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Sep 8, 201408:48 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Here’s your headline: ‘Act 10 is working, dammit!’

(page 1 of 2)

Where are the headlines?

Scott Walker says his 2011 Act 10 reforms already have saved Wisconsin taxpayers $3 billion. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact looked into the claim and on Aug. 20 rated it “mostly true.”    

And that’s only part of the story:

The figures don’t take into account health insurance savings seen by municipalities, nor health savings seen by school districts after the first year of Act 10, so the actual number would be higher.

Tell me where you have seen the headline “Act 10 saves over $3 billion.” Me neither. Go ahead and Google it.

What does make headlines in Wisconsin’s heritage news industry? Page One of the Aug. 29 Wisconsin State Journal screamed that the state budget is $281 million in the hole.

“On Thursday, Walker and Republicans went into damage control,” wrote the left-biased “reporter” for the Associated Press, Scott Bauer.

Actually, that dollar figure represents the shortfall in expected tax collections. Even if that transpires, the actual budgetary shortfall at the end of the budget biennium a good year from now is less than half that: $115 million. But that makes a less dramatic headline for a story that, in any event, is a regular feature of the budget cycle. Tax revenues wax and wane. But, somehow, it’s 92-point black headlines.

By contrast, the Republicans’ Act 10 public sector collective bargaining reforms were subjected to historic protests, including an illegal occupation of the State Capitol and the flight of the Senate’s Democrats — all of whom predicted Armageddon. So wouldn’t you think the actual results of three years of experience would be Page One news? Not if it succeeded, apparently.

Part of it is the news media’s weakness for dog bites man, barn fires, and supposed skullduggery. And their institutional bias against conservatives, proven by a multitude of academic studies. (Here’s just one.) (Okay, here’s another.)

In the same vein, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reports municipal spending per capita declined 3% in the aftermath of Act 10 and the Walker-Republican budget. Per capita spending had grown an average of 2.2% annually for the preceding six years.

Curt Witynski, assistant director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, chalked up the reduction to a combination of factors, including “good management of public dollars by municipal elected officials, Act 10, strict levy limits and several other changes included in Gov. Walker’s first budget, such as the repeal of language requiring municipalities to maintain certain minimum spending thresholds on libraries, police and fire protection” and “the reduction in shared revenue and other intergovernmental programs like transportation aids.”

All due credit for that paragraph to the Wisconsin State Journal, but it was buried Thursday on Page 2 in the second half of the “On Politics” column under a breathless report of retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Petri’s supposed back-of-the-hand compliment to GOP primary winner Glenn Grothman.


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Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Sep 8, 2014 02:37 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Nice piece, Dave. I'll reserve judgment until AnonyBob weighs in on this. Bob? Any thought? Any?

Sep 8, 2014 08:06 pm
 Posted by  Normwegian

Too bad the Madison School district is still in bed with John Matthews, and decided to go against ACT 10.

Sep 8, 2014 09:50 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Here's the truth you will read in Forbes, but not here on the InBusiness website: "Despite the lower than expected August jobs number, America will create about 2.5 million new jobs in 2014."

Wisconsin is part of that recovery, but not at the rate it could or should be and anyone who is not a rah-rah Republican knows it. And anyone with a lick of common sense ought to recognize that it has very little to do with electoral politics. Here's what else we all know: Act 10 was a cynical ploy to eliminate political competition in an effort to secure a second term and curry favor with the tea party. Calling it anything else just makes you look foolish.

To modify Gretzky, you lose 100% of the fights you don't pick. That's what Walker did and then he named the terms which included a massive handicap for his opponents. Is the state better off? For some, yes. For most, no, regardless of the commercials Walker buys to convince us otherwise. You're writing in a business mag for people who understand economics, Blaska. We know about this stuff, even if you'd like to pretend that we don't.

A final truth: If the state were in exactly the same position as we are now with a Democrat at the helm, your blog here would be complaining about the sluggish rate of recovery. How do I know this? Because it's what you're saying about Obama as the national recovery mirrors what's happening in Wisconsin. Do you really think we're not paying attention?

Short story: One of my best customers was in my office the other day and pointed to my copy of InBusiness. Do you read this? Sure, I said, do you? Sometimes, he said. It can be good for a laugh or two.

