One reason why Wisconsin voters may be souring on the recall of Gov. Scott Walker may be the recall itself.
First there is the cost.Wisconsin officials tell me the total cost to state and local government will be $16 million. In a biannual budget of over $60 billion (from June 2011 to June 2013), that doesn’t sound like a lot. But consider this: The average Wisconsin teacher salary is about $52,000. Starting teachers make approximately $32,600. So the amount being spent on the recall could have paid for 307 average teachers or 490 starting teachers.
That expense and the budget savings Walker has achieved have allowed him to cast the Democrats as indifferent to the taxpayers and to the state’s financial health. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported:
On Monday, Walker said he expected job creation to take off if he wins the recall but to slide if Barrett wins. Employers are holding off on hiring until after the recall, Walker said, because they are concerned that their taxes will rise if Barrett is elected.
Sounding familiar themes, Walker said his curbs on collective bargaining have saved state and local taxpayers $1 billion. He also touted limits on property taxes that caused a drop in taxes on the median-valued home for the first time in 12 years.
But there is a more fundamental issue with the recap that handicaps Walker’s opponents.As a Republican strategist puts it:
American voters are well used to fixed terms of office, and are content to wait for regularly scheduled elections to make course corrections (if necessary). For the energy and expense of a recall, voters are looking for some combination of corruption, a spiraling economic situation, and an agenda that that breaks sharply with what was promised. . . . In a recall election, a significant percentage of the electorate will never go for it absent extraordinary circumstances. In this situation, that number is more than enough to ensure that Walker wins.”
In other words, if you are going to spend a ton of the taxpayers’ money and cut short an elected official’s term, he better have done something really, really bad. But in Walker’s case, his reforms have pretty much worked out as advertised. (“Wisconsin has a surplus (from a $3.6 billion deficit) without a tax increase, as thousands of local governments have used the newfound flexibility to save taxpayer money while delivering higher quality services.”)
In the immediate aftermath of the collective bargaining reforms, Democrats were able to whip up furor and make the issue about “labor rights,” or as they like to call it “social justice.” (For a discussion of why this rhetoric is not applicable in the case of public employees, see here, here and here.) But as the months have passed and the reforms have kicked in, it’s not evident that there is good enough reason for a majority of voters to boot out Walker mid-term. In that regard, Democrats really did not think this whole endeavor through.