6 posts • Page 1 of 1
Wisconsin and San Jose voters prove that the Republican (Tea) Party has succeeded in their assault on public employees and their pensions. They have succeeded in their efforts to make the pension-envious public support their agenda to destroy police, fire and all public employee pensions and collective bargaining.
If you want to worry about something serious in this job, then worry about what this state government, with the full support of the voters, our neighbors, the people we help, will do to the FRS Pension System and all public employee pensions in Florida.
What we have worked for our entire working careers is threatened by the lies of the politicians who want to give the money from our pensions to their corporate friends and supporters. They will do this with the full support and assistance of the jealous public who exclaim, "I don't have a fat pension, why should those cops and firefighters".
The victories in Wisconsin and San Jose (and other cities and states) inspires and encourages the deceiptful politicians to move faster, and cut deeper to eliminate our pensions.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spent a record $63 million of out of state money to survive yesterdays recall election. After he eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public employees, resulting in this recall challenge, he is now empowered by the citizens to continue his assault on public employees and their pensions.
Why Scott Walker won the Wisconsin recall
By Chris Cillizza, Published: June 5
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) escaped a recall effort championed by organized labor and touted by many within both parties as a preview of the fall presidential campaign in the Badger State.
How much — or little — Walker’s victory tells us about the state of play heading into the fall election remains an open question that won’t be easily answerable for days or even weeks (or months).
What we can answer — or come close to answering — is why Walker won. We put that question to a number of Democratic and Republican strategists in the final days of the recall campaign and, out of those conversations, developed a clear image of what went right for the incumbent — or, as accurately, wrong for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) — that led to tonight’s result.
It’s always important to remember that no win/loss in politics is ever (or, at least, very rarely) attributable to a single factor and so all of the reasons we list below worked together to ensure that Walker won and Barrett didn’t.
* The Democratic primary: To hear those who worked in the trenches of the recall tell it, the fact that Democrats had a contested primary between Barrett and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk bears considerable responsibility for Walker’s victory.
Not only did the primary take place less than a month before the general recall election but organized labor spent millions in support of Falk (and against Barrett), spending that many Democrats believe weakened the eventual nominee. Democratic pollsters insisted that Walker was languishing in the early spring but rebounded as Barrett and Falk fought amongst themselves in the primary.
* Money: As of Monday, more than $63 million has been spent on the recall fight with Walker and his conservative allies vastly outspending Barrett and other Democratic-aligned groups.
Walker himself had raised in excess of $30 million for the recall campaign while Barrett collected just under $4 million.
Being outspent 10-1 (or worse) is never a recipe for success in a race. Democrats cried foul over Walker’s exploitation of a loophole that allowed him to collect unlimited contributions prior to the official announcement of the recall in late March. Of course, Democrats also pushed the recall and Walker played by the rules of the game — making what he did strategically smart rather than underhandedly nefarious.
* 2010: There was considerable internal discussion and disagreement between Washington and Wisconsin Democrats (and organized labor) about whether to push for a recall election this summer or wait until 2014 for a chance to unseat Walker. (Washington Democrats broadly favored the latter option, Wisconsin Democrats and labor the former).
As the recall played out, two things became clear: 1) There were almost no one undecided in the race and 2) those few souls who were undecided tended to resist the recall effort on the grounds that Walker had just been elected in 2010.
The sentiment among those undecided voters, according to several Democrats closely monitoring the data, was that while they didn’t love Walker they thought he deserved a full term before passing final judgment on how he was performing.
That Democrats nominated Barrett — the same man who Walker had defeated in the 2010 general election — added to the sense among independents and undecided voters that this was primarily a partisan push to re-do a race in which they didn’t like the final result.
* Milwaukee: As is true in any state that has a single dominant city — in terms of population, profile etc. — there is resentment toward that city from everyone who doesn’t live in it.
Barrett’s ties to Milwaukee, therefore, wound up hurting him far worse than many Democrats expected at the start of the contest. And, Walker smartly cast Milwaukee not only as lagging the overall economic recovery of the state but also as badly crime-riddled in television ads.
The contrast Walker effectively drove between the general direction of the state and that of the city of Milwaukee played into fears/doubts/dislikes that many people already had about the “Land of Plenty” (with apologies to Alice Cooper).
* Walker’s focus: Say what you will about his policies but Walker is a damn good campaigner and, from the moment he knew a recall election was likely, he did everything he could to ensure he came out on top.
From fundraising to moderating his image in the wake of the collective bargaining war, Walker understood from very early on the threat that the recall posed to him. Unlike other politicians ( Dick Lugar, we are looking at you) who got caught off guard by the forces aligned against him, Walker was ready and waiting. And it paid off.
Wisconsin result could inspire further attacks on unions
By Nick Carey
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker's recall election victory and the vote of two California cities to curb the pensions of city workers may embolden political leaders across the country to take on labor unions, experts said on Wednesday.
