(Madison, State Capitol)...There are few things more frustrating to taxpayers than wasting their hard earned dollars. That is why this new Legislature, faced with ongoing budget deficits, decided to take up reform to curb waste. Our top goal was to make tax dollars stretch further, so we could avoid tax increases, mass layoffs, and more debt that would be passed on to our kids and grandkids.
Significant reform would inevitably upset the defenders of the status quo. However, voters spoke loud and clear last fall that Wisconsin taxpayers and working families could no longer afford the status quo.
In March, the balanced budget bill overhauled collective bargaining laws to give local governments more tools to manage their budgets. The goal was to protect middle class homeowners from having inevitable spending reductions being shifted as tax increases to their property tax bills.
Nearly three months later, we have seen many examples of how abuses in collective bargaining can cost local property taxpayers. Here are some glaring examples:
- The Middleton-Cross Plains School Board has spent about $300,000 in the last year fighting a grievance filed on behalf of a teacher fired after an investigation found he viewed pornography at school.
- The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) tried to use a policy established by collective bargaining to obtain health insurance coverage that specifically paid for Viagra. Cost to taxpayers is $786,000 a year.
- If school districts enrolled in the state employee health plan as opposed to the teachers union’s plan, it would save school districts up to $68 million per year while providing for the same basic coverage.
- Teachers in the Hartland-Lakeside School District have agreed to switch health insurance providers to save the district $690,000, but the executive committee of a union that represents teachers is blocking the change, officials say.
- Correctional Officer collective bargaining agreements allow officers to use a practice known as “sick leave stacking” to increase their overtime pay. Officers can call in sick for a shift, receiving eight hours of sick pay, and then are allowed to work the very next shift, earning time-and-a-half for overtime. This results in the officer receiving 2.5 times his or her rate of pay, while still only working eight hours.
- A senior citizen that volunteered his time as a crossing guard was contested by a city government worker union in Wausau that protested that if there was going to be a crossing guard, it had to be a union member.
These examples highlight why taxpayers need more control of how their money is spent. To ignore the costs of collective bargaining on budgets would be legislative negligence at a time of billion dollar deficits. Taxpayers should be in charge on their government, not the other way around. During a time of tight budgets for families and government, wasteful spending needs to be targeted €“ not protected.
Please stay in touch by calling my office at 1-800-862-1092 or sending me an e-mail to Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wi.gov.