While Republicans in Congress are falling short of their promise to cut at least $100 billion in spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Republican governors are starting to address the root cause of many of our states teetering on becoming the American equivalent of Greece. They are changing unsustainable terms for benefits and pensions of public employees.
Chris Christie of New Jersey has become just about the most popular politician in the country during his first year as governor by pursuing austerity in the state budget. Now, a new crop of governors including Rick Scott in Florida and John Kasich in Ohio are following similar paths. Rick Scott has turned down billions of dollars in federal taxpayer money to subsidize building of a high speed rail line which would ultimately cost the Florida taxpayers billions and for which there is no demonstrated economic need.
But the fastest rising star among the new governors is Scott Walker of Wisconsin whose challenge to public employee unions sparked protests by government employees in Madison, the state capital. All fourteen Democrats in the state senate have fled the state in order to deny Republicans a quorum to vote on Walker’s proposed bill. President Obama has again entered the debate on a state issue by attacking the side voted into office last November and defending public employee unions. Governor Walker’s response to Obama has been that the president should be focused on the deficit in Washington. Effectively he told the president to mind his own business.
Here is Governor Walker explaining what he is doing (via The Right Scoop):
Walker is standing by his proposal which still offers terms to public employees more generous than those enjoyed by most employees in the private sector. He also insists that there have to be some limits on the public unions’ collective bargaining rights so that state and local governments can meet the demands of the voters of Wisconsin and eliminate government spending they cannot afford.
We desperately need in Washington the clarity on the issues and resolve to address them that governors like Scott Walker and Chris Christie bring at the state level. Will Republican leaders in Congress join their freshman colleagues who were elected with Tea Party support and draw a firm line on cutting federal spending in every area including entitlements and defense?