Nuclear option in WI: GOP considers separate bill to pass public-union reforms; Update: GOP leader says no

posted at 2:15 pm on February 21, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

When Wisconsin’s Democratic state Senators fled to Illinois, they denied the Republicans a quorum — but only on fiscal and budgetary matters, where the quorum requirement is three-fifths, or 20 members.  However, for all other matters, a simple majority qualifies as a quorum, which leaves the GOP with a trump card in this debate.  If the Democrats refuse to return to debate and vote on the budget-repair bill, Republicans might split the public-sector union reforms into a separate bill and pass it in their absence:

Newly elected state Sen. Leah Vukey, a Tea Party favorite, told The Daily Caller the Senate could separate the removal of collective bargaining rights for state and local employees from the spending bill if the Democrats refuse to return. Vukey said she’s not yet sure if Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald will so so, but said it’s a possibility.

“All the collective bargaining stuff could be done as a separate bill,” Vukey said in a phone interview. “I’m not certain if we’re going to do that at this point.”

Vukey said the Senate could go a step further and make union membership voluntary for public sector workers, or change the rules so union workers would have to vote in favor of representation annually.

Note: The Senator’s name is Leah Vukmir, not Vukey.

That really would be a nuclear option, but it might also resolve the standoff.  If the GOP passes the bill in a session with no Democrats, the Left can certainly complain about the legitimacy of such legislation.  It might poison the well for the rest of this session for any cooperation from Democrats, but since they have already pulled their nuclear option of abandoning the state, it’s hard to see how this could make things any worse.  Such a move could force Democrats to return to vote on the fiscal portion of the current bill, to which the union has already said they’d agree.

Also, Heritage attempts to cut through the hyperbole in its instructional four-minute primer on the debate in Wisconsin over public-sector union contracts, but it’s not easy. State Senator Leah Vukmir tries to talk to the actual issues, but the protestors in Madison only want to talk about Hitler and the coming Nazi regime if this bill passes. If Wisconsin voters needed a lesson on responsible and mature leadership and dialogue, the unions have certainly provided it … in a this-could-happen-to-you sort of way. Be sure to actually watch the video rather than just listen to it, as Heritage makes its points in overlays (via Fausta):

What’s at stake in this standoff is whether the voters will control public policy and the budget, or whether the unions will usurp that power by blocking the state legislature from performing their duties, not whether Hitler will arise again or whether Wal-Mart will teach the children of Wisconsin. The secondary lesson from this debate is that Wisconsin teachers need to learn a lot about history and civics before teaching either to Wisconsin children — and perhaps that Wisconsin needs school vouchers much more than they may have realized before now.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s top Democrat has belatedly condemned the Hitler comparisons:

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate is condemning  signs carried by pro-labor protesters that compare Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hosni Mubarak and showed the governor with a cross-hairs rifle sight over his face.

In an interview with CNSNews.com, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Press Secretary Graeme Zielinski said that Tate and the party “absolutely” condemn the inflammatory signs but says that they are not representative of the majority of the protesters who have taken to the streets in opposition to the Governor’s plan.

“This is absolutely not representative of what the protest is that’s out there,” said Zielinski. “Frankly it’s offensive to a lot of the protesters, average working men and women who are out here with their families peaceably demonstrating and exercising their first amendment rights.”

Hey, it’s perfectly within their First Amendment rights to make the Hitler comparisons, too.  No one’s arguing that there should be a government intervention to censor that speech.  In fact, most of us find that kind of expression by teachers who supposedly instruct Wisconsin children to be very enlightening, and very revealing.

Update: Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says that the GOP won’t break off the non-budgetary items into a separate bill — but get ready for the voter ID bill:

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said today the Senate will not break out proposed collective bargaining changes from the governor’s budget repair bill so Republicans can approve them with just their 19 members present. …

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said such a move would not happen, but Republicans plan to move ahead with regular Senate business. In addition to tomorrow’s calendar, that could mean public hearings on other legislation, and possibly a floor vote on a voter ID bill that Democrats don’t like.

“Just because they don’t want to participate, you cant shut down the people’s work,” Fitzgerald said.

A must-issue carry permit law may also be in the offing.


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So, someone please tell me:
If public unions are so bad, why has Walker exempted police, firefighters and state police?

chumpThreads on February 21, 2011 at 7:10 PM

Because first resonders and teachers aren’t the same.

Duh.

