Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) wasn’t a household name across the U.S. when he won the midterm election, but he is now. Walker’s move to rein in employee costs for his state and the response by labor unions to mobilize the troops have made the governor a household name. Walker is facing a billion-dollar-plus money shortage, and his efforts to get teachers to pick up more of their pension and health insurance costs have spurred union outrage. Fact is, 45 states will run short in 2012, and most governors are looking for ways to balance the spending with the revenue.
New Jersey has already experienced some of what’s going on in Wisconsin. In Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, drew some pretty extreme rhetoric from public workers, mainly teachers.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said 45 states “are anticipating shortfalls” in the coming year, and CBPP published a list of states and estimated amounts they'll come up short. It's conceivable the actual figures will be higher.
Wisconsin faces a $1.8 billion shortage while New Jersey will run short by $10.5 billion. California will run short by $25.4 billion; New York by $9 billion. The total shortfall for all states is $124.7 billion.
Walker and Christie may be vilified by public workers and some media, but if public sector worker costs aren’t addressed, the day will come when the pensioner might not get that pension check he or she counted on. States, unlike the federal government, can’t print money when they need more.
Democrats haven’t helped to convince people something needs to be done about government debt in general. The former speaker of the US House is standing with the Wisconsin unions and the president appears sympathetic as well. Dems keep reminding us the protesters are “our neighbors” etc. No Dem ever said that about Tea Partiers, by the way.
The Daily Caller pointed out union largesse for Democrats—millions and millions in contributions to the liberal party. One group, the National Education Association, donated $2.3 million to Democrats in 2008 and another $2.2 million in 2010.
Governors can cut now or they can cut when the state-issued checks start bouncing. The downturn has finally hit at the government level, something private sector workers have dealt with for going on three years. There’s a money crunch on and no amount of protesting will change that fact.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Feb. 21, 2011)