Monday, February 21, 2011

Governor Walker's Common Sense Approach To Reforms

B.Daniel Blatt - On Facebook, a friend whom I love and respect despite her left-of-center politics linked a web-page which supports the truant Wisconsin lawmakers and calls the legislation they seek to block, a “radical attack on nurses, teachers and public employees”. Governor Scott Walker’s judicious proposal is anything but radical and is in fact the modest kind of reform we need here in California to address the spiraling cost of benefits for our public employees, costs which, former Democratic State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown contends, account for “80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits“.

Over at the Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes quotes the Badger State’s bold and brave governor to show just how modest his reforms are:

Walker believes the changes he’s proposing are relatively modest. “I’m asking them to contribute 5.8 percent of their salary to their pension – right about the national average for contributions. And I’m asking them to pay 12 percent of their health care premiums – up from 6 percent. The national average is around 25 percent.”

So Wisconsin’s public employees will still have benefit plans more generous than most workers across the country. And these steps are being taken with the express purpose of avoiding major layoffs and dramatic paycuts. . . . What’s more, Wisconsin teachers pay as much as $1100 each year in compulsory union dues. If the legislation passes, they will no longer be required to pay thosee dues – returning that money to their own pockets.

Emphasis added. With the dues no later automatically deducted from their paychecks, Wisconsin state employees now have the choice whether or not to pay them. In addition to ending ” government collection of union dues,” Walker’s reforms would “allow workers to opt out of unions, and require unions to hold recertification votes every year.”

That makes a lot of sense. Right now, the Wisconsin state government has served as the collection agency for institutions which “spent $573,868 on Wisconsin’s 2010 elections — almost all of it going to Democrats“.

“Currently,” Larry Kudlow writes, “most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance.” (Via Jennifer Rubin.) Few private sector employees have compensation packages that generous. While unions would lose their collective bargaining rights, Kudlow adds, public employees will keep their jobs:

Unions could still represent workers, but could not get pay increases above the CPI. Nor could they force employees to pay dues. And in exchange for this, Walker promises no furloughs for layoffs.

Without Walker’s common sense reforms, as many as 12,000 state and local government workers could lose their jobs. These reforms seem pretty reasonable to me.

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