Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Gov. Walker’s Labor Reforms
posted at 10:01 pm on September 15, 2012 by Matt Vespa
A Wisconsin judge struck down almost all of Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reforms with public sector unions. Jason Howerton of The Blaze reported on September 14 that big labor was taking victory laps, while the Walker administration vowed to file an appeal on the ruling. Howerton wrote that:
Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that the law violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void.
In his 27-page ruling, the judge said sections of the law ‘single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions.’
Colas also said the law violates the equal protection clause by creating separate classes of workers who are treated differently and unequally.
The ruling applies to all local public workers affected by the law, including teachers and city and county government employees, but not those who work for the state. They were not a party to the lawsuit, which was brought by a Madison teachers union and a Milwaukee public workers union.
Gov. Walker has called Judge Colas a “liberal activist.” Even,”Wisconsin Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said DOJ believes the law is constitutional.”
As this rather long episode in Bolshevik theater continues, it should be noted that Walker’s law “passed in March 2011, only allowed for collective bargaining on wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation. All other issues, including workplace safety, vacation, health benefits, could no longer be bargained for.” Furthermore:
The state Supreme Court in June 2011 ruled that the law was constitutional after it had been blocked by a different Dane County judge on a challenge over its passage being a violation of open meetings law.
Walker introduced the proposal in February 2011, six weeks after he took office. It resulted in a firestorm of opposition and led to huge protests at the state Capitol that lasted for weeks. All 14 Democratic state senators fled the state to Illinois for three weeks in an ultimately failed attempt to stop the law’s passage from the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The law required public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits at the same time it took away their ability to collectively bargain over those issues. Walker argued the changes were needed to help state and local governments save money at a time Wisconsin faced a $3 billion budget shortfall.
…the property tax bill for the median home fell by 0.4% in 2011, as reported by Wisconsin’s municipalities. Property taxes, which are the state’s largest revenue source and mainly fund K-12 schools, have risen every year since 1998—by 43% overall. The state budget office estimates that the typical homeowner’s bill would be some $700 higher without Mr. Walker’s collective-bargaining overhaul and budget cuts.
The median home value did fall in 2011, by about 2.3%, which no doubt influenced the slight downward trend. But then values also fell in 2009 and 2010, by similar amounts, and the state’s take from the average taxpayer still climbed by 2.1% and 1.5%, respectively. In absolute terms homeowners won’t see large dollar benefits year over year, but any hold-the-line tax respite is both rare and welcome in this age of ever-expanding government.
The real gains will grow as local school districts continue repairing and rationalizing their budgets using the tools Mr. Walker gave them. Those include the ability to renegotiate perk-filled teacher contracts and requiring government workers to contribute more than 0% to their pensions. A year ago amid their sit-ins and other protests, the unions said such policies would lead to the decline and fall of civilization, but the only things that are falling are tax collections.
Hence, the reason why Gov. Walker won handily during his recall effort. As Jason L. Riley of the Wall Street Journal wrote on June 1, “Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is 6.7%…according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state added more than 23,000 jobs last year. And a recent survey found that Wisconsin employers were eager to hire—an indication that Mr. Walker’s policies have made the state more business-friendly.”
While the unemployment rate has risen to 7.3% in July, that’s still way below the national average. Nevertheless, with this ruling, it shows that some on the left still want Wisconsin to return to its dismal economic past.