Perhaps it is not appropriate for me to talk on and on about the situation in Wisconsin politics on Facebook when I know I am biased. That bias goes beyond the fact that I am liberal and I know that some of my friends are conservative.
I am the only member of my immediate family who does not live in the state of Wisconsin. Of the adults in my immediate family living there, half are employed by the state of Wisconsin. Not only that but many friends are also employed by the state in various capacities.
I consider both pay and benefits to be a person’s salary. Whether you cut someone’s pay without reducing benefits or cut benefits (read: expect an employee to contribute more to pension and health care), it is still a cut in take-home pay. The estimate on this pay cut as proposed by Republican governor Scott Walker is $4000-$6000 per year. For some, this amounts to a 10% pay cut – or more.
Compared to other states, Wisconsin’s budget crisis is middle of the pack. It is not a dire situation, not with what measures were taken in the past couple years under the Democratic governor, including several furlough days in 2009 and 2010 for state employees.
So what exactly does stripping the right to collectively bargain have to do with the state budget crisis? As far as I can see, nothing. It is leading the conversation away from what needs to be done to repair the state’s finances.
Will there still be tough questions regarding state employees, their jobs, and their pay? Certainly, just as there are tough questions regarding spending in every other area of the budget (and tough questions being seen at the federal level as well, but that’s an entirely different can of worms). Because I do not live in Wisconsin, I admit I do not know all the nitty-gritty details of what else is on the chopping block because those items have not made the national news.
But I ask again, what does stripping the right to collectively bargain have to do with the state budget?