Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) justified his high-profile push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for his state’s public employees by saying it was necessary to balance his state’s budget (even though Wisconsin’s union workers agreed to all of his pay and benefit demands). That budget also contains $900 billion in cuts to state education funding, but Walker claimed that the savings from eliminating collective bargaining and having public employees dedicate more of their pay to their health care and pension benefits would offset those reductions.
“If we did this in our life, it would be like saying you’re getting 5 percent less revenue but ignoring the fact that your car payment just went away,” said Walker. Walker even released a budget analysis purporting to show how much school districts would save under his plan. But school administrators looking at Walker’s numbers have found that they don’t add up:
Take the La Crosse school district as an example. Walker’s numbers show it will come out $1.77 million ahead after taking his proposed cut to state aid. The district’s own numbers show it comes up at least $1.2 million short. […]
The governor calculates La Crosse can save $4.99 million by making employees pay more for retirement and health care benefits. Actual savings add up to about $3.7 million a year, according to Janet Rosseter, the district’s finance manager.
The La Crosse Tribune noted that Walker’s budget analysis has some fine print stating that the “actual impact of these reductions and savings on individual school districts in FY 2012 and beyond may differ significantly from these estimates.”
The differences arise in large part because Walker assumed that all school employees were paying below 12.6 percent of their paychecks into their health benefits. But many employees were already paying that much, if not significantly more. In the Holmen school district, for example, “almost all employees already contribute 20 percent of their insurance premiums. “There’s no savings for us in health insurance,” said Jay Clark, Holmen’s associate district administrator. “Us moving to 12.6 percent would actually cost us money.”
So Walker’s education cuts are very real. Of course, instead of papering over them and forcing schools into layoffs and increased class sizes, he could rethink some of the corporate tax breaks that he’s approved during the last few months.