be bold. But it is a very modest request of our government workers all across this state."
Notice here.....Walker is fully cognizant of what he is proposing. Even he calls it a "bold" move. But, at the same time, Walker calls taking wages and fringe benefits out of collective bargaining or binding arbitration rights...."a very modest request." Without collective bargaining rights for wages and bennies, unions would cease to be.....well.....unions. That, naturally, is Walker's goal.
Then Walker simply lies....
"Again, we don't have any money. We can't make a good faith effort to negotiate when we don't have any money. But more important than that, the fact at the state level, in the past decade, the average amount of time for a contract negotiation has taken 15 months."
Wisconsin finished 2010 with a small surplus.....which Walker quickly turned into a slight deficit. Walker's thinking(?) is front to back. Good faith efforts, if the Governor had any intention of demonstrating good faith, would involve a presentation of facts proving, or disproving, the claim that Wisconsin doesn't have any money. Almost in anticipation of his critics, Walker, then, throws in an "and anyway...negotiations take too long." He plays the "emergency" card again when there is no emergency.
But then the gibberish really gets deep......
"The bottom line is, and again as a local government official I can tell you, if you're gonna see major cuts in aid to local governments, which is exactly what's gonna come and what I've said is gonna come for some time, and what nearly every other governor across the country is doing, the only way I can ensure to the public in this state is that those cuts aren't gonna lead to massive layoffs of teachers, city, county, local government workers, major cuts in core services at the local level, is if those local governments have the authority to set their pension and benefit levels the way we're outlining in this bill. If you have collective bargaining agreements in place, there's no guarantee that any of those savings will be materialized."
You may have to read that paragraph from Walker over again to get the gist of the gibberish. I had to. Walker says, without doubt, Wisconsin counties and townships will experience major aid cuts from the state....as many other states are also experiencing. Why this might be the case is hard to explain, ...because Walker had a SURPLUS when he took office, and the worst of the recession is behind us.
Then the leap.....in light of those local cuts-to-come, Walker is eliminating collective bargaining rights for state employees, right now, so that, "massive" layoffs won't materialize later. Walker says he can avoid those "massive" layoffs.....even though he started the year in the black.....but only if collective bargaining rights are eliminated, other wise there's no guarantee of any "savings."
Summary: Walker's union busting plan was his plan from the moment of the midterm election. Now, like George and Dick did, WalkerBack is crudely and rudely fitting the "facts" on the ground to fit the pre-emptive union busting policy.
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