Walker on Tuesday survived a recall election forced by liberal critics opposed to his bold moves to limit the powers of public sector unions in a Midwestern state that could be a battleground in the November 6 presidential election.
Voters in two of California's biggest cities, San Diego and San Jose, on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported cutting pensions of city government workers to save money.
"This is a watershed moment, a historic moment," said Gary Chaison, professor of labor relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
"They (unions) gambled heavily and they lost heavily. It's a real problem for them," Chaison added.
Tuesday's results also could spell trouble for President Barack Obama's Democratic party, which is dependent on labor unions for votes, financial support and on-the-ground organization. The White House downplayed the notion that the Wisconsin outcome could foreshadow problems for Obama in the November election against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
"I certainly wouldn't read much into yesterday's result beyond its effect on who's occupying the governor's seat today in Wisconsin," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama headed for San Francisco.
Walker, who has emerged as a hero to American conservatives for taking on the unions and then surviving their recall efforts, said Romney will remain an underdog, particularly in Wisconsin, where Obama won by 14 percentage points in 2008.
"But I think anyone looking at the results last night would also acknowledge that it's now competitive in Wisconsin," Walker said in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday.
Unions and liberal activists forced the Wisconsin recall election over a law championed by Walker curbing collective bargaining powers for public sector workers. The state's Republican-controlled legislature passed it last year soon after Walker took office.
Walker made no apologies for going after union collective bargaining rights, but said he should have spent more time talking about it before he acted. "I was so eager to fix it, I didn't talk about it," Walker said. "Most politicians talk about it, they just never fix it."
Walker won by a larger margin than he had over the same Democratic challenger he beat two years ago, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
'TAKE A STAND'
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement that while the Walker recall effort fell short, the state's Senate has flipped back to the Democrats, which could put a break on Walker's agenda.
Democrats had tried to recall four state senators who voted with Walker and needed to oust just one to take a majority in the chamber. Three of the Republicans survived but a fourth was trailing by 779 votes in complete unofficial returns. The Republican senator had not conceded on Wednesday, saying there were still absentee ballots to count.
The Walker victory stands in contrast to the big union triumph in Ohio last November with the defeat of a law that sharply reduced public worker collective bargaining rights in that state.
Marick Masters, director of labor studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, said the difference was that in Ohio the unions went after a law and in Wisconsin they went after a person. "The political battle became highly personalized in Wisconsin," Masters said.
Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California Berkeley, said the results did not mean a wholesale assault on union collective bargaining rights nationwide. "Some legislators (in other states) will try to go down the same path but they may find it very expensive to do so," Shaiken said.
The Wisconsin outcome was the latest evidence of a growing partisan climate in American politics that values confrontation over compromise and has led to gridlock in Washington.
The votes in California and Wisconsin also suggest that some voters have grown impatient with reports of union benefit excesses and will support efforts to rein them in to balance budgets.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Republicans will try to replicate their victory in Wisconsin in the November election. No Republican presidential candidate has won Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
"Wisconsin Democrats now head into November dispirited and in disarray, while Republicans remain strong and organized, with momentum on our side," Priebus said.
Walker has not emerged completely unscathed. He still faces an investigation into alleged corruption during his time as Milwaukee County executive before he became governor.
(Additional reporting By James Kelleher, Brendan O'Brien and Nick Carey in Wisconsin and Donna Smith and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Will Dunham)
All precincts counted: San Jose passes pension reform
By John Woolfolk email@example.com San Jose Mercury News
San Jose voters Tuesday handed Mayor Chuck Reed a crucial victory with his nationally watched pension reform measure passing by a decisive margin.
It was a big night for pension reform, with a San Diego measure also winning by a wide margin. City employee unions who argued the measures are illegal were expected to challenge both in court.
But voter approval of San Jose's Measure B puts Reed and the city in the vanguard of efforts to shrink taxpayer bills for generous government pension plans. Passage also strengthen's Reed's hand as he and his City Council allies work to enact the measure's reforms with a vote next week to reduce pensions for new hires.
"I want to thank the voters of San Jose for their commitment to fiscal reform and to creating a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren," Reed said as returns were coming in. He added in an interview that he expected a big win after talking with residents around the city and called it a victory not only for taxpayers who have watched city services trimmed as pension expenses surged, but also for employees whose retirement plans will be more sustainable with the changes.
The San Jose and San Diego votes drew interest around the country as a gauge of voter support for reforming pensions at the ballot box. Gov. Jerry Brown's pension reform proposals have gained little headway in the Legislature.
Voters like Howard Delano of Willow Glen were tired of watching their city shovel more and more tax money into government pensions far more generous than their own retirement.
"It's out of control," Delano, 60, said after dropping off his ballot. "Nobody gives me a pension."
But Yolanda Cruz, president of the city's largest union, called the measure "an unfortunate way to spend taxpayer money fighting it in court because we will definitely take it there. Taxpayer money would be better used getting services back."
Pension reform advocates saw the San Jose measure as a key test of how far cities can go in reducing pensions for current employees.
