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“I’m just trying to balance my budget.” Those seven words may not become ingrained in history like “Give me liberty, or give me death,” but the wordsand actionsof Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker could be long remembered.
Trying to balance his budget, the Republican governor has proposed cutting benefits for government employees,and more importantly, curbing the power unions have to strangle the state with excessive financial demands in the future. He would limit what state and local government unions can bargain forto wages only (not vacation and health-care benefits). In addition, he wants to increase what union members contribute toward their ownpension and health care plans.
Gov. Walker would also stop the state from collecting union dues from employee paychecks, giving employees the right to opt out of paying dues, and require secret-ballot votes every year to determine if a majority of employees want to remain unionized. He would require unions to negotiate new contracts every year,and limit state employees and teachers’ raises to the consumer price index, unless voters approve higher wages. Firefighters and law enforcement would be exempted from these conditions.
The governor and Republican legislators say getting a handle on union costs would avoid massive layoffsand maintain Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of children. They’re prepared for a union backlash:if necessary, the National Guard will step in.
First, there was Christie in New Jersey. Now, Walker in Wisconsin. We could be witnessinga real revolution.And then, we could not be — we’ll just have to see.
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