Governor Scott Walker is making the tough choices needed to avoid financial ruin in Wisconsin. Like most states, Wisconsin is facing a budget deficit caused in part by excessive pay and benefits for public employees. Governor Walker is tackling this problem head on, rightly proposing to bring public employees’ compensation in line with the private sector.
In response, President Obama, national Democrats and their union allies have gone on the attack, helping organize protests that have flooded the Wisconsin capitol and shutdown public schools in Milwaukee and Madison. They’re even lending moral support to the state Democratic lawmakers who fled the state to avoid a vote.
The nation’s governors don’t need a lecture from a President who has never balanced a budget. On both the federal and state level, we need leaders who will make the tough decisions and stand up to the public employees unions.
As a conservative governor in a liberal state, I regularly battled with the public employees union and am familiar with the sort of tactics we’re seeing in Madison. When I proposed reforms to public employees’ benefits, we had protests and one of the longest transit strikes in American history. But we won in Minnesota because average taxpayers supported the reforms – and I’m confident that Governor Walker will win in Wisconsin.
Decades of overpromising and fiscal malpractice by government officials have created unfunded public employee benefit liabilities of more than $3 trillion. We must bring public employee compensation back in line with the private sector and reduce the overall size of the federal civilian workforce. President Obama has paid lip service to this with proposed spending freezes, but real reform means actually shrinking government and ending the pay premium for public employees.
We must also reform excessive pay and pensions for public employees. For example, in Minnesota, bus drivers demanded lifetime health-care benefits after working just 15 years. (I refused – and they went on a 44-day strike before conceding.) Ultimately, we need to end defined-benefit retirement plans for government employees in favor of the clarity and predictability of defined-contribution models such as 401(k) plans. This alone can save taxpayers trillions of dollars.
The gig is up for public employee groups who demand better benefits than the taxpayers who are paying the bill. I’m confident Governor Walker’s reforms will succeed in Wisconsin. Stand strong, Scott — average taxpayers everywhere are rooting for you. Now is the time for every freedom-loving American to stand with Gov. Walker and show their support for his efforts to bring fiscal sanity back to state government.
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