Editor’s Note: The following is a blog by Russell King, a Wisconsin blogger and creater of “Russ’ Filtered News” who has looked into Gov. Scott Walker’s reasons why the Budget Repair Bill is necessary and has listed 20 reasons why the governor’s claims are not true.
Walker: His bill is about fixing a budget crisis.
The truth: Even Fox News’ Shepherd Smith couldn’t swallow that one, declaring that it’s all about politics and union busting, and “to pretend that this is about a fiscal crisis in the state of Wisconsin is malarkey.”
Walker: says he campaigned on his budget repair plan, including curtailing collective bargaining.
“We introduced a measure last week, a measure I ran on during the campaign, a measure I talked about in November during the transition, a measure I talked about in December when we fought off the employee contracts, an idea I talked about in the inauguration, an idea I talked about in the state of the state. If anyone doesn’t know what’s coming, they’ve been asleep for the past two years.”
The truth: Walker, who offered many specific proposals during the campaign, did not go public with even the sketchiest outline of his far-reaching plans to kill collective bargaining rights. He could not point to any statements where he did. In fact, he was caught on tape boasting to what he thought was his billionaire backer that he had “dropped the bomb.”
Walker: keeps saying that “almost all” of the protesters at the Capitol are from outside the state
The truth: “The vast majority of people protesting are from here — Wisconsin and even more from Dane County,” said Joel DeSpain, public information officer for the Madison Police Department.
Walker: He wants to negotiate.
The truth: He won’t negotiate, but he’ll pretend to so he can trick the 14 Dem senators into allowing a vote on his bill. Walker recently offered to actually sit down and speak with the minority leader – something he should have done anyway and long ago – but only if the rest of the senators came back with him. Why?
“…legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way…But that would be the only, if you heard that I was going to talk to them, that would be the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them. And my sense is, hell, I’ll talk to them. If they want to yell at me for an hour, you know, I’m used to that, I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.”
Walker: says his budget-repair bill would leave collective bargaining “fully intact”
The truth: Walker revealed his own lie in the same radio interview when he said it was necessary to use his bill to strip collective bargaining rights, and in his own Feb. 11, 2011 letter to employees about his plan cited “various changes to limit collective bargaining” to the rate of base pay.
Walker: claims that states without collective bargaining having fared better in the current bad economy.
The truth: According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, three of the 13 non-collective bargaining states are among the 11 states facing budget shortfalls at or above 20% (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina). Another, South Carolina, comes in at a sizable 17.4%. Nevada, where state employees have no collective bargaining rights (but local employees do) has the largest percentage shortfall in the country, at 45.2%. All in all, eight non-collective-bargaining states face larger budget shortfalls than Wisconsin.
Walker: Public employees are more richly compensated than their public sector counterparts.
The truth: According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector employees with comparable earnings determinants such as education and work experience. State workers typically are under-compensated by 8.2% in Wisconsin.
Walker: said we needed a “repair” bill to address a payment owed to Minnesota of nearly $60 million and money owed to the Patient’s Compensation Fund in the tune of $200-plus million.
The truth: Walker’s budget repair bill addresses neither issue.
Walker: said that our budget problems are largely due to employee wages.
The truth: Total salaries and compensation in the last budget were 8.5% of the entire state budget.
Walker: “The alternative” to higher state worker pension and health care payments “is to look at 1,500 layoffs of state employees or close to 200,000 children who would be bumped off Medicaid-related programs.”
The truth: Federal law prevents Walker from taking away the health care coverage of 200,000 low-income and disabled children. Later, Walker told a Madison radio station that the layoff was merely a ploy to gain some political leverage: “I needed to get their attention to show how serious we were about having a balanced budget,” Walker said on the “Sly in the Morning” show on WTDY radio.
Walker: “We’ve seen local union after local union rush to their school boards, their city councils, their technical school boards and rush through contracts in the past two weeks that had no contributions to the pension and no contribution to health care. And, in fact, in one case in Janesville, they actually were pushing through a pay increase. Actions do speak louder than words.”
The truth: Of the 11 such contracts provided as examples by Walker’s staff, all 11 include some employee contributions to health insurance. PolitiFact Wisconsin, which too frequently gets the facts wrong and arrives at strained conclusions, did, at least, contact the 11 communities:
Madison: Unions in the state’s second biggest city have been negotiating contracts for more than a year. Their pacts expired at the beginning of 2010. Contracts with two of Madison’s biggest public unions settled before Walker was inaugurated Jan. 3, 2011, said Brad Wirtz, Madison human resources director. He said who said those deals set the template for the remaining unions, who reached agreement on wages and other key financial issues after Walker took office but before Feb. 11, when Walker announced his plan.
Sheboygan County: Adam Payne, the county’s administrator, said the county’s agreement with the unions was reached between negotiators before Feb. 11 and it mirrors pacts reached with other unions late last year. “There was no special treatment,” Payne said noting the County Board approved the contract at a regularly scheduled meeting.
