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What Was Really Happening in Wisconsin


Turns out the blowhards on both ends of my radio dial never had a chance. Wisconsin Republicans were engaged in negotiations with the Fleebag Fourteen, but kept it quiet. The righties were willing to make compromises to get the fourteen back for a vote. And the lefties agreed. Several times. And several times, they betrayed their agreement:

The discussions on March 2, again in a McDonald’s, included the two moderate Democrats, the governor’s staff, and, importantly, Mark Miller, the Democratic leader. When the negotiations ended, Republicans once again believed their colleagues would be returning soon. Gilkes woke Walker up with a phone call at 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday to tell him that they had agreed on “the framework for a deal” that would be finalized in the coming days.

But as had been the case all week, the moment Republicans thought the homecoming was imminent, the story changed. State senator Chris Larson, a hard-left legislator, posted a message on his Facebook page saying the Democrats were staying away and claiming, implausibly, that the Journal had quoted his colleagues out of context.

If there were any question that the deal was dead, the Democratic leader dispelled it by issuing a letter Monday to Walker through the media. His missive called for a meeting near the Illinois-Wisconsin border—an absurd request given the regular negotiations that had been quietly taking place for a week. 

“He was trying to frame the debate as if we hadn’t been negotiating,” says one source close to Walker. “We’d been taking hits in the media for refusing to negotiate, and we never went public to push back on that so as to not jeopardize the progress we thought we were making. We knew then that Miller was being disingenuous.”

Lefty radio kept harping on the point that Walker (under orders from arch-villian David Koch) only wanted to bust the unions. The hosts insisted that the unions had conceded on the money points, and that removing the privilege of collective bargaining was pure malice.

Despite Walker repeatedly saying the collective bargaining point was to help local governments from going bankrupt—the lefties looped Walker soundbites—progressive radio only commented on the fact that it would have no effect on the Wisconsin State budget. It was an example of willful ignorance.

Democrats were accusing him of including the collective bargaining restrictions for no other reason than to weaken unions, saying the collective bargaining provisions had no fiscal impact. On the surface, separating the bills would seem to validate this criticism, although no one knows better than union bosses just how important a tool limiting collective bargaining would be to reducing expenditures on public employees. In fact, school districts and local governments could require changes to their employees’ health benefits only if collective bargaining were curtailed.

Breaking the unions, if it happens, appears to be a consequence of balancing budgets across all Wisconsin governments.

H/T: Chicago Boyz