Save Our State of Massachusetts

time for limits on the public purse

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lesson of Wisconsin

Court upholds limits on benefits, rights

It wasn’t long ago that the news media were fixated on Wisconsin, where union members staged a noisy, weeks-long occupation of the statehouse to protest a collective bargaining law pushed through by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Much less attention was paid to Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that upheld Mr. Walker’s action, but that decision is far more important than the clamor this past February, because it prepares the way for Wisconsin to address its $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

And therein lies a lesson for other states, most of which are struggling with the fallout from years of profligate spending and unchecked growth in entitlement programs, all exacerbated by the recent recession.

In time, recessions fade and growth returns, but a recent Associated Press survey of states’ balance sheets shows many have not recovered as quickly or as well as had been hoped. And even if the economic shocks of 2008-2010 had never happened, states would still be facing billions of dollars in unfunded pension and health care obligations.

The Wisconsin fight was never about savaging the rights and benefits of unionized workers. It was about moving one state from an untenable position toward one in which public workers are expected to bear a more reasonable share of the costs for their own health and pension benefits.

Tuesday’s 4-3 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, which held that a lower court judge exceeded her authority in voiding the state’s action, confirms what should have been clear from the start: Gov. Walker and the Republican majority in Wisconsin were entirely within their rights to require public employees to contribute more from each paycheck. It is a welcome victory for the rule of law, but also should send a strong signal to other states that the time has come to put limits on the generosity of the public purse. —


2 comments on “time for limits on the public purse

  1. jm
    June 19, 2011

    Finally a judge who understands not only rule of law, but the plight of so many states like Wisconsin–and the citizens living and working in them–union AND non-union. Public employees should be paying their fair share, and the way the law worked before this court decision, they were not. For example: consider all the small business owners and entrepreneurs who were their own bosses and who lost their jobs in an abysmal economy and received NO unemployment checks, no health benefits, or no pension funds WHILE they were STILL REQUIRED TO PAY TAXES THAT COVERED THOSE THINGS FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. Any well runs dry at some point.
    As the post above says, “the Wisconsin fight was never about savaging the rights and benefits of unionized workers.” It was about what Wisconsin and every state in a similar position needed to do to remain solvent, and what they will need to continue to do in the future for the same reason. It was about what every citizen needed to do to ensure that both unionized and non-unionized workers all pay a fair share of their health and pension costs so that one type of worker is not penalized because of the other.

  2. Pingback: Mass and Wisconsin « SOSMass

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This entry was posted on June 19, 2011 by in Massachusetts.

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