Sep 9, 2014 09:29 am
 Posted by  madisonexpat

More proof that Act 10 is working extremely well. Because of it public service workers do not have to join a union that forces them to donate money to one political party, that would be the Democrats. That is brilliant politics and better policy.

Even Newspapers Inc. concedes that the market will better reward good teachers with valuable skills. The inevitable results of better educated kids will demonstrate function over form. That is a miracle in anything political.

Well paid teachers and better educated kids will be called unfair!

By everyone in Illinois.

Sep 9, 2014 09:43 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Boy, a little less than flattering press about your Boy Governor's economic performance sure puts you on the defensive ("dammit!"). And now the Wisconsin State Journal is biased against conservatives? Interesting take; it must be the messenger that's the problem. I have a feeling the news editors of this state are looking around and finally concluding that these heavy-handed, brown-shirt political retribution measures aren't doing everyone here in our last-in-the-Midwest state much good. Anony 9:50 gives a pretty measured response, to which I'd add that the only time Walker has been honest about Act 10 is when he was testifying about it before Congress. When asked point-blank, under oath, if Act 10 was necessary to balance Wisconsin's budget, he said, "No." I think that's the last time he was honest about it.

Sep 9, 2014 03:53 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

The truth of Act 10 lies in the fact that the best teachers in some districts are being offered pay bumps by the school districts that now have the option to do so under Act 10 rather than giving all teachers the same pay bump. Those that don't do enough to keep their credentials up are not going to get any pay bump and/or are going to be replaced by new graduates that are more qualified than the same old dregs that my two girls had to suffer through in the MSD (ask me for names in the Madison School District, I can give them.). My youngest daughter just got her first permanent position in a northeast Wisconsin district starting this school year. She worked as a long-term sub and proved herself very capable. Guess what? Instead of the district having to give the opening to a union baby, my daughter not only got it instead, but this week told us she also got an additional 15% pay bump above what the norm salary used to be. The flip side to that is she is required by the district to achieve a certain number of points under an incentive plan, and if she does not, she gets no pay raise and stands in danger of getting let go. Act 10 is giving a lot more options to those districts, unlike Madison, that want to take advantage of them. Guaranteeing all MSD's teachers the same pay raise means the best ones will not see any extra reward. It will only be that way for so long until the top notch teachers get wooed away to those districts willing to get rid of the old methods of paying their teachers. John Matthews is a bit anxious these days because Act 10 is doing exactly what was promised. And once he cannot "deliver" the MSD and its board to the teachers, well, the question will be, of what use is he?

Sep 9, 2014 04:05 pm
 Posted by  Chuck Hinners

2.5 million new jobs, mostly low pay variety.
Yeah, you "economists" understand tired old Keynesian economics where all wealth supposedly springs from the government. Read von Mises, Hayek and Rothbard.

Of course the WSJ is biased against conservatives and it has been since the 60s. Until the CT died, they were two of the same mind

Sep 9, 2014 05:05 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

From Budget Committee member Dale Kooyenga, CPA:

This budget which extends through June 30, 2015 is still projected to end with a healthy cash balance. The rainy day fund is at an all time high. The "structural deficit" is a state government concept and some states do not even calculate, or calculate using different methods. In this state, LFB assume there are no growths in revenues or expenditures all the way through June 30, 2017.

Some of the confusion, and forward projections, are affected by the fact we are returning a portion of the surplus to the taxpayers who put it there in the first place. In the private sector, we would call this a return of equity - not an expense or lost revenue!

More here:

Sep 10, 2014 10:28 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

OK, I get it. When Democrats have a structural deficit, it's Armageddon and a central focus of campaigning against them. When Republicans have one, it's just some weird, quirky, unimportant "state government concept" that other states ignore. Hey, a pandering CPA says it's OK!
Brought to you by "The Party of Double Standards."

Sep 10, 2014 11:12 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Considering we're now in the fifth year of Obama's Great Depression, things are going pretty well under the Republican state government. If the people of Wisconsin decide to elect ferret faced Queen Mary of Trek as Governor, they deserve every bit of economic misery they will get as a result.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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