The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures — service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money — rolling back worker’s bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker’s doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.
Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state’s fiscal bureau — the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office — concluded that Wisconsin isn’t even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.
“Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he control,” says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future — a public interest think tank. “He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts… so he could rush through these other changes.”
As angry teachers in the Midwest shut down more than a dozen school districts in protest Thursday, Republican officials across the nation have made teachers’ unions “public enemy No. 1” in a battle to trim budgets and rewrite the rules on how unions and states work together.
In Wisconsin, Ohio, New York and New Jersey, governors are taking on the unions — who they see as guilty of demanding excessive benefits and causing out-of-control waste — in their quest to cut spending and regain control over the educational system.
Some feel overly generous union contracts are busting state budgets, and many are using the current fiscal crisis to do something about it.
“I’m attacking the leadership of the union because they’re greedy, and they’re selfish and they’re self-interested,” New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie told a conservative conference Wednesday.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, also a Republican, is pushing a plan to gut almost all union rights for teachers. He wants to monitor how much money they earn and make them pay a greater share of pension and health care costs, all while limiting their ability to bargain collectively.
A bill has been introduced in the Montana state legislature to declare global warming a “natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it,” and that it is “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana.” State Rep. Joe Read (R-MT), a farmer and emergency firefighter who unseated a Democratic incumbent in 2010, introduced HB 549 “to ensure economic development in Montana”:
The legislature finds that to ensure economic development in Montana and the appropriate management of Montana’s natural resources it is necessary to adopt a public policy regarding global warming.
(2) The legislature finds:
(a) global warming is beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana;
(b) reasonable amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere have no verifiable impacts on the environment; and
(c) global warming is a natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it.