From NBC's John Yang and Domenico Montanaro
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) new budget is drawing praise from some and criticism from others. The budget makes public workers, well, the public enemy. It goes after their collective-bargaining abilities and mandates that they ante up for their health care.
“The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO on Sunday launched a major advertising campaign against Gov. Scott Walker's plan that would erase almost all collective bargaining rights for most public workers as a way to shore up the state's finances,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. “The television and radio ads say Walker and other politicians plan to "take away rights of thousands of nurses, teachers and other trusted public employees" and are doing so with almost no public discussion or debate.” More: “The Legislature could act this week on the bill, which would shore up the state's finances through June 30. A public hearing is expected on the bill Tuesday in the Legislature's budget committee. The bill would require the vast majority of state, local and school employees to pay half the costs of their pensions and pay at least 12.6% of their health care premiums.”
And then there’s this: “The bargaining law changes would apply to all public workers except police, firefighters and state troopers. The unions for state troopers, Milwaukee police officers and Milwaukee firefighters all endorsed Walker, while most other unions endorsed his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.”
The union ad buy was largely in response to this Wisconsin Club for Growth ad in support of the governor's plan. The ad went up on Friday, shortly after Walker announced his plan. The conservative group is run by a former top Walker campaign adviser.
So could it pass the state legislature? While the Republicans have a commanding 57-38 majority (plus one Independent) in the Wisconsin house, they have a much narrower 19-14 majority in the state Senate. The Senate majority leader says he doesn't know when the chamber will take it up, effectively acknowledging he doesn't have the votes yet. Four Republicans were quoted in the Journal-Sentinel saying they weren't ready to commit to support the legislation and another four Republicans whose districts have lots of state workers wouldn't return phone calls.
The Journal-Sentinel’s editorial board largely backs Walker on his moves: “Walker is right to do this. He must insist that state workers pay a bigger share of their benefits. And he's right to take steps to compel them to do so. The governor is overreaching in some respects. And even if he wins the bruising fight to come in the state Capitol, he risks alienating broad swaths of independent voters. But Walker must fill a gaping budget hole of $137 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30 and a much larger imbalance in the next two-year budget. Something has to give.”
And AP had this: “Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond if there is any unrest among state employees in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights. Walker said Friday that he hasn't called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems.”
The mention of the National Guard in Walker's Friday news conference was specifically in reference to state prisons. He said he would call out the Guard to take control of prisons if Corrections Officers went on strike or took any other sort of job action. Union officials say they don't have any plans to. One union official said the governor was "baiting" guards. Walker’s bill would maintain the workers' ability to negotiate over pay and only over pay -- it would strip them of their rights to negotiate any other benefits or work rules. Any raises couldn't exceed inflation, all contracts would be limited to one year and employees would be required to vote every year on whether to recertify the union as their bargaining agent.