Wisconsin’s runaway Senators


Democrat Wisconsin Senators took off today instead of voting on a bill that would enact pension reforms and place some controls on collective bargaining for unions in their state. With them gone, the Senate lost their quorum and can not proceed the vote.

About 10,000 teachers, nurses, city workers and firefighters gathered at the Capitol to protest the bill today. In fact, 40% of the state’s teachers refused to show up to work yesterday or today and many took their students with them as they protested against reform.

The state’s 170,000 public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs in exchange for bearing more costs and a change in those collective bargaining agreements. Under the governor’s proposal, public-worker unions could still represent employees, but could not pursue pay increases above those tied to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold votes once a year to stay organized. If the measure fails, Mr. Walker expects layoffs of 6000 public employees.

According to a local radio station, the “proposal marks a dramatic shift for the state, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees. In addition to eliminating collective bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.”

In spite of the long history of being a union state, voters in November elected Governor Walker, an outspoken conservative, and GOP majorities in both the House and Senate, a clear sign that the public was ready for a change.

“We’re at a point of crisis,” Mr. Walker told reporters. And while he said he appreciated the concerns of the public employees shouting outside his office door, taxpayers “need to be heard as well.” Mr. Walker said the dramatic action is necessary to close the state’s gaping budget hole for the fiscal year starting in July and avoid massive employee layoffs.

The runaways were found holed up in a Best Western in Illinois, presumably out of reach of the Wisconsin Highway Patrol. They have supposedly called CNN with a “list of demands.” Governor Walker calls today’s actions “more theatrics than anything.”



25 Responses to “Wisconsin’s runaway Senators”

  1. Daniel B. Says:

    Where have i seen this happen before? Didn’t some Texan’s try this once?

  2. Larry Chandler Says:

    The Democrats in Texas did this too but then one changed his mind and that made it pointless to continue the walkout.

    It is a tactic, and a legitimate one (unless state law prohibits that). It seems to me that what the governor is proposing is a reasonable one especially with deficits the way they are, except for requiring a new vote every year on maintaining the union. The only point to that requirement is to crush the union, not to reduce the deficit.

  3. reffaree Says:

    Lets not forget that Barackobama.com and Organizing For America helped stoke the flames in this fire. Since when does the federal government have anything to do with a sovereign states business dealings? OH when the Unions are being hurT? Or in our case, the theft of our lands to be used to generate revenues for our school kids? can we impeach barry soreoto yet?

  4. Larry Chandler Says:

    The Federal Government has always interfered in the various states’ business dealings. In this case it was just voicing an opinion, which I suppose was unnecessarily provocative, but the Feds can influence how a state operates simply by withholding money unless the state cooperates.

    The use (or misuse) of Federal highway funds to force states to adhere to certain requirements is just one way that Washington uses its muscle.

    I don’t quite understand the point that another poster made about the theft of lands to be used to generate revenues for school kids. Is there resentment that school kids are benefiting? And if school kids benefit, doesn’t the rest of society benefit? An educated student benefits everyone.

  5. Don Says:

    it is hilarious when people want their cake and eat it too. Lower the debt, but don’t cut anything. Don’t lay anyone off, but don’t expect to pay us less. We can’t let our state go bankrupt, but we can’t make any changes to the social programs or benefits either.

    Far to many government jobs have been created in the last 20 years. It’s scary how many employees the government has between city, county, state, federal and “departments” all packed with wasteful spending, outrageous salaries and benefits and a total lack of accountability for the employee and the job they were hired to do, of course you can’t forget the back-door deals, cherry side contracts and outright fraud that comes with it all too.

  6. reffaree Says:

    Larry: can a state that has 66+ percent of its lands controlled by the federal government really be a sovereign state? This was my point. If We The People of Utah were given our lands to do the things we want to do with it, our school kids would have more monies thru the taxes collected on revenues. This federal government has stolen UTAH lands from our control and therefore hampering our ability to control our own destiny and make our own choices using our own means. Yes, the better educated kids, the better for all but when the FEDS are pushing topics like “when johnny has two mommies” it goes back to my state rights position that the FED has no business in our business. I hope this clears this up Larry. While I have the floor, what business does the feds have in the union issue you talk of. I thought the purpose of the fed was to protect us from the NATIONAL THREATS internal and external. ALL ELSE IS THE POWER OF THE STATES? As I see it, the corrupt unions are an internal threat and HOebumma seems to be in bed with the union thugs. Hows them A for Apples?

  7. Larry Chandler Says:

    Ok, I can’t speak to the issue of stolen lands, because I’m not totally up on the history, though I will look it up. The Federal Government did purchase much of the land, so much of it was not the property of the states to begin with. It is a more complex issue than you state.

    And your understanding of the federal system is not correct. The constitution gives the federal government more power than to just protect us from internal and external threats. There’s actually quite a list. And providing for the general welfare is also there. So this can be a subject of debate but it’s not as clearly delineated as you state.

