The unions have the organization and money on their side for the war against Scott Walker. But Scott Walker has an ace in the hole. The truth is on his side.
Unions in Ohio were able to run an advertising campaign claiming that the restrictions to collective bargaining would lead to massive layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and other public workers. As we have seen here in Wisconsin the opposite is true, so that lie will not work here. Last summer in the Senate recall elections Democrats had the ability to make outrageous claims like, Act 10 and the new budget would be a disaster for education in the state. Now people have received their property tax bills and kids have gone back to school making telling those lies not very effective.
Recently Walker touted that the collective bargaining reforms have saved $1 billion dollars across the state. This claim may be difficult to verify because it is impossible to determine which savings came from Act 10 and which would have happened anyway due to budget pressures. What is clear, massive numbers of public workers jobs were saved due to Act 10. In other states that just cut funding to schools and local governments, without any real reform, it led to mass layoffs of public workers.
In Wisconsin, only the irresponsible districts that made deals with unions to protect the unions without regard to the needs of students, and before they even had the information necessary to plan a responsible budget, hurt the quality of education. It is now not even debatable whether Walker’s reforms worked to reduce spending without hurting services like education. I say this, because the Democrats have decided not to push collective bargaining reform as a major issue in the recall campaign. Instead their spokesman, Graeme Zielinski, indicated they plan to distract people with the Democrats "War on Women" tactic, and the fishing expedition going on in Milwaukee County, rather than push the collective bargaining issue. If they could show the reforms to not be working that would be the lead issue for their campaign.
Not only are the reforms working, they were clearly the right thing to do. Rather than just deal with one budget, Walker chose to go for reforms that would go after the root cause of excessive spending issues at the state level. Walker ended the tyranny of public employee unions, representing less than 13% of workers, abusing the other 87% of the taxpayers.
In addition, going forward the control given to local school districts should allow the flexibility to make changes to improve education. This, however, depends on having school boards and communities willing and able to use the tools given them. Getting some School Boards and other leaders to use the tools to improve education may be harder than using the financial tools. Reductions in state funding along with tax levy limits forces the use of the tools for fiscal restraint at least to some extent. Using the flexibility to improve schools requires leaders with creativity and courage, supported by the community, to care more about the needs of the children than the wants of the adults employed by the system.
Regardless of what anyone says or who wins the Democratic Primary for Governor, the issue that matters is the Walker Reforms. If the Democrats win they will undue the reforms and increase taxes to pay for it. Then we will march down the path of destruction that states like Illinois are on. If Walker wins Wisconsin can finally move forward and make progress on a wide range of issues, particularly jobs and the economy. A Walker win will send a message to other elected officials around the country; if you have courage and do the right thing you can survive, even if that means taking on the most powerful and destructive special interest group. I would like to think a Walker victory would send the message to Democrats to care more about what is best for Wisconsin than obstructing Scott Walker. But that is probably asking too much.