Janesville: The tentative agreement for school custodians was reached Jan. 25, 2011 — before Walker’s proposals were made public. Eric Levitt, city manager, said that in January he had set a mid-February target to settle contracts with city workers, so the talks continued on the previously set timetable.
The two sides were close to reaching tentative agreements prior to Walker’s Feb. 11 announcement, Levitt said. He said the city felt that because of its obligation to negotiate in good faith, it was necessary to continue the talks after the governor made his call for increased payments by employees.
LaCrosse County Administrator Steve O’Malley said the county didn’t rush things since negotiations started last year and the first tentative agreement with a local was reached in December.
Racine City Administrator Thomas Friedel that Racine had been negotiating with bargaining units representing Department of Public Works and clerical workers since summer of 2010 and reached tentative agreements well before Walker made his move.
Milwaukee Area Technical College: Like all of the other governments, the technical college and the union representing teachers and other workers had been talking for months, well before Walker was elected.
The board and the American Federation of Teachers Local 212 reached tentative agreement on Feb. 10 — the day before Walker’s announcement. The agreement froze wages for two years.
Walker: “I don’t have anything to negotiate. We are broke in this state. We have been broke for years.” and “We’re broke. We don’t have any more money.”
The truth: The NY Times says “It’s all obfuscating nonsense, of course, a scare tactic employed for political ends.” Even the hyper-conservative Wall Street Journal calls out Walker on this lie.
The notion that the state needs to refinance the debt because it’s broke and can’t make its debt payments is “completely wrong,” said Frank Hoadley, the state finance director. Joshua Zeitz, municipal finance analyst for MF Global, said, the shortfall — about 0.5% of the state’s overall budget — is a fairly inconsequential amount. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a question more of politics than it is of a budget crisis,” Zeitz added. ”There’s a good amount of political theater in what you’re seeing,” said Tom Kozlik, municipal credit analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott.
If Walker were truly serious about balancing the budget, he would not be proposing a $36 million cut in the state’s capital gains tax or a $46 million corporate tax cut, on top of the millions of dollars in tax cuts he and the Republican legislature have already approved. Walker could balance his current budget by ending a variety of special interest tax dodging that is occurring in his state.
Walker: state employees pay next to nothing for their pensions and that it is all a big taxpayer give-away
The truth: Forbes — yes, the conservative Forbes! — says Walker is lying:
If the Wisconsin governor and state legislature were to be honest, they would correctly frame this issue. They are not, in fact, asking state employees to make a larger contribution to their pension and benefits programs, as that would not be possible — the employees are already paying 100% of the contributions.
What they are actually asking is that the employees take a pay cut.
Pulitzer Prize winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, said so, too, at tax.com
Walker: said his budget repair bill, which guts the right of most public employees across the state to engage in collective bargaining, will deliver “the tools” local governments and school districts need to balance their budgets. “We cannot put this burden on local governments.”
The truth: Walker is going to both slash state aids and block local governments and school boards from raising taxes. And, of course, Walker’s numbers don’t match anything like reality.
Walker: claims he’s supported by silent majority.
The truth: Majority of Wisconsin residents (nearly 6 in 10) — and a majority of Americans — oppose his attack on collective bargaining and support the Dem 14 blocking it. Gallup found it. The CBS/NY Times poll found it. NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found it, too.
The polls are so strong, even the reliably Republican Rasmussen couldn’t spin away from it. The public also overwhelmingly rejects the whole “public employees vs. taxpayers” canard.
Walker: He wants to avoid layoffs.
The truth: Layoffs are implicit in his budget. Walker’s budget eliminates 21,325 state jobs
Walker: “To protect our schools, to protect our local governments, we need to give them the tools they’ve been asking for, not just for years but for decades.”
The truth: All four major state associations representing schools and local governments (not their employees) say this isn’t true.
Walker: The Dem 14 who are in Illinois to deny a Senate quorum needed to pass Walker’s budget repair bill are to blame for the layoffs he says he’s about to make to state workers.
The truth: Walker spoke of using layoff threats as political leverage: “We might ratchet that up a little bit, you know.” in his phony phone call with the faux Koch brother. Also, as noted above, Walker’s budget eliminates 21,325 state jobs.
Walker: “I have great respect for those who have chosen a career in government. I really do.”
The truth: Comedian Jon Stewart noted: ”‘I really do’ is a dead giveaway for ‘I really don’t,’ That’s what’s known in the business as the convincing clause. ‘I love you. I really do. That’s why breaking up with you right now is so difficult.’” The contempt he has displayed — in his bill, in his refusal to negotiate with the unions, in his refusal to negotiate with the Democrats and in his phony phone call — reveals why he felt the need for a convincing clause.
Walker admin: The protesters did $7.5 million of damage to the Capitol building by putting signs on marble walls with tape.
The truth: No professional estimate for clean-up has been performed. The Walker-appointed state facilities administrator would not support that estimate and said he’s not seen any damage by the protesters.
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