It’s still working from Beloit to SuperiorWhen Gov. Scott Walker and legislators enacted budget reforms aimed at eliminating a $3.6 billion deficit and improving the state’s long-term financial health, opponents cried foul, promising falling skies and the end of life in the Badger State as we all knew it.
By: By Brett Healy, Superior Telegram
When Gov. Scott Walker and legislators enacted budget reforms aimed at eliminating a $3.6 billion deficit and improving the state’s long-term financial health, opponents cried foul, promising falling skies and the end of life in the Badger State as we all knew it.
Fast-forward almost two years and not only is the sky right where it should be, but Wisconsin’s fiscal house is on solid ground for the first time in years. Instead of billion-dollar deficits and crushing debt, the state’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is projecting a budget surplus for 2013. In addition, the state Department of Administration has announced it will deposit $108.7 million into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, and — according to a new MacIver Institute report — taxpayers across Wisconsin have enjoyed more than $2 billion in savings.
The results are a far cry from the near-apocalyptic predictions that rang out from big labor during the height of the anti-Act 10 rallies. Teachers are still teaching, prison guards are still keeping us safe and Wisconsin has avoided the same fiscal cliff that states like Illinois and California haven’t.
It is worth noting, however, the more than $2 billion in savings and the financial stability that comes with it is in jeopardy because of just one man.
Dane County Judge Juan Colas has ruled parts of Act 10 unconstitutional, effectively driving a wedge between taxpayers and long-overdue, fiscally responsible policies. By injecting himself into the legislative process, Judge Colas is threatening to undo reforms that have benefitted communities from Beloit to Superior and everywhere in between.
Worse yet, Judge Colas has refused to stay his decision — despite requests from more than half of Wisconsin’s 72 counties that he does so until the higher courts can again rule on the constitutionality of Act 10.
Already, unions and organized labor groups are rushing to re-open and negate Act 10 contracts that have benefitted taxpayers. The Madison Common Council held a special session in September to approve new labor contracts following Colas’ decision. Other local units of government and school boards are suddenly faced with similar demands from unions across Wisconsin.
Because Judge Colas has decided to play politics with his gavel, teachers, taxpayers and middle-class families are at risk. If Judge Colas’ decision stands and local units of government are forced to renegotiate contracts without any additional state funding or revenue from other sources to make up the shortfall, they will have no choice but to lay off government workers or cut vital services our citizens depend on.
As we near the two-year anniversary of protests at the state Capitol, it’s still working in Wisconsin. For the sake of all hard-working Wisconsinites, let’s hope that — despite the wishes of one activist Dane County judge — it is allowed to keep working in the future.
Brett Healy is president of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, a Wisconsin-based think tank that promotes free markets, individual freedom, personal responsibility and limited government.