By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Thanks for nothing.
No, really, thanks for nothing.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, a staunch fiscal conservative, has nothing but praise for his peers in the Democratic Party who, he says, have done nothing to repeal Wisconsin’s controversial Act 10. The law, signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, guts collective bargaining for most public employees in the state.
“The press always focuses on disagreements, but the bipartisanship shown in agreeing that Act 10 should not be repealed is an untold story of us working together,” the West Bend Republican said in a statement, written, it would seem, with tongue firmly pressed in cheek.
While Act 10 opponents have sought to overturn the law in court, Grothman thanked Democrats for doing nothing to legislatively topple the act. A review of bills introduced by Dems this year appears to back up Grothman’s assertion, although a couple pieces of legislation would alter some of the terms of Act 10.
By limiting collective bargaining to wages, up to the rate of inflation, and requiring public employees contribute to their state pension plans, Act 10 has saved Badger State local government more than $1 billion, according to some estimates.
In Milwaukee alone, the collective bargaining reforms have saved the city about $20 million, according to Mark Nicolini, the city’s budget director. Milwaukee Public Schools will see savings of more than $100 million per year, according to a report released earlier this summer by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education think tank,
Wisconsin public School districts, on average, have seen double-digit declines in insurance premiums since mid-2011, based on findings in “First Years of Freedom: Wisconsin Schools Saving Millions on Health Insurance in the Act 10 Era,” an analysis of insurance costs by EAGnews.
Some of the savings have been offset by deep cuts in state aid in the 2011-13 state budget. But the core of the collective bargaining changes are designed to keep wage and benefit costs under control, bringing more certainty to public-sector budgets.
Grothman sounds absolutely giddy about what he describes as an act of “real political courage” displayed by Democrats in doing nothing to repeal Act 10.
“I’m so elated that Democrats agree we shouldn’t go back to the bad old days when it was almost impossible to fire a bad teacher or when it was more important to prop up an overcharging insurance company than buy new books for the children,” the senator said in the news release. “It takes real political courage to stand up to the teachers union and AFSCME and tell them they are wrong.”
Grothman points to the Dems’ legislative record, showing the minority party has introduced more than 130 bills this session. Bills of more “priority” include “making it easier to get a pardon for a crime, increasing the minimum wage, increasing the ticket for not wearing a seatbelt and getting a property tax exemption for a local theater,” the senator glibly notes.
Democrats would seem to see it all differently, between those who voted against the original collective bargaining bill and those who have been vehemently rooting for its demise in the state and federal court systems.
Exactly what Democratic leadership in the Legislature thinks of Grothman’s high praise remains unclear. They didn’t return phone calls from Wisconsin Reporter. Melissa Baldauff, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, asked Wisconsin Reporter to put its question in an email. Asked why she couldn’t answer questions over the telephone, the party official said she needed the question in writing.
As of this post, Baldauff had not responded to Wisconsin Reporter’s email questions.
But state Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, seemingly as fond of ribbing Republicans as Grothman is of needling Dems, said Grothman’s got it all wrong.
He says his Get Wisconsin Working Again amendment, passed up by the Republican majority and Dems in the Senate, would have restored $330 million “taken from 130,000 public servants” through Act 10, according to Hulsey. Public employees, under the bill, would have gotten an average of $2,500 back in refunds from what the legislator sees as the illegal taking in the collective bargaining reforms.
“I would have repealed the worst parts of Act 10,” Hulsey told Wisconsin Reporter.
The outspoken Democrat, who is contemplating taking his “campaign mobile” to the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival this weekend, said Grothman is full of it.
“Glenn’s press release is just another cry for attention,” Hulsey said, adding that he “wouldn’t know anything about that.”
Grothman, who admits to “a little bit” of sarcasm in his press release, tells Wisconsin Reporter he has a “little sympathy” for the hundreds of thousands of people who signed recall petitions, gave contributions to Democratic candidates and loaded their cars down with bumper stickers, “Only to find out that when push came to shove the Democrats didn’t really want to repeal Act 10 themselves.”
“It was like finding out there is no Santa Claus,” the senator said.
Grothman chided further, seemingly throwing down the legislative gauntlet.
“I think if they introduce a bill at this stage it will be obvious what it is: a halfhearted attempt. It’s obviously not a priority to them… Maybe one of them will have the guts to introduce something,” he said.
The senator says he’s hopeful the “bipartisanship” will continue for the rest of the session.
“I’m sure a few uniformed public employees may push some Democrat to make a half-hearted, insincere attempt with the one hundred fortieth or one hundred fiftieth bill,” he said in the release. “Democrats, please resist, the public enjoys us agreeing on this important issue.”
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]