Dale Schultz: Fix the state budget and preserve labor peace

I share Governor Walker’s goal to eliminate our more than $3 billion state budget deficit without raising state or property taxes.  On March 1, the governor will introduce his two-year budget plan, revealing what he meant by his recent statement he intends to reduce state government to what is “essential”.  The budget will likely include cuts of around ten percent in state aids to schools, counties and municipalities, leading to many public employee layoffs and fewer people served by programs.

The Governor’s budget repair bill starts cutting costs quickly by requiring state and local public employees, except for police and firefighters, to contribute at least 12 percent of their health insurance coverage and half their retirement contribution.  Lengthy negotiations on public employee union contracts wouldn’t provide the prompt, deep savings local governments will need to cope with far less state aids.  That’s why it’s warranted to prohibit collective bargaining for the upcoming biennium. 

I agree with the long-term goal to have balanced state budgets without tax increases, transportation fund raids, and excessive borrowing.  We can achieve that goal and preserve the Wisconsin community we want without having to eliminate collective bargaining in perpetuity.  With collective bargaining, Wisconsin residents have enjoyed high-quality and uninterrupted public services for decades.  Our thinking and our decision about collective bargaining in Wisconsin should revolve around what is fair for our middle-class neighbors with public sector jobs in our own community.

For these reasons, I'll offer an amendment to the budget repair in the Senate to restore collective bargaining after 2013 and achieve more savings over the next two years by:

I’ve seen openness and compromise in governing achieve lasting and successful public policies.  Too often when we don’t come together, we’ve seen short-lived public policies and needless disruption for people and communities.  I grew up during the civil rights and Vietnam War movements where the social fabric of our community was torn apart.  And, in Washington D.C. in 1995, we learned how quickly public opinion changes and leaders are held responsible when government services are disrupted.

We are capable of a thoughtful approach with all the stakeholders at the table, to protect the pocketbook of taxpayers and preserve the quality education and public services that make Wisconsin great.

The legislative tenure of Senator Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, has spanned the administrations of five governors from both parties and seen several changes of majority party control of the state senate and assembly.