May 04, 2012 11:59 PM GMT
Since Mr. Walker's reforms went into effect, the doom and gloom scenarios have failed to materialize. Property taxes in the state were down 0.4% in 2011, the first decline since 1998. According to Chief Executive magazine, Wisconsin moved up four more places this year to number 20 in an annual CEO survey of the best states to do business, after jumping 17 spots last year.
The Governor's office has estimated that altogether the reforms have saved Badger State taxpayers more than $1 billion, including $65 million in changes in health-care plans, and some $543 million in local savings documented by media reports. According to the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute, Mayor Barrett's city of Milwaukee saved $19 million on health-care costs as a direct result of Mr. Walker's reforms. Awkward turtle.
Some of the good news has been in the schools, because districts have been able to avoid teacher layoffs and make ends meet because of flexibility created by the changes. In the Brown Deer school district, savings created by pension and health-care contributions from employees allowed the school to prevent layoffs and save some $800,000 for taxpayers.
In Fond du Lac, school board president Eric Everson says the district saved $4 million as a result of last year's reforms, including $2 million from the changes in employee contributions to their pensions.
Another 52 schools across the state saved an average of $220 per student thanks to the ability to introduce competitive bidding for health insurance, rather than automatically going through WEA Trust, the favored provider of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. If the savings are even half as large as the Governor's surveys indicate, they are still enormous.
All of this is making an impression on Wisconsin voters. According to a Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday, only 12% of Wisconsin voters say "restoring collective bargaining rights" is their priority, which explains the Democratic decision to fight on other issues.