Walker and his fellow Wisconsin Republicans are rapidly pushing a bill through the statehouse that would severely restrict the ability of most public-sector unions to collectively bargain on pensions and health benefits. It would also cap wage increases. And the governor is attempting to intimidate his opponents by repeatedly stating that he would put the National Guard on alert in case of “unrest.”
Gov. Walker’s justification for restricting the rights of workers in the name of fiscal rectitude would be much more convincing if the governor had not signed three bills that cut taxes and increase the deficit by $117 million. According to a memo from the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau, the governor did not inherit a budget deficit in need of repair. Wisconsin would have been in a far better fiscal situation without those tax cuts. But those cuts gave him a convenient excuse to go after public-sector unions.
Sadly, Republicans in virtually every state where they are in power are following a similar strategy, pushing bills that attack public-sector unions in Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Florida, to name just a few states. To be sure, governments across our country face budget nightmares because of the sharp downturn in tax revenue during the Great Recession, especially from property taxes amid the housing crisis. Governments will have to make very tough choices, possibly including further cutbacks for government employees, even as governments struggle to maintain needed government services.