Whose side are they on?

Last week we discussed another Dane County judge sabotaging the reforms that gave Wisconsin its first honestly balanced state budget in about a decade. And before we knew it, the judge’s partisan allies were already piling up fresh examples of how “it’s never over.”

Unquestionably, the most destructive aspect of Judge Juan Colas’ decision is the rush it triggered by local government unions demanding to get new contract negotiations and binding agreements to stall Act 10 reforms, potentially for years after their constitutional validity has been affirmed by an appellate court.

It’s hard to imagine Colas didn’t realize this is exactly what Madison Teachers Incorporated and other public unions were banking on when they petitioned his court in the first place: “It’s never over,” as in, they’ll keep their tantrum going for as many years as they can fabricate reasons to sue.

People who live in Dane County probably deserve whatever comes their way in terms of leftist mind-rot. After all, they keep voting for it. Elsewhere, calls for new contracts mean a chance to see which local officials stand up for taxpayers and which ones have sold themselves to the unions.

There are plenty of the latter in places like Madison, Racine and Green Bay, where school boards did hurry-up contract extensions last year to evade the Walker reforms.  By contrast, districts that rejected those tactics saved money, preserved popular programs, expanded instructional opportunities, and even hired more teachers.

If local officials say yes to reopening contract negotiations they’re declaring their allegiance. It’s not to taxpayers, or the kids, or the teachers. It’s to the unions, against everyone else.

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Trying it their way, X

Nine times we’ve offered useful lessons in what happens to states where the default policy position is to address high taxes and higher spending by raising taxes for increased spending.

Welcome to Installment Ten, with a twist:  Until now, every self-destructive tax-and-spend policy we’ve examined has been freely chosen by individual state governments. This time, one state seeks to export its malpractice, forcing the consequences upon others.

In Illinois—where else?—state government has bought political support from public employee unions by promising benefits it can’t pay for, and is now in hock for well over $200 billion. Evidently, once you’ve gotten into this check-kiting racket, there’s no such thing as saying enough’s enough.

Last Thursday, the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) noted that Governor Pat Quinn, last seen spinning a special legislative session that did nothing to reform public employee benefits, had long since called for the federal government to bill all the other states for Illinois’ recklessness.

“In his fiscal year 2012 budget, Gov. Pat Quinn said that ‘significant long-term improvements’ to the state’s pension debt will come from, among other things, ‘seeking a federal guarantee of the debt.’”

It’s bad enough when individual states issue what amount to fraudulent contracts. It’s intolerable when they scheme to have their bad debts paid by others who have been honest in their own affairs.

It’s also standard procedure for the crew that’s in charge now in the worst debtor states and in Washington, D.C.  Get rid of them this fall, or bury your money in the back yard.

The “right” to remain silent

A strange story from Rhode Island caught our eye last week.

The school district of Cranston, Rhode Island is discontinuing “father-daughter” and “mother-son” social activities, after The American Civil Liberties Union intervened on behalf of a single mother who objected that her daughter would not be able to attend a father-daughter dance.

We don’t venture into so-called “social issues.”  In our view, that’s not what this is.

Activities or ideas that not long ago would have been entirely unexceptionable are more and more frequently targeted for suppression, often successfully. Note to ACLU: The sweep of targeting should set off alarm bells for anyone with even a passing interest in civil liberties.  Here are just a few examples:

This week, a major Republican campaign donor said the U.S. Justice Department is leaking confidential information about past inquiries into his casino business, apparently to discredit him and candidates he supports.

Several times in recent years, climate scientists and journalists who write about them have said it should be made a crime to say human-induced greenhouse emissions might not be the primary cause of temperature changes on Earth.

This summer, the Internal Revenue Service was pondering a crackdown on political speech by tax-exempt groups—with strong implications that Republican groups were attracting hostile attention by being more successful than Democrats.

An individual finds a family event awkward and local government responds by eliminating the event for everyone. The federal government intimidates individuals who donate to the wrong party. Taxpayer-supported college professors want to jail people for their opinions about the weather.

At every level, institutions entrusted with defending civil liberties operate with cold calculation to undermine them and they generally get away with it.  Practice free speech now, or lose it for good.

It’s never over

Governor Walker emailed supporters this past weekend saying “this isn’t over,” regarding a Madison judge’s decision to void parts of last year’s collective bargaining reforms.

The Governor announced the inevitable next step, saying, “Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”

As far as we can tell, Judge Juan Colas—unlike some Dane County judges who have blocked Walker reforms—did not sign the Walker recall petition. A former state legislative aide to a Liberal Democrat, former Justice Department attorney under Attorney General Jim Doyle, and a campaign contributor to Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Leftist Justice Louis Butler, and Doyle, Colas was appointed to the bench by Governor Doyle in 2008.

