Who wants to recall a billion-saver?

That will be the real question for Wisconsin voters in June, when recall elections take place. The state has balanced its books under Scott Walker and a Republican-led state legislature, which closed a big budget hole without raising taxes — and in some cases, lowering them.  The effort saved Badger State taxpayers more than a billion dollars, Walker argues:

Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that his policies had saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1 billion so far – savings largely achieved by the Republican governor and lawmakers repealing most public workers’ union bargaining and effectively lowering their compensation.

Much of those savings – more than three-quarters of a billion dollars – could be verified, such as state and local workers picking up more of the tab for their health care and pension. But the figures also included a significant amount of savings for local governments that could not be verified. …

When Walker took office last year, he faced a projected shortfall of more than $3 billion over the two-year budget starting in July 2011. Walker dealt with that by focusing largely on spending cuts rather than tax increases, with roughly $1.3 billion in cuts over two years for schools, local governments, universities and technical colleges. He and GOP lawmakers also put tight limits on local officials’ ability to raise property taxes.

One of Walker’s opponents isn’t that impressed:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the other leading Democratic opponent to Walker, said the governor’s policies had led to nearly 1,500 teaching jobs being lost over the past year and the state still had a more than $140 million deficit.

“This isn’t a record to brag about – it’s a record that causes failed governors to be tossed from office,” Barrett said in a statement.

The passage of Walker’s PEU reforms kept the state and local governments from axing a lot more than 1500 positions, which the pending budget imbalance would have required.  And Barrett’s criticism of the current budget gap may be resonant on its face, but not in context.  Is Barrett really arguing that the party whose governance left the $3 billion hole in the first place that required the cuts was somehow more responsible than the party who whittled it down to $140 million and shrinking?

Well, Wisconsin voters … that’s the question you will have to answer in June.  It’s not really a tough choice.  I doubt if many will need a lifeline to answer it.

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