Here’s your headline: ‘Act 10 is working, dammit!’
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.
And school districts are now able to reward high-performing, in-demand teachers with competitive salaries. Sunday’s WSJ notes in (still more credit) a Page One story.
“The great irony is that Act 10 has created a marketplace for good teachers,” said Dean Bowles, a Monona Grove School Board member.
Personal income is up, too, according to the Taxpayers Alliance. Per capita personal income grew 11.4% from 2009 to 2013, reducing how much the state trails the nation. What’s more, business creation increased in 2011 and 2012, “the first back-to-back gains since 2004-05.”
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.