Siding with the Madison teachers’ union Friday, he struck down Act 10 provisions requiring a referendum on pay increases above the cost of living for school district and other municipal employees; limiting “fair share” dues to public safety and transit unions; limiting municipal collective bargaining to wage issues; and—the big one for union bosses—banning payroll deduction of union dues by government employers.

Colas said these provisions violate the rights of free speech and association because they apply to union members but not to non-union government employees. Since the state allows collective bargaining, he says, it can’t be conditional on forgoing privileges available to employees who don’t bargain collectively.

We read his 27-page opinion. Even if you assume, for argument’s sake, that an appeals court might agree, Colas himself provides an answer to the dilemma. On page 14 of his decision, he writes:

“It is undisputed that there is no constitutional right to collective bargaining.”

Bingo.

This time they mean it

Everybody knows “The School-Board Game.” It’s the playbook response of smug, local-government Liberals, to turn communities against citizens asking to control spending: “Okay, we’ll just have to eliminate band and football.”  Elsewhere along the government food chain, it’s “Okay, we’ll just have to lay off police and firefighters.”

Except in one New Jersey town, they’re serious.

According to the real-estate data service Neighborhood Scout, you’re almost eight times likelier to become a victim of violent crime in Camden, New Jersey, than anywhere in New Jersey as a whole. The Camden Police must keep busy, right?

Well, yes…but the city can’t afford them.

Camden is eliminating its police department and entrusting public safety functions to a new metro division of county police. Slightly fewer than half the current Camden cops will be transferred to county employment.

You’ve probably guessed why this is happening but we’ll tell you anyway. Officials say the change is needed to get Camden out from under collective bargaining agreements it can’t sustain, and that it will actually increase the number of officers on the streets.

Friday’s Wall Street Journal reported that police layoffs and budget problems have led the city to impose a curfew—now under court challenge—on most businesses, forcing 11 p.m. closures to curb loitering by young people involved in criminal activity.

The county’s new Metro Division will have a budget of about $65 million, which the Journal reports is close to what Camden spends on its police force now, but reducing collectively-bargained benefits will free about $18 million of that amount—an astonishing 27 percent—to hire additional officers.

Job-related benefits are great—until they force employers to start shedding the jobs themselves.

The assault on ballot integrity

Recent weeks have seen continued efforts by the Obama administration to overturn requirements lawfully enacted by several states to prevent election fraud. The U.S. “Justice” Department is obsessed with preventing enforcement of voter identification laws in Pennsylvania, Texas, and elsewhere.

They haven’t come after Wisconsin—yet—because they haven’t needed to: Officials based in the banana republic of Dane County, both elected and appointed, are pursuing a shameless strategy of running out the clock, to preserve vote-stealing opportunities for November.

The latest iteration of this strategy came last Thursday as the head of the laughably-named Government Accountability Board (GAB) urged the state Supreme Court NOT to resolve the constitutionality of Voter ID until after the November elections.

There’s some unintentional humor in the Journal Sentinel story linked above. One example is the statement that Voter ID advocates are Republicans [read: mean, bigoted], while the GAB [made up of Democrats retired from the judiciary] is “nonpartisan.” Another is GAB head Kevin Kennedy’s ludicrous statement that there won’t be time to train election workers in the acceptable forms of ID.

The law hasn’t changed, so is Kennedy admitting election workers weren’t properly trained for the February primary?  Maybe he’s just hoping we’ve forgotten Voter ID was enforced for that election without infringing voter rights.

Liberals insist fraudulent voting by people falsely identifying themselves simply doesn’t happen. Among the reasons we don’t buy that are the people who have served jail time in Wisconsin for systematic efforts to register voters who didn’t even exist. Think ACORN, 2008.

But suppose Liberals were right, and nobody ever tried to impersonate another voter or use a bogus identity. Would that make it a bad idea to require that voters credibly identify themselves?

It’s still working

Despite job creation stifled by federal tax and regulatory policies, Wisconsin has produced more good news and fewer disappointments since Governor Walker’s reforms were enacted last year.

The latest good news came in two announcements last week.

Last Wednesday the Department of Revenue announced that tax collections during fiscal year 2011-12 exceeded last spring’s projections by more than $126 million. State law requires half the amount to be held in a “rainy day” fund, which will roughly double in size with the $63 million transfer.

The Department of Administration will close the books on FY2011-12 with a report next month, and if it shows spending in line with earlier projections, the two-year budget period will end with a $274 million surplus.

Not bad for a bunch of guys who entered office 21 months ago facing a $3.6 billion deficit.

Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance detailed its findings that the year-to-year increase in property taxes averaged just 0.2 percent statewide for 2012, the smallest increase since 1997.

Property taxes levied by school districts actually declined by a full one percent. The decrease was the first in six years.

By discarding belligerence toward private enterprise and the determination to squeeze taxpayers ever harder, Wisconsin got itself on a sound footing. The whole country now has a chance to do the same.