    As for Obama being in bed with thugs, could very well be. But not all unions are thugs, just as not all corporations are angels.

    And by the way, it’s Heather who has two mommies, not Johnny. I don’t think the Feds are making it required reading. Not all states or districts include it in their libraries.

  8. reffaree Says:

    Larry: Thanks but my understanding of the federal system is based off the writings of the Federalist papers and historical events that have brought us to this place in history as of today. With that said, in the past this “welfare” concept has been abused to the point that today the socialist programs of Social Security and Medicare were allowed to be implemented. And If I recall, it was done by some of the most “progressive” administrations in the history of the nation until the one we are presented with today. So the original intentions of the founders as I know it was to set a federal system to protect the lands from internal and external threats. Thats it. Anything else was to be left to the states to create their own rules. Hence THE UNITED STATES. Today, sovereign is a word that the liberals like to make fun of. This has to stop. Although I fall short of calling for a constitutional convention, we need to give the power back to the states to make the decisions that best serve their needs. Make them compete. If you want to live in a state that has liberal social laws, live there or move. Elect a group of reps and have them represent you. Right now SPECIAL INTERESTS – AKA: unions, PAC’s and your villan – corporations, have too much power over WE THE PEOPLE.

  9. Larry Chandler Says:

    I agree that the “general welfare” clause (and also, incidentally, the “commerce” clause) have been greatly abused and have significantly expanded the overreaching power of the Federal Government.

    Still, it is not the Federalist Papers, nor any other writings of the founders or anyone else that are the basic laws of the nation. That belongs solely to the US Constitution. The founding fathers wrote many papers and letters that expressed their opinions, but none of them carry the force of law.

    And while we do refer to sovereign states, the states are not entirely “sovereign.” All states are subject to the laws of the United States, which is primary. That was settled by the Civil War. (Not that it can’t be undone, but I would hope it wouldn’t take another Civil War to do that.)

    I agree with you on your last point, that if you want to change the laws, change the people who represent us.

  10. sWis cheese Says:

    The state of WI was on track to have an 120 million dollar surplus not this made up budget crisis. The 137 million dollar shortfall can be attributed to the 150 million dollar tax break that governor Walker gave to “select” businesses. Furthermore what is not being publicized is the fact that governor Walker was kicked out of college (Marquette University) for plagiarism. Long story short the governor campaigned on the platform of “Wisconsin being open for business” nonetheless I am witnessing first hand that Wisconsin is rather the contrary!

  11. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    The unions had where already ready to accept some pretty deep cuts their to pay, pensions and healthcare. And they have already given up a lot, their have been furloughs, their wages have been frozen for 5 years now(no COLA’s or anything).

    Walker could pass the actual budget related parts of that bill tomorrow if he would drop the union busting nonsense.

    Of course the political damage has already been done, we have massive protests in 2 states now(possibly to expand to 5(Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Florida). All set with the optics that slash and burn tea partiers are going to far, notice that all five states are states that rejected major stimulus funds and other federal dollars costing thousands of jobs, 3 of these states have governors that have pushed through major tax cuts and then run after their public unions crying poverty.

    Now Wisconsin, will be the first to dump their Tea party gov, this guy will be toast in the coming recall election, Florida republican legislature is going to try and override their idiot ex-con governors rejection of $2.1 billion federal dollars for the HSR there, Boy this is going to set a wonderful mood for the 2012 elections.

    On the other hand the dems need to thank Scott Walker as he has reminded all those people that stayed home in 2010, and all of those disaffected apathetic non-voters what the consequences of elections are, And given this lesson with an over whelming forcefulness that they won’t soon forget. The Gov’s in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey next in line to follow right in time for the march 4 government shutdown to reinforce the difference of ideals.

  12. Wayne Says:

    Excellent Blog, I will be following you Holly-Straight and to the point–Refreshing

  13. Wayne Says:

    Ronald D H, You are so wrong on this one–The people are going to see one thing here. Run Away Senators–Cowards to The Core- BYE BYE MR SENATORS-Maybe you will have a chance in ILL next time you Run–For office that is–

  14. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    Those Dem senators know full well they will only be able to hold out for so long, and generally I would agree with the coward sentiment but their are a few pieces of the puzzle floating about that changes things a bit, aka this is like 2003 Texas.

    This State had the largest fall off of voters between 2008-2010 election, only 26% of voters showed up(historical low?). Even given the extremely low voter turnout Walker won 52% to 47%, Then the way the budget bill was introduced on a Friday and pushed through committee hearings that shut down public comment on day one which is unprecedented in that State. And then for such a radical policy in that budget which itself is completely unrelated to budget.

    This isn’t a Red state like Texas, Wisconsin is a Blue state if anything the actions of those senators will be supported, for the moment however it looks like their mostly being ignored in lue of the far more interesting protests in Madison another thing that didn’t happen in Texas.

