“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Continuing Turmoil In Wisconsin

In the weeks since the initial hooplah over Wisconsin's legislation limiting teachers' unions' powers, a more interesting drama has unfolded.

The unions are promising recall efforts against the Republican legislators who voted for the legislation, while a key state Supreme Court election has become another battleground. The public unions are also coercing businesses to post union-supporting signs in their windows, or face boycotts. Reports are that the unions made it clear that 'neutral' means 'boycott.'

The court election has gone back and forth, with initial results favoring the liberal Democrat and friend of the state Supreme Court's chief justice, then back to the incumbent when several thousand votes were found.

To me, the outcomes of these union-backed efforts matter less than the simple fact that they are occurring. We are seeing the full panoply of democratic institutions employed to try to bend laws to various parties' wills. And while public unions have the right to fight for the ability to continue to extort lavish contract terms and compensation from taxpayers/voters, what interests me is the result if they succeed.

To hear governor Walker explain things, the state must cut spending and have more flexibility to roll back expensive work rules and the ability of teachers to bargain collectively on such rules, as well as, importantly, having the state collect union dues.

So with the judicial elections, recall efforts, and union boycotts, we'll soon see just what Wisconsin voters really want, and how much they are willing to pay for it.

Since Wisconsin was the most public of the states engaging in measures to curb public union excesses, with Ohio and Indiana also active in this area, it's sort of the stage on which this newly-important battle is playing out.

If voters yield to public unions and stymie governor Walker's efforts, the state's next few years will tell a tale of fiscal choices. Higher taxes? Continued spending on teachers?

I'm actually somewhat more excited by the ongoing, multi-pronged struggle between newly-empowered conservatives in Wisconsin and the increasingly-desperate public unions than I would have been had the legislators and Walker simply won the issue by passage of the legislation that started the fight.

This way, we'll really get to see how voters weigh the options they have, as public unions use several channels to try to stop the state government from regaining control over spending on their services. And we'll see the consequqnces of those choices.

If the Wisconsin situation is truly a foreshadowing of the 2012 Congressional, presidential and state election issues, then its resolution may tell us a lot about how much more pain and suffering we are all going to endure before sanity prevails and public unions are finally confronted, and, themselves, forced to confront the reality of spending limits and undeliverable pension promises.

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