And Now for Something Different

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a commentary contrasting the tough budget introduced by Governor Walker with the soft, easy on-the-eyes budgets we’ve seen out of Washington.  I came down clearly on the side of the tough, honest Walker budget.  We (I) have been advocating this for years.  I closed that piece with the admonition that, “My children and my children’s children hope that we choose correctly.”

The next day I heard from one of those children, my son.  He didn’t think much of what his dad had written and was not pleased that I had invoked the family.  Fair enough.  So, reverting to fatherly form, I gave him a chore to do – put down on paper the argument he has with his dad and with Governor Walker.  Here is what he wrote back.

-George Lightbourn

Why Doesn’t Scott Walker Care?

Readers of WPRI’s commentary know George Lightbourn to be the Institute’s President. Others know him as the former Secretary of DOA. I know him as Dad.

While we share many common interests, politics isn’t one of them. I am particularly frustrated with his most recent commentary; namely that in the current budget conflict, Governor Walker, is on the correct side of the debate. While I disagree with that assumption, I am more concerned with a different question: Why doesn’t Governor Walker care?

I think the point-of-view from a middle class worker, whose family will be directly affected by the Walker budget, should be shared with the WPRI audience. In recent weeks, I have been to the Capitol a handful of times during my lunch hour and have attended parts of the large weekend rallies with my family. I have tried my best to stay informed on this issue, but my involvement has been limited, mostly because I am busy working and raising a family; probably similar to most Wisconsin families.

There are a few main reasons why I do not agree with Governor Walker’s budget and that lead to me wonder why he doesn’t care about so many Wisconsinites.

1. Collective Bargaining Is Not a Budget Issue

Scott Walker’s mission to rid Wisconsin’s public sector of its unions is simply not necessary to fix Wisconsin’s budget deficit. When it comes to cutting employee compensation and costs, collective bargaining works. I know this first hand as I have been a public employee for five years and, although my performance reviews tell me I do exceptional work, I have yet to receive a pay increase. (These are tough times. I get it.) Due to furloughs (agreed to by my union), I have instead taken a pay cut. We all know that collective bargaining is not a fiscal issue. By ending 50 years of public sector collective bargaining the governor simply wants to take away a large funding source from the opposing political party, while not caring about how much it hurts the families of our state’s public workers.

2. Debate and Compromise Are Not Dirty Words

The reason I and many others cheered the 14 Senate Democrats when they left for Illinois was that it was the only way to slow the process and give time to actually debate the budget repair bill’s 144 pages. I would have rather that this bill, with so many pieces and affecting so many people, had been debated in the standard public manner. The governor thought it was OK for the “debate” to take only four days. Really? Once the unions agreed to the fiscal concessions in the bill, why was he not willing to compromise? The Governor says he needs to provide local governments tools. I say Governor Walker is an ideologue and has removed compromise altogether.  He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

3. Share the Pain

Yes, the Walker budget will make many Wisconsinites feel quite a bit more pain than we have been used to feeling. But why can’t someone making $300,000 share some of the pain that a person making $30,000 will suffer? WPRI consistently calls on the political leadership in Wisconsin to develop a sound, long-term budget. Fixing a budget deficit solely by cutting spending is just as reckless as it would be to only increase taxes. There must be balance. How many private businesses address their down years by only cutting expenses without having a strategy to increase revenues? I know this kind of tax-talk is unheard of on the pages of WPRI, but raising taxes distributes the pain to everyone without placing the burden solely on public employees. I’m pretty sure Scott Walker still doesn’t care.

I hope Governor Walker can find some way to listen to opinions different than his own and keep Wisconsin a state with a great quality of life that so many enjoy and call home. Maybe the Governor will decide to have an actual debate about the actual budget that affects actual families. Unfortunately, I just don’t think Scott Walker cares. Do you?

Steve Lightbourn