Last year Governor Palin stood up for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, endorsing his reform efforts that have turned a $3 billion state deficit into a $300 million surplus. But Walker is still in jeopardy. Despite rising poll numbers that have him at 50% approval in the Badger State, leftie groups have collected more than one-million signatures that will trigger a recall election later this spring or summer for Walker, his Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch and four other Republicans … and could lead to what some have predicted as a $70 million battle for the soul America.
Stephen Moore has an excellent piece in the WSJ articulating why this election is so critical to holding off economic Armaggedon in America:
In addition to union reform, Mr. Walker and his allies in the legislature passed a statewide school voucher program, eased business regulation, and enacted tort reform. When Illinois raised its income taxes by 67%, he launched a PR campaign urging Illinois businesses to “escape to Wisconsin.”
When Mr. Walker took office, a survey of major business owners by the state’s Chamber of Commerce found that only 10% thought Wisconsin was heading “in the right direction.” Now 94% say it is. Chief Executive magazine found that Wisconsin’s business climate in 2011 showed the greatest one-year improvement of any state in the history of the magazine’s ratings. After bleeding 150,000 jobs in the previous three years, Wisconsin added 10,000 jobs in 2011.
All this matters little to public-employee unions looking to regain their perks. Yet granting local governments the legal authority to hire and fire teachers and other workers based on merit—as well as requiring teachers to contribute 5.8% into their pensions (up from 0%) and all public employees to pay 12.6% of their health-care premiums (about half what most private workers pay)—has already saved local governments $475 million.
Rather than assaulting government workers, these reforms avoided mass layoffs and allowed school districts to maintain and in some cases even reduce class sizes. You’d think unions would celebrate this, but no such luck.
Mr. Walker believes the union brass are most furious about his policy to stop automatically withholding union dues from the paychecks of approximately 300,000 municipal workers. He calculates that this “paycheck protection” measure saves as much as $1,400 annually for those workers who freely choose not to pay dues. That welcome pay raise for the workers has been catastrophic for the union bosses. Without the mandatory dues payments, the teachers union had to lay off 40% of its staff last year.
So now Mr. Walker, his lieutenant governor and four state senators will face the voters as early as this spring or summer. Last year a similar effort targeted four other GOP state senators and a Republican on the state supreme court. After unions spent millions on the campaign, two of the state senators were recalled but that failed to flip control of the legislature, and the supreme court justice kept his seat.
A problem for Democrats this year is finding an A-list candidate willing to run against Mr. Walker if he is recalled. A strong opponent could be Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, but the unions are furious with him too for implementing many of the Walker union reforms—saving his city $25 million and balancing its budget in the process. The likeliest candidates to challenge Mr. Walker are two liberals, former Congressman David Obey and Madison County Executive Kathleen Falk.
A new nonpartisan poll by Marquette University shows the governor at 50% job approval (with 45% disapproving), which is up from as low as 37% last summer. Even some of his most loyal followers say that he has never fully explained to Wisconsinites why ending collective bargaining for union benefits was a fiscal necessity. And local Democrats are smelling blood over a recent mini-scandal involving alleged embezzlement of public funds by two of Mr. Walker’s top aides when he was Milwaukee County Commissioner.
Still, the national unions have yet to decide whether spending another $30 million or $50 million on a recall roll of the dice is worth it given the higher priority of getting President Obama re-elected. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has been severely critical of Mr. Walker’s power play, recently acknowledged that he has fulfilled his pledge of balancing the budget without new taxes and that “the sky isn’t falling.”
If unions succeed in getting voters to evict reformers, it could “set back the conservative reform agenda across the states for a generation,” Mr. Walker warns. This might be the most important nonpresidential election in a decade.
To help Gov. Walker with the recall efforts, visit his website:
We are going to be interviewing Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch on Grizzly Fest to talk about the reforms, and the recall efforts.