We know that Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker is framing his bid to roll back public sector worker rights as a necessary measure of fiscal austerity. And we know that's basically bogus. But how bogus? And how accurate are the dire warnings of fiscal crisis? And how standard are the tools Walker's using to address it?
The answers in order: very, overblown, and unconventional.
"Unconventional or nuclear, depending on your point of view," said Pat Kreitlow, a former Democratic senator in Wisconsin, who helped pass the state's current budget.
There's been a lot of confusion about what Walker's doing -- but he's definitely not passing a budget. He's pushing optional legislation in a vehicle that's meant to tweak the budget in the event of a budget emergency. To the extent that there is an emergency, Walker essentially created it, giving him the chance to pass a bill that would permanently deny public workers collective bargaining rights, while he's still riding the wave of his own post-election popularity.
Here's how it came down.
In Wisconsin, budget season is two years long. The current budget window was opened on July 1, 2009, and will close on June 30 of this year. If for unexpected reason, the state finds itself faced with a severe deficit within a biennial window, the legislature must pass what's known a "budget repair bill" -- to close the gap with spending cuts or other emergency measures.
The state has not crossed that threshold.........................................................