The unions went all in against Scott Walker and the Republicans in Wisconsin in the past two months. First they paralyzed state government while Democrats fled the Senate, and when that failed to derail public-employee union reform, they spent a fortune trying to unseat a conservative justice on the Supreme Court in what normally would have been a sleepy election. That effort failed as well, and the unions are about out of plays for the next eighteen months.
Walker has played long ball, however, and his economic policies got a major boost yesterday from the state’s budget office. His new budget will keep property taxes from rising more than 1% each of the next two years, and his proposal has all but eliminated the state’s deficit:
The property tax bill on the typical Wisconsin home would rise by less than 1% annually over the next two years under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget, the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office reported Friday.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau also said Walker’s plan would put the state’s finances in the best shape they’ve been in for more than 15 years.
It found the so-called structural deficit – the imbalance between spending and tax revenue as laid out in state law – for the 2013-’15 budget would be $31 million. That assumes Walker’s budget passes the Legislature without new spending increases or tax cuts that would add to the deficit.
Under its existing form, Walker’s budget leaves the state with a fraction of the structural deficits seen in the past eight budget cycles. The next lowest structural deficit in recent years was $1.5 billion, or 48 times as much as what Walker’s proposing.
Wisconsin voters sent Republicans to Madison to fix the state’s finances. Democrats controlled state politics for decades and left a legacy of overspending and debt, and Republicans were given an opportunity to fix it. It looks as though they’ve succeeded, and that’s very bad news indeed for unions and their Democratic allies.
The unions stoked hysteria over the supposed extermination of public employees by ending the closed shop, mandatory dues payments, and limiting collective bargaining to pay only. Any result that falls short of that rhetoric damages their credibility. Having Walker succeed in delivering fiscal restraint and balance over their screaming voices and attempts to blockade the legislature makes that problem infinitely worse. Walker’s success will prove that the adults have returned to Madison, and that voters made the right choice in kicking the Democrats and their union allies out of power in 2010. And after the childish displays of the fleebaggers and the hyperbolic demagogues in Madison, it may be a very long time before voters trust them with power ever again.