Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Message from Wisconsin

Salem News Today:

The rejection recently by Wisconsin voters of a union-backed effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker sent a message to public employees across the country: It's time they share in some of the sacrifices borne by private-sector workers in this struggling economy. The point is not to "punish" public-sector workers. It is to restructure government at all levels, which has been spending at a rate that will surely lead to bankruptcy. We must begin to rein in government so that all may prosper. Since the advent of the Great Recession, private-sector workers have faced widespread layoffs, unpaid furloughs, pay cuts and a higher share of the cost of those benefits that haven't been eliminated entirely. Public-sector employees, on the other hand, have been largely immune from such challenges. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2009 state and local public-sector workers earned an average of $39.66 an hour in total compensation compared to $27.42 for private-sector workers. The big advantage to public-sector workers comes from the generous benefits packages they enjoy. Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin in 2010 with a mandate to get the state's budget under control. In an effort to trim a projected $3.6 billion deficit, he took on the public employee unions, forcing workers to pay more toward their pensions and health care premiums and sharply curtailing their collective bargaining rights. Labor leaders vowed revenge, but despite their best effort, Walker survived the recall, holding his seat by 53 percent to 46 percent over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett. The wide margin of victory, surpassing Walker's tally in his initial 2010 election, showed that Wisconsin voters were impressed with their governor's willingness to make tough calls and are tired of paying ever more for government as their own paychecks dwindle. Walker's victory ought to help political leaders everywhere grow a little spine when it comes to dealing with their unions.

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