Will lame duck legislators return to Madison, to ratify contracts with state workers? Outgoing Governor Jim Doyle noted last week that agreements reached recently between employee bargaining units and his administration do not include any raises, and that state workers have been working without a contract for two years. “They don’t have a contract, haven’t had one. We’re not trying to bind the new governor, this would fill out the two year period of time,” Doyle said. “It’s no secret the contract will just reflect the basics, which is no raises, (and) furloughs.”
But Governor-elect Scott Walker is asking legislative leaders to not schedule a special session on contracts with the state employee unions. “I think it’s a reasonable request . . . and I hope the majorities right now will consider that,” said state Senator Scott Fitzgerald. The Juneau Republican is the current minority leader in the Senate, but he’ll serve as majority leader when a new session of the legislature convenes in January. Fitzgerald said (PDF) the contract agreements were reached in secret, and are now being rushed through in the waning days of the Doyle administration. “We’re no sitting around with contracts that have already been completed and signed off on and voted on simply lying around the Capitol,” said Fitzgerald. “They’re trying to literally negotiate these things right now, in order to meet this December 15th deadline that’s been set.
Staffers with Democratic legislative leaders had no comment Monday, although a spokesperson in the office of outgoing Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan said the contracts would likely be on the agenda when Democrats caucus today. “Republicans are attempting to make something nefarious out of the workers’ contracts, but these workers have been dutifully performing their jobs every day for 18 months, without a contract, based on money that has already been budgeted,” said state Representative Joe Parisi in a statement (PDF) released by Dane County Assembly Democrats.
“Without proper review, we should not hurry through complex contracts in a lame-duck session,” said state Representative Jeff Fitzgerald in a press release. “In 2009 Jim Doyle and the Democrats rushed through a budget repair bill with billions in tax increases and held no public hearings.” Fitzgerald, who will serve as Assembly Speaker in the next session, noted thatWisconsin currently faces a budget deficit estimated at $3.3 billion. All aspects of the budget, including employee contracts, need to reflect that deficit reality. His brother, Senator Fitzgerald, echoed that statement. “Revenue streams – income tax, sales tax collections – are way off from what they’re projected to be,” he said. “I think the governor-elect deserves a fresh start.”
Walker’s spokesman, Cullen Werwie, released the following statement today regarding public employee union contracts: “Governor-elect Scott Walker is opposed to the lame duck Legislature approving public employee union contracts. If approved, the contracts will tie the hands of the Governor and the newly elected Legislature as they work to balance the state budget.”