November 30, 2013


Scott Walker, Wisconsin's action governor (George F. Will, November 29, 2013, Washington Post)

Act 10 required government workers to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions (hitherto, most paid nothing) and to pay 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums (up from 6 percent but still just half of what the average federal worker pays). Both percentages are well below the private-sector average. By limiting collective bargaining to base wages, Act 10 freed school districts to hire and fire teachers based on merit, and to save many millions of dollars by buying teachers' health insurance in the competitive market rather than from an entity run by the teachers' union. Restricting collective bargaining to wages ended the sort of absurd rules for overtime compensation that made a bus driver Madison's highest paid public employee.

Act 10's dynamite, however, was the provision ending the state's compulsory collection of union dues -- sometimes as high as $1,400 per year -- that fund union contributions to Democrats. Barack Obama and his national labor allies made Wisconsin a battleground because they knew that when Indiana made paying union dues optional, 90 percent of state employees quit paying, and similar measures produced similar results in Washington, Colorado and Utah.

Walker has long experience in the furnace of resistance to the looting of public funds by the public's employees. He was elected chief executive of heavily Democratic Milwaukee County after his predecessor collaborated with other officials in rewriting pension rules in a way that, if he had been reelected instead of resigning, would have given him a lump-sum payment of $2.3 million and $136,000 a year for life.

To fight the recall -- during which opponents disrupted Walker's appearance at a Special Olympics event and squeezed Super Glue into the locks of a school he was to visit -- Walker raised more than $30 million, assembling a nationwide network of conservative donors that could come in handy if he is reelected next year. Having become the first U.S. governor to survive a recall election, he is today serene as America's first governor to be, in effect, elected twice to a first term. When he seeks a second term, his opponent will probably be a wealthy rival who says her only promise is to not make promises. 

Marquette Poll: Scott Walker faces close reelection race in 2014 (JACK CRAVER, 10/29/13, The Capital Times)

As Prof. Charles Franklin, the poll's director, pointed out on Twitter, Walker's approval number has hardly budged in the 20 months since Marquette began its public opinion survey at the height of the recall election campaign in 2012. The most recent poll shows 49 percent of registered voters approve of the job he's doing and 47 percent disapprove, evidence that few in the Badger State haven't formed an opinion about the governor, whose aggressive conservatism has elevated the profile of state politics since his election in 2010.

The good news for Democrats is that their likely nominee, Madison school board member Mary Burke, is running neck-and-neck with Walker, even though she is still largely unknown.

Another relatively unknown candidate, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, also picks up 45 percent of the vote to Walker's 48 percent in a potential match-up, adding to the perception that Democratic-leaning voters are likely to vote for anybody over Walker. That has not been the case in past elections, including the three landslide reelection victories by former Gov. Tommy Thompson, in which he picked up a large share of Democratic voters.

Posted by at November 30, 2013 8:48 AM

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