October 24, 2013
by James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute
Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas must not have gotten the memo. Act 10, the signature accomplishment of Governor Scott Walker’s Administration, is not only working, but it has become bipartisan, too.
Colas banged the gavel down on the two members of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, declaring two members in contempt of court for continuing to schedule recertification elections for public employee unions, including teachers unions.
Colas declared his ruling that Act 10 is unconstitutional applies to everyone and not just those parties in the lawsuit against the law.
The action by Colas on Monday also restored the certification for the Kenosha Education Association even though the union did not turn in the required signatures necessary to continue as the recognized collective bargaining unit for Kenosha teachers by the state deadline. The Dane County circuit court judge’s ruling also throws into question negotiations around the state between teachers unions and school districts.
Adding a dictatorial flair to the whole mess, attorney Lester Pines was quoted in the Wisconsin State Journal, “If (Walker’s) representative again attacks the judiciary and the judge, I will seek contempt whether it’s the governor or anyone else.”
So much for free speech. Would it help if the governor’s aides sang their criticisms in the Capitol rotunda at lunch time?
Colas’ action comes after the law has been in effect for two years. During that time, a federal court has declared the law constitutional and the state Supreme Court declared that the passage of Act 10 was constitutional. It’s likely the state Supreme Court will rule that the law itself is constitutional, overturning Colas’ decision.
But it also comes at a time when there is a bipartisan taking advantage of the savings generated by Act 10. A new MacIver Institute analysis of Act 10 said the law has saved Wisconsin taxpayers $2.7 billion.
The savings have continued to roll in. Instead of a deficit, the state of Wisconsin currently has a $760 million surplus. Because of the savings from Act 10, the state was able to include a $650 million income tax cut in the next budget.
The savings from Act 10 benefit every level of government. Republicans and Democrats in municipalities and school districts have used the law to bring employee costs under control, enabling them to redirect the money to other priorities. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s Democratic opponent in the last two elections, has even called for extending the provisions of Act 10 to cover the police and firefighters.
More immediate, the state is able to take $100 million out of the surplus and apply it to property tax relief. While the rhetoric in the legislature was not bipartisan, the final results were. In the state Senate, ten Democrats joined with the Republicans to vote for the property tax relief made possible by Act 10, including Minority Leader Chris Larson and Kathleen Vinehout, a possible candidate for governor. In the Assembly, only twelve Democrats voted against property tax relief. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, one of the loudest voices against Act 10 when it was passed, voted for the property tax relief measure.
Is it any wonder Democrats in the legislature are currently not pushing for a repeal of Act 10? This keeps up and soon Act 10 will see the bipartisan after-the-fact popularity of winning the Cold War.
According to published reports, the leading Democratic contender for governor, Mary Burke, is the product of 41 different focus groups. Among the promises Burke is not making is the promise to repeal Act 10. It’s unknown which focus group made that decision, but Burke’s strongest statement on Act 10 has been only to say in a press conference, “There were certainly changes that needed to be made, but Act 10 was not the way I would have done it as governor.”
In an interview on Up Front with Mike Gousha, Burke once again made no promises to repeal Act 10.
So Act 10, which so many have protested, has become a bipartisan success story. The only ones who haven’t yet realized it are a few leftwing special interest groups, a few diehard protesters, some unions, and Colas.