I must ask, since stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees doesn't save any money, why were these rights stripped?
Until Wednesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans in the legislature insisted that collective bargaining rights needed to be stripped from public employees in order to save money and balance the budget. We've been saying all along that collective bargaining rights for public workers don't affect the budget, because legislators set the budget, not public workers.
The reason that the Wisconsin 14 were able to deny the vote by leaving the state is because bills which have a fiscal impact require three-fifths of the Wisconsin Senate to reach a quorum, the number of senators required to be present to conduct a vote. This number is one senator short of the total number of Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate. So, by leaving the state, the Wisconsin 14 used their last resort through constitutional means to prevent the vote on the budget repair bill. If the bill didn't have a fiscal impact, the Republicans could have voted on the bill themselves.
The Wisconsin 14 left the state, because they felt it was unnecessary and immoral to strip people's rights for nothing more than ideological and political reasons. The unions gave into the deep financial concessions in the bill within the first week of its introduction, adding further weight to the Democrats' argument. The only thing the Republicans needed to do to get the Democrats to come back and move forward was remove the unnecessary provisions that repeal collective bargaining rights for public workers from the bill. Then, the Wisconsin 14 had said they would vote on whatever resulted from the subsequent negotiations. So, it's obvious how the impasse could have been resolved, and in fact the Democrats proposed an alternative budget repair bill that saved more money than the Republicans' and retained everyone's rights. However, the Republicans refused to remove the repeal of their citizens' rights, citing the need to save money.
It was clear that the Republicans were dead-set on stripping rights from public workers. It was also clear that their argument for stripping these rights was based on the necessity to save money. If stripping public workers' rights to collectively bargain saves money, then it has a fiscal impact and requires a quorum of three-fifths of the Senate to vote on. The Republicans said it themselves. The Republicans were asked many times why they didn't separate out the truly non-fiscal collective bargaining provisions and vote on them without the Democrats, as they did Wednesday. Their response was always that they couldn't do it because it saves money and therefore has a fiscal impact.
Then, abruptly and after three weeks of stalemate, when it looked like the Republicans are about to acknowledge the majority of Wisconsinites, the Republicans held a meeting and declared that the collective bargaining provisions have no fiscal impact, removed the fiscal provisions from the budget repair bill, and then voted on the bill, all within a few minutes. This is the only way they could vote on the provisions without at least one of the Wisconsin 14 present. Well, they didn't need to do it so abruptly, but instead just by separating the non-fiscal collective bargaining policy provisions from the fiscal provisions. So the Republicans confirmed that stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers won't save money and admitted they were lying in just a few minutes. Now we know for certain, by legal means, that it's unnecessary to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers.
This question needs to be asked over and over until we get a straight answer. Unfortunately, I fear Wisconsin Republicans stripped away rights of most of its public workers for the benefit of the few very rich. Since collective bargaining rights for public employees don't affect the budget, why were their rights stripped?
Update: (April 21, 8:30am) Walker testified in front of the U.S. Congress on April 14th, and he was asked if stripping collective bargaining rights saved money. As reported by many including The CapTimes, Walker admitted, "It doesn't save any."
We already knew this, but it was nice for Walker to stop lying and admit it. However, we still don't know exactly why the Republicans voted for this bill. Since stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees "doesn't save any" money, why did the Republicans vote to strip those rights?
Update: (May 24, 2012) We now know that this was part of Walker's "Divide and Conquer" plan to eliminate all unions in Wisconsin, which he privately told to a Beloit billionaire heiress a month before releasing his so-called "budget repair bill."