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Scott Walker's Collective Bargaining Bill Is Working

Part 1,328,353 in a continuing series.

5:49 PM, Aug 8, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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"Milwaukee gains more than it loses in budget bill," reads the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline. And so you understand why unions are in such a rush to hold recall elections before voters see the benefits of Wisconsin's new law:

Despite early criticism from city officials, new figures show Milwaukee will gain more than it will lose next year from the state's controversial budget and budget-repair legislation.

The city projects it will save at least $25 million a year - and potentially as much as $36 million in 2012 - from health care benefit changes it didn't have to negotiate with unions, as a result of provisions in the 2009-'11 budget-repair measure that ended most collective bargaining for most public employees.

That saving would be partly offset by about $14 million in cuts in state aid to the city in the 2011-'13 state budget, down from earlier estimates of more than $17 million.

As a result, the city would come out with a net gain of at least $11 million for its 2012 budget, slicing into the "structural deficit" created by costs rising faster than revenue, and reducing the spending cuts that Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council must impose.

That outlook contrasts sharply with Barrett's initial comments in March, after Gov. Scott Walker and the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released figures on the extent of the aid cuts in Walker's budget.

At that time, Barrett said the combination of aid cuts, rising expenses, a property tax levy freeze and exempting public safety workers from health care and pension benefit changes "just makes our structural deficit explode."

Barrett now says the health care benefit changes are a major factor in helping the city balance its budget. But the Democratic mayor isn't giving the credit to Walker, the Republican who defeated him in November's gubernatorial election.

"It's a false question," Barrett said when asked whether Walker was right in his contention that his bargaining changes more than offset the impact of his aid cuts. Barrett said most people would agree that public employees should pay more of their health care and pension costs, but Walker didn't have to eliminate most of their collective bargaining power to do it.

Barrett's statement is bizarre. It almost seems as if he doesn't understand (or at least doesn't want voters to understand) what "collective bargaining rights" are--i.e. the right of a union to veto changes to their benefits and workload. Why would unions want to keep their right to veto these changes if they have no intention of vetoing the changes? 

In fact, in places where unions have retained their "collective bargaining power," they've refused to accept the changes needed to balance the budget, thereby forcing school districts to lay off hundreds of teachers.

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