Wisconsin Voters: Retain Scott Walker or you could end up like Illinois
I am one green with envy Illinoisan as I look north across the border to the State of Wisconsin, and see the fiscal and structural reforms put in place by one courageous governor. Not only are these reforms returning the state to fiscal sanity, but they are improving the well-being of its citizens and spurring the growth of its businesses.
Over the course of the last several weeks, we’ve learned property taxes have gone down for the first time since 1998, the taxpayers are saving close to $1 billion as school districts are now free to re-negotiate labor contracts, and whoa! union membership has dropped from 65,000+ to a little over 28,000, now that its members are no longer forced to pay union dues. Guess an additional $1000 or so a year is proving incentive enough to thousands of families. Still even more good news about Wisconsin’s economic health was featured in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial:
According to a survey released last week by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, 62% of employers in the state say they plan to add employees over the next six months, an increase from 53% a year ago and 44% in December. Overall, the survey reported, 73% predicted moderate to good growth at their own companies and more than half said they planned to expand in the state in the next two years—the highest rate in a decade.
Meanwhile, down here in Illinois, the state pols and the luckless taxpayers are dealing with $83 billion in what has been called the one of the worst funded public pension systems. Recent attempts at reform were begun in April when the Governor introduced his bill in April that at least had some teeth:
- Employees would have to contribute more to their pensions
- The retirement age would move back to 67
- COLA in retirement would be reduced
But that bill was countered House Speaker, Illinois boss Michael Madigan (the real Governor) who introduced his own bill that would keep the COLA portion of the Governor’s bill, but not raise the retirement age, nor require additional employee contributions. Further, the Madigan plan would shift the pension funding of educators back to the school districts to fund. As if my property tax isn’t high enough as it is, thanks to all the irresponsible sweetheart deals that the school boards made over the years, when the burden for payment was shifted to the State.
In spite of Rep. Bost’s meltdown in the State capitol last week, pension reform went up in smoke, for now. As a state, we’re now faced with more potential credit downgrades, raising the cost of our borrowing, plus without the necessary reforms, we’re draining monies away from schools, and health and welfare funding for people who really need the assistance. The Springfield lawmakers need to take on Mike Madigan and his cronies and get tough on pension reform, as they did earlier with Medicaid reform to salvage the system. Otherwise, Illinois may go over the brink of insolvency.
Scott Walker took the courageous task of taking on the Wisconsin public employee unions and has turned his state around. If only Pat Quinn could find the gumption and backbone to do the same for Illinois.