The three-day hissy fit by public unions in my home state has captured the attention of the nation. Fleeing Democratic senators unwilling to fulfill their constitutional duties and thousands of protesting state workers who abandoned their jobs have made Wisconsin “ground zero” in the emerging national battle between state budgets and public unions.
At the root of the mayhem is newly-elected Republican Governor Scott Walker’s decision to have state workers pay 12 percent of health insurance benefits (state workers currently pay none of their health care costs) and a provision to remove of the ability of state employees to bargain collectively on pension and benefit issues. Under Walker’s proposal, state workers retain the right to bargain on wages.
Don’t’ be fooled. This isn’t a fight over worker rights. It’s a fight over the ability to continue “gold-plated” pensions. Any real solution to address the state’s $3.6 billion budget deficit must address long term costs and the costs of pension and benefits is at the center of this brewing storm.
Last year the MacIver Institute, a local free-market based think tank, reported, then the average teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools receives over $100,000 in compensation; $56,500 in salary and $43,505 in benefits. Sadly there are plenty more examples.
In the meantime, more and more schools close as teachers report in “sick” and students either get dragged to rallies or watch countless “public servants” march and miss work. …So much for “the children.”
More than a few friends in my home state think the unions have overplayed their hand. Last April 25,000 people jammed the Capitol grounds for a Tea Party. On Saturday, a large rally is planned in Madison in support of Walker’s proposal.
If you’re interested in learning more, dozens of web sites and local blogs are doing a good job of covering stories that the traditional media don’t — or won’t I’d recommend the MacIver Institute of Madison, a local free-market think tank and Charlie Sykes, a conservative radio host out of Milwaukee.