There is perhaps no state more emblematic of the Republican wave we saw this election cycle than Wisconsin. Republicans flipped control of both chambers of the state legislature from the Democrats. They replaced liberal Democrat Jim Doyle with Governor-elect Scott Walker. And they knocked off Sen. Russ Feingold and now control the majority of the state's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Democratic Leadership in the legislature was not just relegated to minority status. Neither Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker or House Speaker Mike Sheridan will be returning next year at all. Both were defeated for re-election.
But that's not stopping Legislative Democrats and outgoing Gov. Doyle from sticking it to taxpayers and incoming Republican lawmakers one last time. Today, Leader Decker and Speaker Sheridan convened a lame duck session to ratify a number of public employee union contracts on their way out the door.
This is shameful. The state budget is $3.3 billion in the red, and voters elected Scott Walker and Republican majorities in the legislature to part ways with the Jim Doyle approach to budgeting. Gov. Walker will need maximum flexibility to deal with Wisconsin's overspending problem, and this sour grapes approach ties his hands significantly. More to the point, they are willfully ignoring the mandate voters gave Walker to fundamentally change the way state government does business.
This means paring down the government payroll and revisiting collective bargaining for public employees. It means reforming the way the state provides health and pension benefits to government workers. And most importantly, it means recognizing that spending, not revenue, is the problem in Wisconsin. Scott Walker acknowledged this when he signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and voters reaffirmed it when they elected him governor.
Rep. Rich Zipperer, ATR's Taxpayer Protection Caucus Chair in the Wisconsin House and incoming Senator, said as much in today's Waukesha Freeman:
Having been rejected by the voters, Governor Doyle, legislative leaders and the state unions have now cut a deal, one that they say is inconsequential and does little more than ratify the current state employee pay and benefit schedules. The lame-duck Legislature is scheduled to be in extraordinary session, a very rare occurrence, on Wednesday to vote on the contracts. What the lame-duck leaders fail to understand, however, is that the status quo is what is wrong with state government – and approving these contracts in a lame-duck session is a slap in the face to the will of the voters who cast their ballots just one month ago.
ATR came out in support of Governor-elect Walker and the incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader and House Speaker last week in calling for Democrats to hold off on a lame duck session. Instead, they opted to ignore the will of the voters and ram unnecessary and harmful union contracts through the legislature on their way out the door.