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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wisconsin May Take an Ax to State Workers’ Benefits and Their Unions

From The New York Times:

Citing Wisconsin’s gaping budget shortfall for this year and even larger ones expected in the years ahead, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a sweeping plan on Friday to cut benefits for public employees in the state and to take away most of their unions’ ability to bargain.

The proposal by Mr. Walker, a Republican who was elected in November after pledging that he would get public workers’ compensation “into line” with everyone else’s, is expected to receive support next week in the State Legislature, where Republicans also won control of both chambers in the fall.

The prospect left union leaders, state and local employees and some Democrats stunned over the plan’s scope and what it might signal for public-sector unions in the state. Union leaders began planning rallies in Madison and contacting lawmakers, pressing them to reject the idea.

State leaders across the country have talked about solving budget woes with actions that in other climates might have been politically impossible: cutting the salaries and pensions of government workers and limiting the power of labor unions.

But the plan in Wisconsin, which faces a $137 million shortfall in the current budget and a gap in the billions for the coming cycle, is among the most far-reaching of such proposals to be delivered to lawmakers. Mr. Walker expects swift approval.

Among key provisions of Mr. Walker’s plan: limiting collective bargaining for most state and local government employees to the issue of wages (instead of an array of issues, like health coverage or vacations); requiring government workers to contribute 5.8 percent of their pay to their pensions, much more than now; and requiring state employees to pay at least 12.6 percent of health care premiums (most pay about 6 percent now).

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