Coming Soon to a Statehouse Near You: Budget-Battle Showdowns!
February 26, 2011
Wisconsin. Ohio. Michigan. New Jersey. New York. Budget-battle showdowns are coming soon to a statehouse near you.
Thousands of angry school teachers, union members, and their sympathizers have descended on capitals to fight against reducing pay and benefits for public employees. The protesters are up against a new crop of governors who are hell-bent on spending cuts to deal with deficits that may rise to combined $125 billion in the next fiscal year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) is looking for public employees to pay $500 million towards benefits they’re currently receiving for free.
New Jersey’s Chris Christie is proposing public employees pick up 30 percent of their health care premiums. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker wants public employees to pay at least 13 percent of their health care premiums. And he wants state workers to start contributing to their retirements for the first time.
This newfound fiscal discipline comes after a virtually unchecked binge over the past 10 years during which state expenditures exploded by more than 80 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, including big bumps in overall worker compensation.
The most controversial aspect of the budget battles deals with public-sector unions and collective bargaining. Wisconsin’s Walker and others argue that the current process is inherently stacked against taxpayers because the government isn’t spending its own money like companies in the private sector do. What’s more, taxpayers have no way of opting out of any agreement that’s reached. In the private sector, consumers can always take their business elsewhere. That’s the basic reason why progressives such as Franklin Roosevelt and labor legend George Meany were against unions for government workers.