Who's Distorting Walker's Budget Repair Bill?
The Washington Post, the New York Times, and friends.
4:46 PM, Mar 17, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Last week when the Wisconsin state senate passed a modified version of the budget repair bill, Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent wrote: "Wisconsin Repubicans took the drastic step of breaking up the budget repair bill and passing only a measure rolling back the collective bargaining rights of public employees."
The problem with that sentence is that it's not true. The bill passed that night included both the measure curtailing collective bargaining and the provision requiring public employees to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits.
This isn't a minor issue. Democrats thought it would be a potent talking point if Republicans only passed the collective bargaining restrictions:
So Sargent misreported the central issue related to the bill's passage and did so in a way that happened to underscore union talking points. A week later, the Washington Post blogger still hasn't gotten around to correcting this glaring factual inaccuracy in his own report.* But he has found time to attack what he calls a "bogus" Republican TV ad that "badly distorts the history of the Wisconsin standoff."
The ad by Republican senator Randy Hopper, who is a top target of Democratic recall efforts, claims:
The reality is much more complicated than Sargent lets on. Yes, union leaders said they'd agree to these concessions. But at the very same time, local unions were rushing through contracts that did not include those concessions.
More importantly, Walker's bill did not require public school teachers or local government employees to pay more for their health insurance premiums, it only required them to pay more for their pensions. The bill got rid of the collective bargaining for benefits in order to give local governments and school districts the option of making employees pay more for health benefits. (Enacting these benefits changes would allow school districts to make up for reductions in state aid.) In other words, the statewide teachers' union made a promise it didn't really have the authority to make. The decision to concede on health benefits ultimately rested with local unions.
And there's the rub. Walker always argued that curtailing collective bargaining was a necessary step in order to ensure that during a budget crunch school districts were able to choose benefits reductions over massive layoffs--a choice that had rested with the teachers' unions under collective bargaining agreements.
Sargent's other criticism of the Republican ad is that it