Wisconsin: An Education in Special Interest Power
Early yesterday morning, the Wisconsin assembly passed Governor Scott Walker’s (R) budget repair bill, which includes language requiring public employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to cover the cost of their pensions and pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums. The measure also significantly limits collective bargaining for government employees, such as teachers.
Although the measure has passed the assembly, it must still be passed in the Senate, where Democrats remain in hiding to avoid consideration of the bill. Charles Krauthammer dissects the stalemate in today’s Washington Post:
Wisconsin is the epicenter. It began with economic issues. When Gov. Scott Walker proposed that state workers contribute more to their pension and health-care benefits, he started a revolution. Teachers called in sick. Schools closed. Demonstrators massed at the capitol. Democratic senators fled the state to paralyze the Legislature.
Unfortunately for them, that telegenic faux-Cairo scene drew national attention to the dispute—and to the sweetheart deals the public-sector unions had negotiated for themselves for years. They were contributing a fifth of a penny on a dollar of wages to their pensions and one-fourth what private-sector workers pay for health insurance.