Scott Walker's despotic attack on public employees (and ultimately on all workers) is being misleadingly couched as a budgetary issue. The only part of this extreme agenda that has anything to do with a budget is the fact that he chose to introduce this radical policy in something called a "budget repair bill". Public employee unions were ready to go to the negotiating table making concessions representing hundreds of millions of dollars. But like any dictator, Walker had no interest in negotiation because he had a radical agenda to impose. An agenda that overturns 50 plus years of labor law in one week with little to no public discussion. Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence that this is not about real budgetary consideration is Walker's excluding of police and fire unions, some of which politically supported his campaign.
If Walker's plans really had anything to do with budgetary concerns he would not have excluded his political supporters in the police and fire unions. While he suggests that his naked attempt at killing (most) public employee unions will save local municipalities money, he doesn't address the fact that often they spend large portions of their budgets on public safety. So how do you actually save local governments cash when you have exempted what is often their largest expenditure?
For example, the Public Policy Forum provided some of the following data in a 2009 report on the City of Milwaukee's budget:
- Police, Fire and Public Works departments have represented 75% of overall tax levy-supported departmental expenditures.
- From 2004-2008 those three departments also accounted for 81% of departmental expenditure growth. Among those three departments, the police department had by far the largest expenditure growth, with the fire department coming in a distant second.
- In fact police and fire expenditures comprised a full 58% of the city’s operating and maintenance expenditures.
- The Milwaukee Police Department alone had the greatest portion of city expenditures, accounting for 40% of it and for a full 38% of all city positions.
These facts serve only as examples and are certainly not exclusive to the City of Milwaukee. Take a look at most municipal budgets and you will often find that the police and fire departments are among their largest (if not their largest) expenditure items.
The point here is certainly not to promote taking away the collective bargaining rights of police officers or fire fighters, but rather to expose the Walker lie that his radical agenda has anything to do with budgetary concerns, especially for local governments.
Afterthought: If you are a local official and you think that Scott Walker has any concern whatsoever about your local budget, you better brace yourself for when you become the next bullet point on his extreme agenda. Given his record and past proposals, it will likely come in the form of drastic cuts or maybe even the elimination of the shared revenue program. So now just might be a good time to take a stand.