The inmates who want to run the asylum

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Union leaders are asking Democratic candidates for governor to veto the next state budget if it doesn’t restore collective bargaining for public workers and one leading candidate – Kathleen Falk – has agreed, participants in the private meetings say.

The plan, which could lead to shortages or even layoffs in government if it doesn’t succeed, is a key strategy that union leaders are considering for undoing Gov. Scott Walker’s repeal last year of most collective bargaining for public employees. Falk, the former Dane County executive, has committed to restoring collective bargaining in the next state budget and vetoing the budget if those provisions come out, while at least three other candidates including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said they wouldn’t commit to any one strategy to accomplish that.

The other candidate running, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D–Alma), and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett agree to the unions’ aim without taking Falk’s surrender pledge. One candidate not running makes the most sense, though:

Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), who briefly considered running against Walker in a recall election, said that he was asked by leaders of public employee unions if he would veto any state budget that didn’t restore collective bargaining.

“I said I could not make that promise and I did not think any serious candidate for governor could or should make that commitment,” Cullen said of a veto of the state budget. “It’s a $60 billion document.”

Cullen noted that the state budget also deals with other key priorities for voters such as health care, education and taxes. Cullen said Republicans would be unlikely to agree to restoring collective bargaining in the budget, setting up a potential stalemate that could drag on for months like the state budget standoff in 2007.

Unless voters change their minds in November as completely as they did in November 2010, would-be governor Falk will have nothing to veto:

“I cannot see a scenario under which Assembly Republicans would capitulate to big labor bosses. The fact that they are exacting concessions out of a would-be candidate is the biggest threat to democracy, not the (collective bargaining repeal),” [Rep. Robin] Vos said.

And the union demand is misguided anyway, because …

The current two-year state budget runs through June 30, 2013. Vos noted that unlike some states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin would not be without a budget if a new one isn’t passed by then. Instead, the state would continue to operate under the provisions of the current 2011-’13 budget.

Vos said that would have some advantages for Republicans, since there could be no tax or spending increases as long as the current budget remains in place.

Still, this is very revealing, both about the off-the-charts selfishness of the unions (whose ranks should be reduced by several thousand in the 2013–15 state budget) and about their anointed candidate. Falk hasn’t been a candidate for one month, and already she’s announced she’ll do whatever the unions want. As The Mad Conservative puts it:

I always thought when a politician promised a vote/veto on a particular bill it was called “pay for play” and was a felony in the State of Wisconsin. … If this doesn’t convince the rest of the state that the Democrats in the State are bought and paid for, I don’t know what will.

Even liberals who hate Walker see what a monumentally bad move this is on the parts of Falk and Da Union — for instance, Exit 142A to Mad City:

If the report is accurate, then one of two things will now occur:  One, Kathleen Falk will not be the candidate of the Democratic Party in any gubernatorial recall election that may be ordered.  Two, many weeks of hard effort by folks all over the state to gather recall petitions will be flushed right down the toilet drain. …

What I believe motivated most people to seek recall was the type of political brinksmanship from the right that saw meaningless and short public hearings on important issues of health care accessibility, the slashing of K-12 and secondary education budgets without carefully considering alternatives, open meeting violations, late night votes where the minority party wasn’t given the time of day, and the demonizing of teachers and other public workers as greedy malcontents.

Now, because 1,000,000 signatures were gathered with the help of union members, the unions have decided the time is ripe for them to engage in brinkmanship from the left.  Politics isn’t tiddlywinks, so the saying goes, and for some ill-conceived reason, the unions think that now is the time to publicly demonstrate that the recall effort was, in fact, all about them.

I signed a recall petition.  I have written (admittedly in a less than artful, often sophomoric fashion) about the political scene in Wisconsin since the end of last February.  I detest much of the policy changes that have been put in place by the Republicans since January of last year.  But if Kathleen Falk wins the nomination to oppose Scott Walker in a recall election after making a pledge to veto the state budget if it does not restore collective bargaining, then barring Walker’s criminal indictment, I will  walk whistling into my polling station and cast my ballot for him.  I do not intend to replace him with a candidate who has made a promise to put at risk senior citizens, people in need of medical assistance, the university system, and public support of K-12 education, in order to play brinksmanship games on behalf of unions with a legislature that will almost certainly still be Republican in at least one house.  I can’t imagine anything that the unions and Falk could do that would make the Republican Party happier, short of coming out in favor of polygamy or Sharia law,  than to have entered into the backroom bargain being reported today.  A devoutly dumb miscalculation.

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