Nearly a year and a half ago, then newly minted Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) instituted sweeping reforms to help ease his states $3.6 billion budget deficit. Part of this plan included a requirement for public service employees to make a reasonable contribution to their health plans and pensions.
While still much less than what most in the private sector would pay, this reform set off a nationwide firestorm, and arguably the first ‘occupation’ of 2011, as the teachers unions crowded into the capital building in Madison for nearly two straight weeks. The reforms were passed, and went into effect shortly after. The past six months have been a constant build up, as hundreds of thousands of signatures were rounded up in an attempt to force a recall vote for both Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.
Today is the day, and much to the utter shock of the unions and liberals in Wisconsin, Scott Walker is favored to win. If he does walk away with a victory, it could prove to be a devastating blow to unions not only in Wisconsin, but across the country. It would be a sign that progress can be made without funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of union bosses.
If Walker’s reforms had been an abysmal failure, then he would already be packing his bags; but that's not the case. Wisconsin is the best it has been in decades, and the governor has had a lot to do with it. Walker has helped to turn a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a $154 million surplus. Over 35,000 new jobs have been added since Walker's reforms. Property taxes were decreased for he first time in 12 years and the state has saved more than a billion dollars in spending.
Both Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) and Governor Pat Quinn (D-IL) would love to have Scott Walker's record. Both of their states are dealing with disastrous budget shortfalls, rising unemployment, and are raising taxes faster than George Clooney can put together another fundraiser for President Obama. Walker's progress even trumps that of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the nation's other prominent union-busting maverick.
Almost every poll shows Walker ready to beat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) today. The most recent PPP poll shows Walker leading Barrett by 3 points. Real Clear Politics average shows Walker ahead by 6.7 points.
Why, after all the protesting, and the promises of a guaranteed Walker recall for his daring to go after the unions, is Walker now poised to win? The answer is simple: Wisconsinites are feeling the effects of Walker's reforms. The more jobs become abundant and disposable income becomes noticeable, the better people feel about their state and its leadership. While six months ago people were unsure of how Walker’s union busting would work, it’s now apparent that it was the right thing to do.
Many democrats across the country were very wary about forcing a recall election, knowing that it could backfire horribly. President Obama has been noticeably absent during the final stages of this fight, only bothering to tweet his endorsement of Barrett.
If Walker does pull out a victory, it could send a shock to the Democratic Party. This was one election they believed they had in the bag. The Democratic Party is accustomed to the millions they receive from the unions. If after spending over a year and millions of dollars trying to dethrone this governor their efforts end up failing today, Democrats could find themselves facing similar efforts from a dozen other states fed up with having to send taxpayer money their way with little to show for it. If union membership were to decrease, it could dramatically effect how much money the DNC receives each year.
A Walker victory of over 5 or 6 points could even be a harbinger of doom for President Obama’s reelection effort. Wisconsin was considered to be a shoo-in. A big loss for the Democrats there could put the state in play for Romney, and begin the process of redefining what constitutes a swing state.
One thing is for sure. Scott Walker is going to win. For the first time in over 20 years, Wisconsin is on the rise. Thousands of hours of protests and millions of dollars cannot stop a message that has actually produced results.