One thing has become clear from the stalemate on Governor Walker’s budget adjustment bill, Governor Walker is very good at staying on message.  His message to Wisconsin has been: blame the Democrats who fled to Illinois.  He reiterated this message again this morning.  The Governor’s message is: if you don’t come back, every bad thing I do to this state will be your fault.  But such a message is incredibly disingenuous. Here’s why:

Democrats, Unions and even one Republican have come to the table with compromise legislation, Governor Walker refuses to compromise

  • As mentioned previously, Democratic members in the state assembly last offered a compromise proposal to the budget adjustment that gave Governor Walker 90% of what he wanted and would have saved the state even more money. This compromise was voted down by the Republican-controlled Assembly.
  • Further, leaders of the state’s largest public employee unions have made it clear that they will support the Governor’s concessions so long as they can continue to collectively bargain. These unions combined represent approximately 150,000 public employees–by far the majority. Again–such an agreement gives Governor Walker essentially everything he’s asked for, minus the incredibly controversial collective bargaining proposal that the majority of Wisconsin residents, even when polled by conservatives, do not support. But instead of doing the reasonable thing and agreeing to “win” by 90%, the Governor has been working to discredit the unions’ statements by pointing out recent (? not sure–no dates are given) union negotiations in which unions did not take big cuts. Walker’s logic in this regard is faulty.  He provides no evidence that the unions in question are part of the unions that have agreed to his concessions, or unions that would even be involved in negotiations on the state level (it appears they are all municipal unions). Wisconsin is full of tiny bargaining units of 100 employees or less, so yeah, not really the unions we’re talking about here. In other words, different unions, different employer at the bargaining table. Further, Walker’s release completely ignores the fact that the municipalities in question have made the choice to agree to these contract terms.  That’s likely because, unlike the state, the cities of Madison, Janesville and others know that it is in their best interest to retain their high-quality public workers.
  • Republican Senator Dale Schultz proposed, but ultimately did not allow a vote on, a compromise bill that would contain union concessions and suspend collective bargaining for two years.  Schultz claims he did not propose the measure because the Democrats were Illinois (I don’t get it either).  But the fact remains that the bill had no Republican support, and it appears that he may have been threatened by Republican leadership for even proposing a compromise.  Frankly Governor Walker and the Republican Legislative leadership are incredibly foolish in their disregard Sen. Schultz’s measure. Accepting such a term would again give them everything they want and also make them look like reasonable leaders.  Further, as Governor Walker has the ability to line item veto the sunset requirement for the collective bargaining measure, they could have passed the compromise and removed all the language that made it a compromise in the first place.

If public employees do get laid off in Wisconsin it will not be for any unwillingness to negotiate on the part of union supporters–it will be because Scott Walker and his legislative puppets (they are supposed to check and balance, right?) wants to win completely and at any cost.

One thing the Governor consistently ignores with his never-ending slew of same-sounding press releases and tweets: he is the leader of this state.  When there is unrest in the state, when there is a legislative impasse in the state, when Wisconsin voters are barred from their Capitol, when Legislative leaders propose violating labor laws to force the other party into compliance, when neighbors begin to feel anger against their neighbors–it is the state’s Governor who should step up to be the leader who resolves the conflict and find the road to compromise.

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