Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has had an interesting week. Thousands have lay siege to the state capitol in Madison as public union members, often seen carrying violent, threatening signs calling the governor everything from cheap to being Hitler. They are protesting Scott Walker’s budget proposal which would make the state’s union employees pay a small percentage, half of the national average in the private sector, of their health insurance and pension contribution, as well as new limits on collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin teacher protests have led to the school system in several communities to be shut down. Yesterday, the Republican senate was to vote on passage, but a quorum was shine one senator as the entire Democrat delegation of lawmakers fled the capitol building and took a bus to Illinois to avoid their responsibility.
Like forty-three other U.S. states, Wisconsin has a budget crisis with a deficit shortfall of some $3.6 Billion dollars. Decades of generous union contracts to teachers and other public service unions are bankrupting the state. These contracts, and the state’s budget deficits, are unsustainable. Republican Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald from Juneau, WI, said “This is the ultimate showdown, what we’re seeing today.” A battle indeed as Gov. Walker put the state’s National Guard on alert to step in if needed to perform some of the essential duties should union employees launch a prolong worker-strike.
Democrat Senators Jon Erpenbach and Tim Cullen vow not to return to the capitol building until Saturday, which means Friday will see yet another day of union protests. They consider the proposed legislation to be an anti-union bill. Even President Barack Hussein Obama chimed in on Thursday criticizing the budget-cutting measures.
But the simple fact is that the State of Wisconsin is broke. Gov. Walker has said that the alternative, should the bill not pass, would be laying off about 6,000 state workers. Some question just how many of the estimated 25,000 protesters were actually union employees. News reports that many teachers dragged their students to the capitol building under false pretences have emerged. Some of the protesters may even be ‘rent-a-mob’, consisting of people belonging to radical groups like the Socialist Workers Party and ACORN. During some local call-in radio shows, many state employees said they have no problem with paying a bit for their health insurance and pension. They would rather do that than face layoffs.
We shall see if thousands of union protesters continue their siege of the capitol building in Madison, today. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won his election in November by a wide margin by promising to put the state’s budget in order. While Republican senators were prepared to vote on the measure yesterday, Democrat lawmakers fled to Illinois shirking their responsibility. The proposed legislation would have the state’s public union employees paying a small percentage of their health insurance and to contribute to their own pensions, at a rate half that of the private sector. Like 43 other state governments, Wisconsin is facing a budget shortfall, with a deficit of some $3.6 Billion dollars.