Unions argue that decades of court decisions effectively hold that government employers may increase but never decrease current employee pension benefits without offering something comparable in return.
Most pension reform around the state, including the San Diego measure and one approved in San Francisco last year, change benefits for new hires. But pension reform advocates and a state watchdog panel argue cutting only new hire benefits isn't enough to solve the cost problem.
Reed's Measure B goes further than other efforts in tackling current employee pension costs. He said that as a charter city San Jose has the authority to reduce pension benefits not only for future hires, but for current employees' remaining years on the job. If courts disagree, Measure B calls for the city to take the equivalent savings in pay cuts.
Among changes called for in Measure B:
•Current employees keep pension credits already earned but must pay up to 16 percent more of their salary to continue that benefit or choose a more modest and affordable plan for their remaining years on the job.
•Limit retirement benefits for future hires by requiring them to pay half the cost of a pension.
•Suspend current retirees' 3 percent yearly pension raises up to five years if the city declares a fiscal crisis.
•Discontinue "bonus" pension checks to retirees.
•Require voter approval for future pension increases.
•Change disability retirement with the aim of limiting it to those whose injuries prevent them from working.
Reed proposed Measure B a year ago after his efforts -- from championing new tax measures to imposing 10 percent pay cuts on city employees -- failed to erase budgetary red ink that has soaked the city ledger for a decade. Though the city projects a modest $9 million surplus in the upcoming budget, thanks largely to the pay cuts and hundreds of job cuts, a $22.5 million shortfall is expected the year after.
A key deficit driver has been the yearly pension bill that has more than tripled from $73 million to $245 million in a decade, far outpacing the 20 percent revenue growth and gobbling more than a fifth of the city's general fund. A city audit blamed the rise on a combination of benefit increases, flawed cost assumptions and investment losses.
City audits and news reports also assailed a system in which the city's police and firefighters take tax-free disability retirements at rates far exceeding those in other big cities.
Government employee unions led by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spent more than $440,000 toward defeating Measure B. Business and taxpayer groups spent more than $682,000 toward its passage.
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346.
San Jose unions sue to block pension reform
By John Woolfolk Staff writer Contra Costa Times
San Jose police officers and firefighters Wednesday made good on promises to legally challenge San Jose's voter-approved pension reform with a pair of lawsuits filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
San Jose voters Tuesday approved Measure B by a nearly 70-percent margin. Mayor Chuck Reed championed the measure to control pension costs that have soared from $73 million to $245 million in a decade and are projected to continue rising, outpacing revenues and forcing the city to cut staffing and services to residents to cover the bill.
But unions maintained the measure violates court rulings that prohibit government employers from reducing workers' pension benefits during their career without offering something comparable in return.
"Measure B is unlawful and unconstitutional," said Christopher Platten, an attorney for the firefighters. "Measure B impairs promises made to current and retired San Jose employees for decades."
The unions asked the court to block implementation of Measure B's provisions while the case is decided.
"If we lose, so be it, but we'll at least try to fight it," said San Jose Police Officers' Association President Jim Unland.
Reed said he was not surprised by the union lawsuits. San Jose preemptively filed suit in federal court Tuesday seeking a ruling affirming Measure B's legality.
"This is California," Reed said. "Nothing important happens without litigation."
Reed was confident Measure B will withstand legal challenges because the state constitution and city charter grant its elected leaders authority over employee compensation.
"The California constitution grants charter cities complete authority over employee compensation, and our own charter provides that the council can from time to time amend or change any retirement plan," Reed said. "So I think we're in a strong position on the facts and the law."
Measure B does not change pension benefits employees and retirees earned to date. The measure limits retirement benefits for new hires and requires current employees to either pay up to 16 percent of their salary more for their current pension plan or switch to one that is less generous. It also would allow the city to temporarily suspend cost-of-living pension increases for retirees in a fiscal emergency.
The provisions affecting current employees would not take effect for another year to allow time for courts to weigh in. City officials next week will consider implementing reduced pensions for new hires except for police and firefighters, for whom that will be decided in arbitration. City officials this week also plan to ask federal authorities to approve a reduced pension plan current workers could choose for their remaining years rather than pay more for the existing plan.
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346.
An accurate title would be: "Public employee unions in San Jose, San Diego and Wisconsin bought off politicians with votes and screwed the taxpayers".
Good to see that the taxpayers are finally waking up and standing up to the unions.
LEOs are pretty good at screwing themselves by supporting GOP candidates.
Absolutely correct, Buzz!
It still amazes me how many brothers support politicians who are intent at taking away what we have worked so hard to earn. (While filling their own pockets and the pockets of their big corporate contributors).
Which proves the point that public employees' votes are easily bought off with unfunded and unafordable pension benefit promises usually made by Democrats. That's how San Diego and San Jose got in financial trouble. Vote for me because I'll give you more. It amounts to nothing less than political bribery on the taxpayers' dime.
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