CAP TIMES: Walker is acting not as governor, but as dictator

February 13, 2011
Cap Times Editorial Board


The responses to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to undermine the ability of working Wisconsinites to bargain for fair wages and benefits have been appropriately passionate.

Wisconsinites are angry with their governor, who promised to work across lines of partisanship and ideology to create jobs, but has instead chosen to play political games.

The governor’s budget repair bill, which includes a plan to gut collective bargaining protections for state employees, does not seek to get the state’s fiscal house in order.

Rather, it is seeks a political goal: destroying public employee unions, which demand fair treatment of workers and hold governors of both parties to account when they seek to undermine public services and public education.

At every level, Walker’s proposal sows the seeds of political, social and economic instability.

The economic threat may well be the most significant -- especially at a time when Wisconsin needs to create jobs, as opposed to political fights.

As state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, notes, “Wisconsin is hardly ‘open for business’ if businesses can’t attract employees because of a bad employee climate in our state. The government banning employees from negotiating through unions is a radical and dangerous notion that Wisconsin simply shouldn’t embrace. If high-tech and emerging industries can’t attract employees because of our bad employee atmosphere in our state, they certainly won’t locate here.”

Pocan’s not the only one who is suggesting that the plan is “radical.” Responsible Republicans, such as state Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, are concerned. "The concept is pretty radical,” Olsen says of the Walker proposal. “It affects a lot of good working people."

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, says Republican legislators have a "lot of good questions" for Walker's team.

And rightly so.

The governor wants to ram a change that Democrats and Republicans agree is radical through the Legislature as part of a budget repair bill -- with no serious hearings and little in the way of honest debate. If he gets his way, the great mass of Wisconsinites will have no real say regarding the change.

That’s absurd, as Walker’s plan assaults the best traditions and values of the state of Wisconsin.

Of all the criticism of the bill so far, we were most struck by the statement from state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison.

Risser, the dean of state legislators, does not go in for fiery rhetoric or rash statements. He usually plays the role of conciliator in the Capitol, where he has served for more than five decades.

But Risser did not mince words with regard to Walker’s assault on state employees.

“State employees have the right to negotiate in good faith with the state. Without a willingness to even discuss what concessions need to be made with state employees, the governor comes across more like a dictator and less like a leader,” Risser said. “The governor’s budget adjustment bill attempts to wipe away over 50 years of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. This decree will affect every hardworking public employee in the state -- every librarian, teacher, street department worker and public safety worker. These are our friends and neighbors; they are the people who make our communities function.”

Risser is right.

And his anger is right.

The governor is acting not as a servant of the people but as a dictator.