After weeks of protest and political theatrics, Wisconsin's legislative leaders finally overcame obstructionists in the General Assembly to pass a major overhaul of the state's collective bargaining laws for state workers that has been championed by Governor Scott Walker. The Governor has indicated he will sign the bill at the first opportunity. This is a major win for taxpayers in Wisconsin.
Thanks to the steadfast determination of Governor Walker and like-minded legislators to see this reform through, Wisconsin's government, especially at the local level, will have the tools necessary to tacke the state's $137 million deficit this year and the $3 billion deficit in the next state budget. Additionally, officials will be able to tackle the growing costs of public employees before they eat up the state's finances. No longer will government and taxpayers be beholden to union demands to annually increase spending for their priorities. Instead, the government will be able to determine what it really needs to spend money on and what it can do without.
Some say that this action by Walker is an outright attack on public workers and threatens to turn Wisconsin into a third world country. But as my friend Josh Barro at the Manhattan Institute points out, the Wisconsin reform is neither new or breathtaking:
"Only 26 states have laws that grant collective-bargaining privileges to substantially all public employees. Twelve have laws that give collective bargaining to some workers, and twelve have no statewide collective-bargaining law at all, though some municipalities may grant bargaining rights in those states."
"And as I have been pointing out until I get blue in the face, most federal civilian workers do engage in collective bargaining, but wages and benefits are excluded from that bargaining, rendering it very limited. Far from seeking to strengthen the hand of federal-employee unions, Barack Obama has sought to impose a two-year wage freeze on federal workers through the budget process. If the federal government had a bargaining law like the one Wisconsin has today, he would be unable to do that."
Although some will continue to spin this reform for their own political purposes, taxpayers in Wisconsin can breath a little easier with the knowledge that their government is finally waking up to the need to break through the status quo and willing to make the reforms necessary to save the state from fiscal collapse under high and growing costs.