Dispatches (XII): Wisconsin Governor Walker Threatens Layoffs (Again!)
From WisPolitics today:
Gov. Scott Walker says he may have to again consider laying off state employees if his collective bargaining law remains tied up in the courts for much more than the next week or two.
Strangely, a week and a half ago, I read this:
The public union bargaining restrictions would not have to take effect in order to balance the current state budget.
That’s what the Legislative Fiscal Bureau said Friday, after it analyzed the new budget repair bill that Republican Governor Scott Walker proposed this week.
The union law was supposed to save $30 million with higher payments by state employees for their health insurance and pensions. But the Fiscal Bureau said Walker proposed enough other measures to wipe out a projected $137 million shortfall in the budget that expires June 30th.
The bill Walker proposed this week would re-finance state debt, and use federal money instead of state money to provide the earned income tax credit to low-income workers.
The extra state dollars would then be used to cover a cost overrun for the prisons, and increase Medicaid funding so benefits don’t have to be cut.
Democratic leaders have vigorously fought the union restrictions, but they favor the other measures in the budget repair bill. And those proposals will be taken up by lawmakers on Tuesday. [Emphasis added -- mdc]
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau is the legislature's nonpartisan budget assessment office, roughly analogous to the Congressional Budget Office. The assessment is here.
A slightly different take is provided by the 4/6 Journal Sentinel article:
Walker said Wednesday that the law likely would allow the state to avoid layoffs of state employees that he had warned about in recent weeks.
That's despite the fact that a separate budget-repair proposal remains hung up in court. That measure, which would repeal most collective bargaining for most public employees, was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Republican governor last month. But it faces legal challenges and at least for now has been blocked by a Dane County judge.
If that legislation doesn't take effect, the latest repair law that was signed Wednesday would leave the state with a projected balance of $46.3 million in its main account on June 30. That razor-thin balance is below what is required by state law.
If it takes effect, the repair measure could boost that balance to $83.8 million through savings such as cuts to state employee health and pension benefits.
The state shortfall as estimated by the Walker administration grew to $161 million in recent weeks as the projected costs rose for state health care programs for the needy. But the Legislative Fiscal Bureau notes that those figures assume that the Walker administration will make a payment owed to the State of Minnesota and resolve a shortfall in the state public defender's office, actions that won't necessarily take place. [Emphasis added -- mdc]
Side note 1: Governor Walker mentions in the WisPolitics article the following:
Walker attributed some of the missteps of his administration in the first 100 days to normal growing pains.
That includes the hiring of a prominent lobbyist’s son for a job over more qualified people despite a light resume and two drunken driving convictions on his record.
“Do you make dumb mistakes sometimes? Yeah. But I don’t think the measure of an administration is whether they make dumb mistakes or not,” Walker said. “It’s what they do to correct them.”
He said the most disappointing thing about the episode is it overshadowed what he said was the most qualified, most experienced cabinet the state has ever seen.
For more, read the Journal Sentinel's article:
Brian Deschane is gone from state government, but he won't soon be forgotten.
Deschane, the 27-year-old son of a prominent supporter of Gov. Scott Walker, resigned from his state job following public criticism over his appointment to an $81,500-per-year job in the Walker administration. He informed officials at the state Department of Commerce, where he had been named administrator of environmental and regulatory matters in February.
"He has resigned," said agency spokesman Tony Hozeny.
Hozeny said he didn't believe Deschane gave a reason for leaving the government job.
"Not that I know of," Hozeny said. "He just resigned."
Earlier this week, Walker demoted Deschane from the post after No Quarter highlighted how Deschane -- who has no college degree, very little management experience and two drunken-driving convictions -- had landed his plum assignment.
Walker's team gave Deschane the cushy job despite the governor's repeated statements that the state is broke and government workers are overpaid.
Side note 2: Professor Cronon reflects on the Wisconsin Republican Party's open records request of his emails here.