Chump,

ladyingray on February 21, 2011 at 7:17 PM

ladyingray on February 21, 2011 at 7:17 PM

Are you a member of Michelle Malkin’s site?..:)

Dire Straits on February 21, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Dire Straits on February 21, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Just waitin’ on my password….

ladyingray on February 21, 2011 at 7:21 PM

Dire Straits on February 21, 2011 at 7:19 PM

have you seen canopfor since this am?

cmsinaz on February 21, 2011 at 7:22 PM

Just waitin’ on my password….

ladyingray on February 21, 2011 at 7:21 PM

Good Deal!..:)

PS..Watch your spam folder also..My password went there.. :)

Dire Straits on February 21, 2011 at 7:23 PM

have you seen canopfor since this am?

cmsinaz on February 21, 2011 at 7:22 PM

Yes..I have been trying to run him down..not having no luck?..Will keep trying.. :)

Dire Straits on February 21, 2011 at 7:24 PM

Good Deal!..:)

PS..Watch your spam folder also..My password went there.. :)

Dire Straits on February 21, 2011 at 7:23 PM

I am!! :)

ladyingray on February 21, 2011 at 7:24 PM

found him DS…just told him about it…

cmsinaz on February 21, 2011 at 7:28 PM

It must have been “Grow Fins” waving that “Stop Dolphin Rape” at 3:58 in the video clip. The cardboard ObaMao beside it is barely distinguishable from the one sitting in the WH when considering substance.

onlineanalyst on February 21, 2011 at 7:30 PM

So, someone please tell me:
If public unions are so bad, why has Walker exempted police, firefighters and state police?

chumpThreads on February 21, 2011 at 7:10 PM

So Walker is not so bad after all eh?

CWforFreedom on February 21, 2011 at 7:54 PM

How can we tell the Gov that he is doing the right thing? Not a time for him to get wobbly.

Dingbat63 on February 21, 2011 at 7:58 PM

He stated his reasoning early on. He was prescient when stated that public safety came first, and after the events in Madison, and the way the left has handled itself there … I’d say he was right.

darwin on February 21, 2011 at 7:14 PM

What has public safety got to do with it?
Do you mean, if he tried this tactic with those public workers, they might rally as the teachers have? Perhaps walk off the job?
If those groups still have collective bargaining, how is he going to “fix the budget”?

chumpThreads on February 21, 2011 at 8:33 PM

If those groups still have collective bargaining, how is he going to “fix the budget”?

chumpThreads on February 21, 2011 at 8:33 PM

You are pretty simple you know that right? I love how idiots like you think it has to be all or nothing or that an idea has to be a silver bullet.

What is the ratio of teachers to firemen and policemen in Wisconson?

CWforFreedom on February 21, 2011 at 8:42 PM

In the United States there are around 1 million career policemen and firemen combined while there are around 6 million teachers. Hmmmm. If Wisconsin is close that sort of ratio you will save a lot more money doing it Walker’s way.

CWforFreedom on February 21, 2011 at 8:49 PM

So Chump sooo quiet. Funny the Governor does not only seek to deal with the unions but he also:

Governor Walker Introduces Budget Repair

Emergency measure is needed to balance the state budget and give government the tools to manage during economic crisis

Madison– Governor Walker today released details of his budget repair bill.

“We must take immediate action to ensure fiscal stability in our state,” said Governor Walker. “This budget repair bill will meet the immediate needs of our state and give government the tools to deal with this and future budget crises.”

The state of Wisconsin is facing an immediate deficit of $137 million for the current fiscal year which ends July 1. In addition, bill collectors are waiting to collect over $225 million for a prior raid of the Patients’ Compensation Fund.

The budget repair bill will balance the budget and lay the foundation for a long-term sustainable budget through several measures without raising taxes, raiding segregated funds, or using accounting gimmicks.

First, it will require state employees to pay about 5.8% toward their pension (about the private sector national average) and about 12% of their healthcare benefits (about half the private sector national average). These changes will help the state save $30 million in the last three months of the current fiscal year.

“It’s fair to ask public employees to make a pension payment of just over 5%, which is about the national average, and a premium payment of 12%, which is about half of the national average,” said Governor Walker.

The budget repair will also restructure the state debt, lowering the state’s interest rate, saving the state $165 million.

These changes will help the state fulfill its Medicaid spending on needy families of about $170 million; funding that the previous administration did not have in its budget. It will also allow the state to spend an additional $21 million in the Department of Corrections.

Additionally, the budget repair bill gives state and local governments the tools to manage spending reductions through changing some provisions of the state’s collective bargaining laws.

The state’s civil service system, among the strongest in the country, would remain in place. State and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay, they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures. Local police, fire and state patrol would be exempted from the changes. Other reforms will include state and local governments not collecting union dues, annual certification will be required in a secret ballot, and any employee can opt out of paying union dues.

