Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s 53–46 percent victory over Milwaukee’s Democratic mayor, Tom Barrett, in Tuesday’s recall election is the Proposition 13 of the 21st century. In 1978, California’s famous property-tax-cut referendum ignited the supply-side tax-relief movement. Similarly, Walker’s win will encourage elected officials to demand that taxpayer-funded government employees earn realistic wages and pay their fair share for benefits. Likewise, Walker’s triumph should stiffen politicians’ spines so that they insist that government-union bosses live by the same rules as the rest of us.
Tuesday’s humiliating loss for the government workers’ unions is just the latest setback in their hard-fought but futile campaign to foil the reforms that Walker promised to implement if elected. After screaming themselves hoarse in Madison for weeks, the unions got serious and tried to remove a reform-friendly Wisconsin-supreme-court justice in order to overturn Walker’s collective-bargaining restrictions and other measures. The voters did not cooperate.
The government-union bosses tried to unseat nine state senators who supported Walker’s agenda. Again voters didn’t agree.
And, for months, government-employee unions pumped some $7.6 million (largely from mandatory dues), countless volunteer hours, and immeasurable amounts of prestige into sending Walker to the locker room. Once more, Wisconsinites refused to cooperate.
A swing and a miss, strike three!
(And, yes, Walker’s supporters spent some $17 million in voluntarily collected funds.)
Far from retiring him, Scott Walker’s union foes have catapulted him to national prominence. Veteran activist and direct-mail pioneer Richard A. Viguerie calls Walker “the conservative movement’s new leader.” As Viguerie wrote Wednesday:
In a blue state, Governor Walker has shown establishment Republicans, including Mitt Romney and the Capitol Hill Republicans, that a bold conservative agenda is a political winner. Taking on the public sector unions and winning the battle to roll back the size and cost of government have made Scott Walker the leader conservatives have been looking for, whether he wants the role or not.
Peter Hannaford, a long-time adviser to Ronald Reagan, notes on the American Spectator’s website that Californians on Tuesday also cried “Uncle!” at the government-workers’ unions and their statist enablers:
San Jose voters passed Measure B by 71-to-29 percent. In San Diego, they endorsed Proposition B by 67-to-33 percent. In recent years both cities had been forced to cut back on libraries, recreation centers, and fire and police services in the face of galloping pension liabilities. San Diego saw its annual contribution to pensions go from $43 million in 1999 to $231 [million] this year, soaking up 20 percent of the city’s budget. In San Jose, it went from $73 million in 2001 to $245 million this year — equal to 27 percent of the budget. . . . It began to look as if the taxpayers were working for their own employees.