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Support State Employment Reforms and Save Money for Taxpayers!
An Open Letter to the Wisconsin General Assembly
February 17, 2011
On behalf of the National Taxpayers Union’s more than 7,800 members in Wisconsin, I urge you to support Governor Walker’s proposal to carefully limit collective bargaining and to require payments for pensions and health care for most state employees.
There is no debate that Wisconsin faces serious fiscal challenges. The state must address a $3 billion deficit in the next budget and a $137 million deficit in the current one. But the state does not have a revenue problem; in fact, Wisconsin already has the ninth-highest state and local tax burden as a percentage of income in the nation, which is higher than the neighboring states of Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan. Rather, the problem is that the cost of government is too high and unsustainable.
In order to meet this challenge prudently, Governor Scott Walker has proposed to limit collective bargaining for most state and local government employees, except those responsible for public safety, to the issue of wages. Additionally, Gov. Walker proposes requiring public workers, who currently contribute nothing toward pensions, to contribute 5.8 percent of their pay to their retirement plans and to cover 12.6 percent of health care premiums (up from an average of 6 percent). By enacting these reforms, the state will have a freer hand and stronger position from which to negotiate more manageable salaries and benefits for state workers, which will save money for the taxpayers who foot the bill.
Collective bargaining for public employees was instituted in an era when workers did not enjoy legal protections, competitive salaries, or many benefits. Now, thanks to anti-discrimination, safety, and workplace environment regulations and laws, public employees have many safeguards against abuse. Moreover, many state workers now enjoy more job security and better wages than their counterparts in the private sector, through policies such as automatic step increases, defined benefit pension plans, and low health insurance premiums. The unfair and disproportionate costs that can result from unbalanced collective bargaining simply cannot be sustained, especially in an economy like this one.
Given the state of Wisconsin’s budget and the difficult choices that lie ahead, the General Assembly cannot continue to let its hands be tied when it comes to negotiating state salaries and benefits. Therefore, our members hope you will support the Governor’s sensible proposals to save money for taxpayers.
CC: Governor Scott Walker