Wisconson Gov. Scott Walker on Balancing Budget, Teacher Protests, & Collective Bargaining


Heritage Foundation videographers (including former Reasoner Dan Hayes) interview Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about his plans to balance Cheeseland's budget, the protests taking place in Madison, and the role of collective bargaining in jacking up public-sector benefits to bust-the-bank levels.

National public opinion seems to be firmly in the governor's corner. According to Pew Research, 45 percent of adults gave unions positive sentiments (about the same percentage corporations pulled). And a Clarus poll showed just 29 percent of respondents thought public workers should have union representation. Go here for more.

There's also a disputed national Rasmussen poll that shows support for the governor's tack while a poll of Wisconsin voters shows support for the public sector. Go to Nate Silver's NYTimes blog for more on that.

For those interested in the connection between collective bargaining and state deficits, Reason's Tim Cavanaugh pointed out last summer that it's far from clear that killing CB is a rosy path to a glorious future of budget surpluses. And Walker himself is quick to point out that Wisconsin public-sector workers will still have massive workplace protections in place.

I think introducing collective bargaining issues into budget debates ends up confusing things more than it clarifies (I realize that Walker was pushing for an end to it as a county-level pol in the Badger State). The same political forces that have increased public-sector total compensation up at the state and local levels will be there regardless of whether unions and CB are there.

Based on the various studies I've seen, it strikes me as inarguable that total compensation for state and local employees has grown beyond that of analogous private-sector workers. That's a sign that even former California pol Willie Brown has gotten. But even if you don't agree with that, there's no question that states can't afford large and growing compensation packages for employees. Forget about comparing public-sector employees to anyone but themselves in the past for a second and note:

As the Buckeye Institute, since 1986, [Ohio] state employee annual raises have averaged 3.5 percent. And that doesn't include yearly step increases between 1 percent to 3 percent, and longevity increases for folks working five to 20 years between 2 percent and 10 percent. All that adds up, clearly, as does the massive expansion in the workforce itself (over 90,000 new positions created in the past 20 years).

More here.

Like most states, Wisconsin's economy is ailing and raising taxes to keep teachers in the pink of benefits isn't going to help grow the cheese wheel any bigger. If teachers want to get pissed, they ought to figure out how to capture a bigger share of the gigantic growth in school spending over the past 40 years. Think about this: Over the past decade or so, teacher salaries have increased about 2 percent more than inflation. Over the same time, total spending per pupil has increased 20 percent above inflation. Even recognizing that fringe benefits have certainly increased over the same time period, what kind of union is only pulling 2 percent to wages out of a pie that has grown 10 times that much?