Last night on Fox News’ Special Report, Charles Krauthammer outlined the steps Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker should take – and not take – in order to win the standoff with unions and his state Senate’s Democrats over public employee’s pension and health care contributions and the question of collective bargaining rights.
Krauthammer strongly advised the governor not to follow through with the proposed round of layoffs that have emanated from Walker’s office in the last couple of days, layoffs Walker has said are inevitable if the Democrats don’t return and allow the legislature to pass his budget restructuring bill. Krauthammer notes public opinion seems to be on the governor’s side so far, but layoffs would turn the tide against him.
But as to the meat of the issue, Krauthammer says Walker can win the day simply by separating the collective bargaining issue from the budget and pass it as a standalone bill. With 19 Republicans constituting a majority of the 33 Senators, Walker has a quorum to pass anything non-fiscal in nature. Once that issue is resolved, Krauthammer says, there’s nothing left for the Democrats to hold out on, since the unions have already agreed to Walker’s terms on worker contributions to pensions and health plans.
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It’s a good plan and Walker should follow it – if he can. Apparently, part of the budget bill involves a restructuring of state debt so that Wisconsin retires it over time with savings generated from the clawbacks from public employees and, he hopes, economic growth resulting from his recently-passed business tax plan. But if the plan isn’t passed by Friday that debt issue becomes a major challenge – and Walker’s people say that might necessitate the layoffs.
But even if that can be navigated around, passing the collective bargaining changes could inflame the Democrats into staying out of the legislature out of spite or pique. At this point it’s fair to question whether they can be trusted to adhere to any bargain – or even make one.
Maybe Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature should have already check-mated the Dems on the collective bargaining issue. Or maybe this fight is destined to be bloody no matter what Walker does, in which case he at least can take comfort in the fact that he won’t be up for re-election for the next three years. But it’s not a bad idea to separate the collective bargaining fight, which he doesn’t need Democrats to pass, from the givebacks the unions have already agreed to, in an effort to win the stalemate.