  15. JBT Says:

    The Democratic Senators in Wisconsin are in fact showing real courage in doing exactly what they had to do to stop the runaway train started by the tea bagger governor that was on track to revoke in five days public employee rights and benefits that had taken over 50 years of to achieve through hard fought negotiations.

    The actions by the tea bagger governor have nothing to do with the fiscal situation in the state and everything to do with using trumped up budget numbers as a pretense to “bust” the unions in his state by taking away their hard won rights to collective bargaining. Were it not for the tax breaks for companies he had pushed through the legislature previously, there would be no budget deficit.

  16. sWis cheese Says:

    Indeed! As Milwaukee County Executive Walker did the same thing time after time! He forced furlough days on county working tried to demand teachers to take a 35 hour work week meaning that the children would forfeit five instructional hours. As an undergraduate student one of my first encounters with Walker illuminated his contempt for unions. In fact he was one of the key players in the attempt to take over Milwaukee Public Schools, the states largest district and coincidently the highest concentration of minority students. Walker failed time and time again as County executive and he will do the same as governor. He is reckless in his approach and will not be in office very long! The basic truths about Walker will soon surface…

  17. Wayne Says:

    Good thought Ronald

  18. Wayne Says:

    I would like some comments on Florida’s Budget By Gov Rick Smith–It is a disgrace-look at the proposals for His Office and then look at Vet Affairs and Ed–I can understand MN but this guy in FLA is laying off Plus this Budget http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/central/

  19. Pops Says:

    Ron, part of the problem is the unfunded liability of pensions. Corporations deserted traditional pensions in favor of 401(k) plans many years ago because the numbers simply don’t work. It’s time for government to do the same. Or go bankrupt.

  20. JBT Says:

    If Republican policies under the Bush administration had not created the economic crisis we are still digging out of, pension funds would be just fine.

  21. Pops Says:

    Pensions in the private sector died long before Bush was elected. It has everything to do with demographics and nothing to do with Bush. (Don’t you feel a bit silly trying to blame everything on Bush?!?)

  22. Ronald D. Hunt Says:


    401K’s are just as if not more broken then pension funds. In fact without social security 401k’s would be entirely non-functional.

    People need retirement insurance not savings, And for a number of reasons. Savings or investment is entirely tied to the behaviors of the stock market, temporary political convenience can loopside investments into hyper concentrated area’s of the market(housing for example), the amount savable in a 401k is limited based on employer contribution and tax benefit, employers have no reason to have a good 401k just a reason to have one(for the tax benefit), 401K’s are never “over vested” for the purpose of handling shocks in the stock market they can’t by the very nature of their model, over dependence on a 401k in retirement can lead to huge swings in buying power in the elderly leading to market instability, no body knows how long they will live so designing a withdrawal that will last through retirement is not possible, most 401k’s won’t last more then 10 years leaving the retiree entirely dependent on social security, more money was lost in 401k’s in the crash then in pension plans in fact 401k’s lost over $18,000,000,000,000 that is eight teen trillion dollars.

    Pension plans are a much better model for retirement being like an insurance plan with a defined benefit but save for one obvious and huge problem, the state and/or employer is on the hook for loses.

    We shouldn’t be dropping people into the 401k waste land, we need to design(this would require legislation to put in place the framework) a workable defined retirement benefit system that is not tied to the employer and is somewhat shielded from the excesses of wallstreet.

    While Pension plans are unworkable for the employer and to be clear corps did just fine with them before the Reagan bankruptcy reform that declared banks making bankruptcy restructuring loans as super priority in the order of who gets payed first if the company goes into liquidation giving companies an ill-gotten form of MAD. 401K’s are just as unworkable for the employee out of their investment nature, the nations retirements shouldn’t be dependent on the ethical behavior of Goldman Sachs.

  23. Killing the golden goose in Wisconsin | What they didn't teach in law school Says:

    […] Wisconsin’s runaway Senators (hollyonthehill.wordpress.com) […]

  24. Pops Says:

    The federal government is in the process of inflating itself out of debt, which kills defined benefit plans. The bottom line is that nothing works when the government is screwing up markets.

  25. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    QE2 while having an inflationary effect, it is utterly insufficient to counter the deflationary effect of the contraction of leverage ratio’s in the banks industry wide.

    Current inflation you are seeing now is caused by the contraction in the credit market temporary pushing prices up because of how retail supply chains work. This is a temporary effect and when credit starts to return will cause deflation as well.

    QE2 is only $900 billion dollars, the leverage ratio contraction of banks is in the 10’s of trillions of dollars.

    We could probably argu about the difference between printed dollars and “credit dollars” issued via the fed discount window, but the fact is their is less money in circulation today then their was yesterday.

    We are headed towards deflation or stagflation not inflation, without corrective government action.

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