We Are Broke, He Says

He isn’t a Texas Ranger (honorary or otherwise) but Walker, Wisconsin Governor is laying out the plain and simple facts:

Gov. Scott Walker said Friday that thousands of state workers would be laid off if the Legislature does not adopt his budget fix that cuts public worker benefits and takes away almost all union bargaining rights from public workers.

A Walker aide confirmed that the benefit reductions would cost the average state worker thousands of dollars a year, or roughly 8% of his or her salary.

All take some cuts, or some get entirely cut. What’s not to understand?

Walker called government workers “good and decent public servants” and said he wanted to end the practice of forcing them to take eight unpaid furlough days a year. But he said the state had no money or time to bargain with unions over the benefits changes.

“I don’t have anything to negotiate,” Walker said. “We are broke in this state. We have been broke for years. People have ignored that for years, and it’s about time somebody stood up and told the truth. The truth is: We don’t have money to offer. We don’t have finances to offer. This is what we have to offer.”

It is a wise man who understands that it is morally wrong to bargain with something which one does not have.

Walker said that without what he called modest changes, the state would have to lay off from 5,500 to 6,000 state employees and local governments might have to make a similar number of layoffs.

But Democrats and union officials rejected that notion, saying that most public workers already make less than similar workers in the private sector in total compensation. They criticized Walker for adding to the upcoming two-year budget shortfall with $117 million in recent tax cuts.

If most public workers in Wisconsin “make less than similar workers in the private sector in total compensation” then Wisconsin is most assuredly bucking the national trend. In fact, if one looks at the numbers for that region which includes Wisconsin, one sees that public sector compensation is 1.6 times that of the private sector (PDF) in the most recent year for which we have data.

That aside, claiming that people should not be laid off because they make less is a pointless if the issue is that the state has not got the money to pay them.

Wisconsin has a difficult road ahead of it. I wish the state and its citizenry the clearest of heads and the most selfless of elected officials.