Wednesday, March 09, 2011

You can't spell Wisconsin without W-I-N

I was a little concerned today when I learned that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had been negotiating facets of the state budget with the 14 absentee Democrat Senators.

And while I appreciated the noble gesture of the Governor allowing the fleebaggers to conduct state business from a comfy Illinois hotel room, I don't think it would have been too much of a hard line stance to not negotiate at all until their return to Madison.

I digress.

Some of the counter-proposals made by Gov. Walker seemed to indicate that he may be caving in on some key aspects of his proposals regarding public employee unions, specifically stripping them of all collective bargaining.

• Public employee union bargaining over wages would no longer be limited to the rate of inflation.

• Unions would be allowed to bargain over certain economic issues, including mandatory overtime, performance bonuses, hazardous duty pay and classroom size. On this set of issues, both labor and management would have to agree to discuss them for bargaining to happen.

• Unions could bargain over workplace safety, but that would be limited to workers’ physical health and safety. It would not allow bargaining over hours, overtime, sick leave or family leave, work schedules or vacation.

• Unions would have to vote every three years to remain active, with the first of those votes coming within one year of the bill becoming law. The current version of the bill would require unions to vote to recertify every year – starting this April – and require them to get at least 51% of workers’ votes.

• Employees of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority would not lose all union bargaining rights.

• The Legislature’s budget committee would have to approve changes to state health programs for the poor sought by the Walker administration. The budget-repair bill gives Walker broad powers to reshape those Medicaid health programs, which cover more than 1 million state residents.

In the end, the fleebaggers nixed Gov. Walker's compromise, apparently forgetting they're in the minority party. Thankfully, Democrats can be as insufferably arrogant (or flippin' crazy) as Republicans are wimpy.

But around 6:00 CT, the Wisconsin Republicans actually showed a little fortitude by rendering the Dems irrelevant.

The Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, approving an explosive proposal that had rocked the state and unions nationwide after Republicans discovered a way to bypass the chamber's missing Democrats.

All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker's "budget-repair bill" - a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.

The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday separated from the legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, which spends no money, and a special committee of lawmakers from both the Senate and Assembly approved the bill a short time later.

As I have taken in all this news today, a couple of things come to mind.

First, I can only hope that Gov. Walker was counting on the Democrats being so arrogant that they would rebuff his reaching out. The fact the GOP didn't follow through on threats of fining Democrats for each day absent or withholding their paychecks gave an indication that Walker et al were spineless. So could it be that this was a calculated move by the Governor? That is, once collective bargaining rights were ultimately stripped away (Walker's main goal of this budget battle), he could fend off any backlash by reiterating how he attempted to compromise.

Another theory I have is that Walker may delay in signing this bill, giving the absentee Democrats one final chance to return to Madison and actually finish the job. That may be the less likely of my theories considering Gov. Walker's statement in reaction to this evening's Senate vote.

"I applaud the Legislature's action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government," Walker said in the statement.

If that statement is any indication, it seems to me that if the Governor doesn't have a pen he might prick his finger and sign that bill in blood.



StarBittrune said...

I think one of the fugitive WI senators was actually staying at the same Chicago hotel we were at this weekend. I was alone in the breakfast room when a man came in, sat in the far corner, and started making cell phone calls, ranting about the WI governor, the Republicans, collective bargaining, etc., and then said he "wasn't very motivated to cross the border." I considered tipping off the WI State Patrol - I wasn't sure what would have been the most effective thing to do.

Brad Carlson said...

Yeah, I saw Ruth had mentioned that on FB. Pretty bizarre.

I was a little concerned that Gov. Walker may send out the Highway Patrol after the fleebaggers. Such a move would have given the impression (fairly or unfairly) of the Governor employing "police state" tactics.

Of course, the mob mentality of the union thugs would have still been conveniently ignored.....