Conspiracy to stall WI budget-repair bill?

Did Wisconsin state Senators flee the state in part to help Madison rush into contract agreements beneficial to public-employee unions? A report this morning from Fox 6 in Wisconsin doesn’t provide a smoking gun, but it does suggest that Mayor Dave Ciesliewicz attempted to coordinate stalling strategies with state Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, the man who led the fleebaggers into self-imposed exile. An e-mail trail obtained by the local station ties Ciesliewicz and Miller on an earlier attempt to delay the bill at the office of Wisconsin’s Secretary of State:

Before protesters stormed the capitol, the mayor of the city of Madison tried to pull a fast one. The governor’s budget repair bill was on the fast track, and Madison Mayor Dave Ciesliewicz was racing against the clock to pass new union contracts first.

E-mails obtained by the FOX6 Investigators show that the mayor enlisted the help of State Senator Mark Miller. They both tried to convince the Secretary of State to hold up the bill by taking the maximum 10 days allowed by law before publishing the bill.

They were trying to buy some time so they could ratify new contracts to protect workers from benefit cuts. Citizens for Responsible Government Rep. Chris Kliesmet says, “This suggests, and this is a harsh word, collusion. There is collusion between some politicians and public sector employee unions. Period.”

Doug LaFollette, the Secretary of State, refused to delay publication of the law, which may have prompted Democratic Senators to flee Madison. The last e-mail in the string was February 16th; the Senators fled the very next day. That was two days after the mayor’s chief of staff Janet Piraino informed Mark Miller’s staffer John Anderson of LaFollette’s decision not to hold up the bill.

The e-mails make the stakes clear. Piraino told the brain trust that the bill would mean that the city would have to cut benefits and pay for the public employees, which would have saved Madison taxpayers some significant money:

To make matters worse, if the state law goes into effect first, the amendments to the agreements will make them null and void under the provisions of the new law. If that happens, all our employees will be subject to the benefit cuts immediately, instead of at the end of the current contract.

Ciesliewicz claimed that Madison’s government bargained “in good faith” to get the best deal taxpayers could get from the contract. Does this sound like Ciesliewicz and his team had taxpayers in mind, or currying favor with the unions? The attempt to rush into an agreement that avoids the curbs on PEU collective bargaining prerogatives and to avoid cutting the benefits of employees does sound a lot more like collusion than “good faith” bargaining on behalf of taxpayers, whether or not it meets the legal definition of collusion.

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