A full summary of the Governor’s budget repair bill is below.

Fiscal Year 2010-11 Budget Adjustment Bill Items

Employee Compensation:

Pension contributions: Currently, state, school district and municipal employees that are members of the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) generally pay little or nothing toward their pensions. The bill would require that employees of WRS employers, and the City and County of Milwaukee contribute 50 percent of the annual pension payment. The payment amount for WRS employees is estimated to be 5.8 percent of salary in 2011.

Health insurance contributions: Currently, state employees on average pay approximately 6 percent of annual health insurance premiums. This bill will require that state employees pay at least 12.6 percent of the average cost of annual premiums. In addition, the bill would require changes to the plan design necessary to reduce current premiums by 5 percent. Local employers participating in the Public Employers Group Health insurance would be prohibited from paying more than 88 percent of the lowest cost plan. The bill would also authorize the Department of Employee Trust Funds to use $28 million of excess balances in reserve accounts for health insurance and pharmacy benefits to reduce health insurance premium costs.

Health insurance cost containment strategies: The bill directs the Department of Employee Trust Funds and the Group Insurance Board to implement health risk assessments and similar programs aimed at participant wellness, collect certain data related to assessing health care provider quality and effectiveness, and verify the status of dependents participating in the state health insurance program. In addition, it modifies the membership of the Group Insurance Board to require that the representative of the Attorney General be an attorney to ensure the board has access to legal advice among its membership.

Pension changes for elected officials and appointees: The bill modifies the pension calculation for elected officials and appointees to be the same as general occupation employees and teachers. Current law requires these positions to pay more and receive a different multiplier for pension calculation than general classification employees. Under the state constitution, this change will be effective for elected officials at the beginning of their next term of office.

Modifications to Wisconsin Retirement System and state health insurance plans: The bill directs the Department of Administration, Office of State Employment Relations and Department of Employee Trust Funds to study and report on possible changes to the Wisconsin Retirement System, including defined contribution plans and longer vesting periods. The three agencies must also study and report on changes to the current state health insurance plans, including health insurance purchasing exchanges, larger purchasing pools, and high-deductible insurance options.

General fund impact – Authorize the Department of Administration Secretary to lapse or transfer from GPR and PR appropriations (excluding PR appropriations to the University of Wisconsin) to the general fund estimated savings of approximately $30 million from implementing these provisions for state employees in the current fiscal year (2010-11). Segregated funds would retain any savings from these measures.

State and Local Government and School District Labor Relations:

Collective bargaining – The bill would make various changes to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum. Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. These changes take effect upon the expiration of existing contracts. Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.

Career executive transfers – The bill would allow state employees in the career executive positions to be reassigned between agencies upon agreement of agency heads.

Limited term employees (LTE) – The bill would prohibit LTE’s from being eligible for health insurance or participation in the Wisconsin Retirement System.

State employee absences and other work actions – If the Governor has declared a state of emergency, the bill authorizes appointing authorities to terminate any employees that are absent for three days without approval of the employer or any employees that participate in an organized action to stop or slow work.

Quality Health Care Authority – The bill repeals the authority of home health care workers under the Medicaid program to collectively bargain.

Child care labor relations – The bill repeals the authority of family child care workers to collectively bargain with the State.

University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics (UWHC) Board and Authority – The bill repeals collective bargaining for UWHC employees. State positions currently employed by the UWHC Board are eliminated and the incumbents are transferred to the UWHC Authority.

University of Wisconsin faculty and academic staff – The bill repeals the authority of UW faculty and academic staff to collectively bargain.

Debt Restructuring – The bill authorizes the restructuring of principal payments in fiscal year 2010-11 on the state’s general obligation bonds. These principal repayments will be paid in future years. Since the state is required to make debt service payments by March 15th, the bill must be enacted by February 25th to allow time to sell the refinancing bonds. This provision will reduce debt service costs by $165 million in fiscal year 2010-11. This savings will help address one‑time costs to comply with the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund state Supreme Court decision and make payments under the Minnesota‑Wisconsin tax reciprocity program.

Medicaid

Address FY11 Medicaid deficit – Medicaid costs are expected to exceed current GPR appropriations by $153 million. The bill would increase the Medicaid GPR appropriation to address this shortfall.

Authorize DHS to restructure program notwithstanding current law – Medicaid costs have increased dramatically due to the recession and expanded program eligibility. In order to reduce the growth in costs, the bill authorizes the Department of Health Services to make program changes notwithstanding limits in state law related to specific program provisions. The department is expected to develop new approaches on program benefits, eligibility determination and provider cost-effectiveness. The proposed changes will require passive approval of the Joint Committee on Finance before implementation.

