I was boarding a plane late last week when my Twitter timeline erupted with reaction to news that Gov. Scott Walker was proposing drastic changes to the ways unions negotiate on behalf of public workers in Wisconsin.
Since I was gone for a few days, I haven’t had much of a chance to talk to people about the proposed legislation, which could pass through the Legislature as soon as Thursday. But I did get a sense for what people were feeling – mostly, it seemed, shock and anger.
That runs counter to Walker’s recent remark that anyone who didn’t see his proposal coming must have been in a “coma.”
I didn’t see it coming. But, then again, I haven’t lived in Wisconsin for very long. Mark Klipstein, on the other hand, is a project manager for the state Department of Transportation. An engineer for 23 years, Klipstein told me he also felt blindsided by the proposal.
“I’m not in a coma. I’m speaking pretty well,” Klipstein said. “But I didn’t see this coming.”
Klipstein, who also is president of the State Engineering Association, said none of his group’s members – least of whom, the governor’s supporters – expected Walker to eliminate unions’ abilities to collectively bargain benefits for state workers.
“A lot of our members probably voted for him,” Klipstein said. “We see a lot of waste and fraud in our government, and he has a deficit to resolve.
“That doesn’t mean you end collective bargaining altogether. It means, let’s get together and meet. We can find ways to save money.”
If those of us who didn’t anticipate Walker’s proposal were, indeed, in a coma, then perhaps it was one induced by Walker’s choice to keep specifics mum until the last minute.
After all, while people were angry about Walker’s decision to turn away federal money for high-speed rail, at least no one could claim it was a surprise. Walker made it a key issue during his campaign.
However, as far as I can tell, Walker never said anything during the campaign alluding to changes like the ones he’s proposing now. Sure, he made constant references to bringing the public sector in line with the private sector. But he waited to deliver the specifics until a few days before he’s asking the Legislature to approve them.
Perhaps Walker doesn’t understand everyone else’s surprise because he’s known for several weeks or months what he planned to introduce in his budget repair bill.
If that’s the case, though, he should have told the rest of us – preferably sometime before he got elected.