Taxpayers Deserve Time to Weigh in on State Contracts Before Legislature Votes

Some observations and a quick question.

First, the observations.

The last budget saw well over two  billion dollars in tax hikes to finance an increase in the size, scope and cost of state government.  While the rest of the economy was contracting, with workforce reductions and the cutting of benefits, government union employees were held harmless, and public sector employment actually grew.

Now agencies are unbelievably requesting another 6 point 2 percent hike and an increase in the government workforce.

At the same time, the lame duck Doyle Administration negotiated sweetheart deals with the the government unions which hamper the state’s ability to reap savings via changes in staffing.

And a lame duck legislature, including many lawmakers who arguably lost their jobs BECAUSE of their vote for the last budget…these guys are going to vote this week on secret deals they have yet to review? It would be only the second time in the State’s history that a lame duck session approved a labor agreement. In 1974 one agreement was approved.  This week we are talking abut 16 agreements possibly being ratified by politicians, and an entire political establishment, that had been voted out of office only weeks ago.

In fact, as MacIver News Service reported on Sunday, three of the eight members of the Joint Committee on Employment Review, the committee that decides whether or not to send the agreements to the full legislature were defeated in at the ballot box last month.

Thanks to the work of the MacIver News Service, we know that labor leaders were given the heads up as to the legislative calendar last month. Now we know that lawmakers were given notice late Friday of the meeting at 1pm on Tuesday.  The Wheeler Report news service alerted their subscribers of the JCOER schedule. However, as of  Sunday night, we see no public notice of the meeting on the state website.

The union membership were given 10 days in which to reveiw the complex labor agreements before sending in their votes for or against ratification.

Thus, the question: shouldn’t the citizens of the State of Wisconsin have the same amount of time to review the contracts before members of the legislature cast their votes for or against ratification as well?

As of now a public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. That should be delayed until at least December 20th, 10 days after the contracts were first made available online to the general public.

So, the question: Is 10 days of sunshine too much to ask for?

The lame duck legislature could still ram these agreements through before a new Administration comes in, but at least with 10 days in the public domain, they could make the argument that they read the contracts and actually took the time to listen to what their constitutents had to say on the matter before casting such an important vote.

Is 10 days of sunshine too much to ask for?

By Brian Fraley
A MacIver Institute Perspective