The governor of Wisconsin doesn’t have many choices without a functioning legislature to cut spending and trim future liabilities as a credit crisis approaches on Friday afternoon. If the budget doesn’t get restructured by the end of the week, Wisconsin cannot borrow more money, which means either defaulting on some of its bonds — which would destroy their bond rating and make future borrowing much more expensive — or cut spending in ways Scott Walker can control. If Democrats don’t return soon to vote on the proposal, Walker told a local station this morning, he won’t have any choice but to start layoffs:
Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday morning the state could send out layoff notices to state workers as soon as next week if the budget standoff is not resolved.
Democrats had used the threat of the bond default as a means to pressure Walker into caving on the budget-repair bill. Instead, they’ve forced Walker’s hand and now have their own pressure to get back to work. Will they stay out just to see state employees pay the price for their obstinacy?
Byron York says the brinksmanship in Wisconsin may change the state’s politics forever:
For the lawmakers themselves, at least Republicans, this whole controversy has led to a surpassingly weird impasse. A number of them have known their Democratic counterparts for years. Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald speaks by phone with the hiding Democratic Minority Leader Mark Miller. And Hopper has been on the phone with Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor, a colleague from Milwaukee. “I offered to give her a ride to work,” Hopper says, “but she said no.”
Hopper says he reminded Taylor that Republicans were out of power not too long ago, when Democrats controlled the state Assembly, Senate and governor’s office. “There were bills I was adamantly opposed to,” Hopper says, “and we didn’t run away.”
At the heart of all this, Republicans and Democrats are realizing there might be a gap between them that is bigger than they realized. To Republicans, the budget fight has involved the widespread shirking of responsibilities: teachers walking out on students, legislators running away from their offices, even doctors abandoning medical standards to make excuses for perfectly healthy teacher/protesters. To Democrats, the fight has touched a core issue; anything is justified to preserve union benefits.
At some point, the battle will be over. But it’s not clear Republicans and Democrats will ever look at each other quite the same again.
I’d say that this standoff has provided a much-needed clarification of commitment to constituencies and principles for both sides, and that will end up doing the most damage to those Democrats who attempted to hold the state hostage so that the minority could dictate to the majority.