Today, the Journal Sentinel editorial board issued a critical opinion of Governor Walker’s State of the State address. In their estimation, the economic growth under Walker’s watch has precious little to do with his policies, and the tiny role he has to play as governor in the massive vortices of the state’s economy is being squandered by his preference for election politics.
We have a surplus, they argued. More money needs to be spent on poverty and education programs.
Conversations about investing more money in education are always tricky. Clearly, a quality education is the foundation and starting point for a civically engaged and economically productive society. You want good citizens? Improve education. You want skilled workers? Improve education. You want innovative thinkers? Improve education so their impressionable minds have room to grow.
On the flipside, taxpayers aren’t a personal ATM for politicians to throw money at a problem mindlessly. Taxpayers don’t want to hear about how more money is needed for education while public schools continue to flounder at graduating students and preparing them for college. They want politicians to replicate models that work, not pay more for the same results.
We need to think outside the box and provide alternatives for hardworking parents who live in underperforming school districts. We need to reward successful schools -- private and public alike – with opportunities to compete for tuition dollars. Politicians are more interested in preserving government institutions than they are at helping children in struggling communities. When it comes to education, one size does not always fit all. Thus, saying more money should be invested in education doesn't mean much without a specific plan.
Also, I found myself disagreeing with the editorial's commentary on public sector unions. They believe that Walker neutered public sector unions as political “payback.”
A good question to ask is, payback for what? Perhaps it was payback for years of forcibly extracting union dues from workers, despite their own political preferences, to finance just one political party. Approximately 90-98% of all public sector labor contributions given to political candidates go to Democrats.
Personally, I don’t believe Walker signed Act 10 to shut off big labor’s funding pipeline to Democrats. The primary impetus for Act 10 was giving local governments more flexibility (tools) to manage their affairs; turning off the spigot for Democrats was just an added benefit.
You see, Walker experienced firsthand the influence of public sector unions. Despite a pension scandal in 2002 that rocked Milwaukee County, at no point in time did AFSCME Council 48, the union representing Milwaukee County employees, recognize a need to make concessions.
As County Executive, Walker essentially had two choices during budget time: raise taxes on a financially strapped constituency or furlough county employees. The vast bulk of the county budget – consisting of healthcare costs and unfunded pension liabilities – was essentially nonnegotiable.
The Journal-Sentinel editorial board also pointed out that it was unnecessary for Walker to eviscerate public sector unions to achieve his policy goals.
I am curious to hear how the JS Editorial Board would have done it differently. If elected governor for a term, would they have let unions retain their ability to bargain over healthcare and pension costs? How do you keep public sector unions whole while also giving local governments the tools to manage their budgets with an eye toward the taxpayer?
I’m all ears. Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/purple-wisconsin/242155481.html#ixzz2tvXrNc3L Follow us: @JournalSentinel on Twitter