Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

All Eyes Are on Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

All Eyes Are on Wisconsin Gubernatorial Election

Article excerpt

You should be careful what you wish for. What may be the most important gubernatorial election ever will take place in Wisconsin on June 5. The labor unions that forced it must now regret having done so.

Forty-four states face budget shortfalls in the 2012 fiscal year (which for 46 states began July 1). Wisconsin was the sixth-most troubled, according to a 2009 analysis.

For decades, spending by state governments has risen faster than the income of taxpayers. Pay and benefits for government workers is, after Medicaid, the biggest reason.

The average compensation per hour worked for state and local government workers is 45 percent higher than the average for workers in the private sector, according to a Cato Institute analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is because of a cozy arrangement between Democrats and public-employee unions. Politicians get votes and campaign contributions from the unions, then pay off the unions from the public treasury.

Taxes in Wisconsin in 2009 were among the highest in the nation, so when Gov. Scott Walker took office in January 2011, he planned to close the $3.6 billion deficit he inherited by cutting spending, and by requiring public employees to pay 12.6 percent of their salaries for health insurance (private-sector workers pay, on average, 21 percent), and contribute 5.8 percent toward their pensions (most private-sector workers don't have employer-funded pensions).

His budget reform bill also restricted collective bargaining to wages only. This was necessary, Mr. Walker said, because the teachers union was requiring school districts to buy very expensive health insurance from a company the union owned.

The left exploded in outrage. Mr. Walker was compared to Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. Democratic state senators fled the state to block a vote. Protesters occupied the state Capitol.

The budget reform bill is "the most bald-faced assault on America's middle class I've ever seen," said AFL-CIO chieftain Richard Trumka. President Barack Obama sent political operatives to Madison to help organize the protesters. In the battle to get public- employee unions to live within our means, Wisconsin was Ground Zero. …

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