Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) has been vindicated once again. Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Act 10, the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill.” The Supreme Court’s 5-2 decision is likely the end of legal challenges attempting to reverse the law, and should put to rest debate over a bill that has put Wisconsin back on the right track and helped improve the well-being of millions in the Badger State.
The state Supreme Court justices dismissed arguments that Act 10 violates rights to equal protection and free association – a win for state taxpayers who are no longer on the hook for unsustainable public employee obligations.
Passed in order to address the state’s multi-billion dollar deficit, the law drew fury from public employee union bosses. Upon its passage in 2011, Act 10 led to massive union-led protests, and a union-funded effort to recall Walker. However, Walker won the recall election by a wider margin than he won the preceding general election, and the law has helped put the state back on stable financial footing with reforms like merit-based pay for teachers and pension contributions from public employees.
The reforms came at an important time, as continued deficits were slowing private sector growth and investment, and could have jeopardized funding for important public services. While the negative effects of budget deficits are felt across the board, they often hit the poor hardest, since they most depend on the public services that are put at risk.
Fortunately, Act 10 helped turn Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion budget deficit into a surplus without raising taxes – in fact, Wisconsinites have enjoyed more than $2 billion in new tax relief under Walker. As a result, unemployment has fallen from 7.4 percent to 5.7 percent, 116,000 jobs have been created, and state tax revenue has actually grown.
In an annual survey of business owners this year, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce found that 95 percent believe the state is headed in the right direction for business. Just 10 percent said so in 2010, prior to the passage of Act 10.
The past three years have made it abundantly clear – Act 10 is working in Wisconsin.
Perhaps the only ones left discontent are labor union bosses, who are becoming increasingly unpopular around the country and have seen union membership decline rapidly in recent decades. Wisconsin has been no exception in the past three years.
Since Act 10 passed, labor unions have hemorrhaged members. The Wall Street Journal reported that the state’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, has lost more than a third of its membership, dropping from about 98,000 to about 60,000 members. Similarly, the American Federation of Teachers has lost 16,000 members and is now less than half of what it was before Act 10.
In turn, more teachers are being paid based on performance and more money is being put back into classrooms – meaning fairer treatment for teachers, better experience for students, and greater return on investment for taxpayers.
All the while, public employees in the Badger State continue to enjoy generous compensation, compared to both private sector counterparts and their peers in other states.
Big Labor continues to launch attacks at Walker and Act 10, but in the past three years, legislatures, voters, and the courts have all upheld that Walker did what was necessary for the state, and did it correctly. Hopefully, Walker’s reforms will serve as a model and be emulated in states across the country facing similar fiscal challenges.
The state Supreme Court’s decision should be the final word in an ongoing saga about Walker’s bold actions that, while politically controversial, have improved the well-being of millions of people in his state.
Akash Chougule is a policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity, the nation’s premier free-market grassroots organization. Akash brings a unique perspective to AFP and specializes in education, health care, labor, tax, and transportation issues.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.
Government August 08, 2014