Technical correction – Act 28 included language that required unused GPR expenditure authority in the Medicaid GPR appropriation at the end of the biennium to be carried over to the subsequent biennium. The bill repeals this provision in order to ensure unspent funds in Medicaid lapse to the general fund balance.

Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) – The bill transfers an estimated $3 million in savings in this appropriation to Medicaid. ADRC’s are the intake and assessment element of the state’s Family Care program.

Corrections – The bill provides $22 million GPR to address shortfalls in the Department of Corrections adult institutions appropriation. These shortfalls are due to health care costs, overtime, and reductions in salary and fringe benefit budgets under Act 28.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Funding for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – The bill allocates $37 million of excess TANF revenues to increase TANF funding for the EITC from $6.6 million to $43.6 million in fiscal year 2010-11. By increasing TANF funding, GPR funding for the EITC is reduced by a commensurate amount.

Income Augmentation Revenues – Allow the Department of Children and Families and Department of Health Services to utilize $6.5 million of already identified income augmentation revenues to meet fiscal year 2010-11 lapse requirements.

Act 28 Required Lapses by DOA Secretary – Under Act 28, the Department of Administration Secretary is required to lapse or transfer a total of $680 million in 2009-11 from appropriations made to executive branch agencies to the general fund. The bill would reduce this amount by $79 million to ensure the lapses can be met in the next five months as this was ineffectively addressed by the previous administration.

Lapse of Funding from Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) Appropriation – The JCF appropriation includes $4.5 million related to estimated fiscal year 2010-11 implementation costs of 2009 Wisconsin Act 100 (operating while intoxicated enforcement changes). This funding is not anticipated to be needed in fiscal year 2010-11 and the bill lapses these amounts to the general fund balance.

Sale of State Heating Plants – The bill authorizes the Department of Administration to sell state heating plants. The proceeds from any sale, net of remaining debt service, would be deposited in the budget stabilization fund.

Shift Key Cabinet Agency Positions to Unclassified Status – The bill creates unclassified positions for chief legal counsel, public information officer and legislative liaison activities in cabinet agencies. An equivalent number of classified positions are deleted to offset the new unclassified positions. These activities are critical to each cabinet agency’s overall mission and should have direct accountability to the agency head.

CWforFreedom on February 21, 2011 at 9:04 PM

The Left has put up preferential treatment at all times for themselves and told the tax payers and constitutional rule of law to shut up.

the Left can certainly complain about the legitimacy of such legislation. It might poison the well for the rest of this session for any cooperation from Democrats, but since they have already pulled their nuclear option of abandoning the state, it’s hard to see how this could make things any worse.

Waiting for Democratic “bipartisan” participation supporting anything remotely conservative is an activity that occupies those staying stuck on stupid, standing on their own public pedestal of tolerance for vitriol, spitting with the wind in their face.

There is no collegiality from radical Leftist provocateurs that include the legislative saboteurs who refuse en masse to attend duties within their duly elected legislative session.

Btw, the “Hitler wiped out unions” argument doesn’t hold validity under scrutiny. Hitler usurped all the unions’ affiliation from Russian Communist affiliation into his German National Socialist Party. It wasn’t that unions were “destroyed” — but the trade workers’ affiliation and LOYALTY was transferred from official Communist Russian affiliation (German civil revolution first half of the 20th Century between the World Wars) into official Fascist function maintained by nationalists. The Fascists promoted UNION loyalty to their own national GERMAN interests rather than loyalty to international Communism (Russia and Germany vying for Socialist world domination). Now, regarding our contemporary current Madison events, and the teachers’ rant that “Hitler destroyed Unions”, he transformed unions in Germany into the ultimate German Union. And this 21st century population of union leadership throughout America is functionally headed by President Obama whose first exploits in Chicago with Bill Ayers receiving Annenberg funding was the beginning of the American socialists usurping public education to propagandize socialism throughout the American population. Today we witness the propaganda/educational unions protesting their legitimate Governor and Legislature. The unions are attacking constitutional rule of law wherein we are all equal under the law. Unions are demanding to exist as more special than other people, truth made irrelevant via “convenient” ignorance that expresses its own bigotry.

maverick muse on February 22, 2011 at 8:18 AM

Cut the bennies to help with the budget and then make sure that unions can not negotiate with elected (they elected them with the money wrung out of mandatory union dues) officials or their appointed stooges. They must submit changes like that to the taxpayers in a referendum each time. Afterall, the taxpayers are “manaagement.” The unions are labor.

kens on February 22, 2011 at 10:57 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3