By Matt Pommer
Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining revolution has put him on the national stage as a possible Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012.
The new law, which eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public workers, has made him a household name across America. All of the folks thinking about running for the Republican presidential nomination know his name.
It already has started. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported there is talk about Walker being on the GOP ticket. Walker, who has hinted he thinks he could be the next Ronald Reagan, brushes aside that talk.
There will be ample opportunity for news media to keep Walker’s name in front of the public. First off, there are the recall efforts being mounted by both political parties to oust as many as 16 members of the state Senate.
Walker said the public will support him when they vote in recall elections. A clean sweep by Republicans would make him the darling of the Tea Party movement and guarantee media pundits mention his name.
Those recall elections will be a collection of political handlers from both the right and the left. These are the sort of folks who live and breathe politics. The rush to help Walker could make a lot of national GOP friends for the rookie governor.
It’s possible the Republicans could lose some of those recall elections. That might take the bloom off the Walker-for-vice president talk. Republicans may fear that Walker’s name on the 2012 national ballot might re-energize the labor movement for Democrats.
Then, if the recalls fail, Walker could stay in the spotlight next year by going after the Wisconsin Retirement System by restructuring benefits and provisions. More than 500,000 people participate in the system.
The law gutting collective bargaining rights for most public workers exempted police and firefighters. Critics snipe that fire and police organizations had endorsed Walker for governor in 2010.
But if Walker is going to change the WRS system, he will have a difficult time unless he extends the cutbacks to the provisions that affect police and firefighters. Put another way, the day of police and firefighter law changes may be just a year away.
The WRS is among the best-supported public employee pension programs in America. That’s in sharp contrast to states such as Illinois, New Jersey, New York and California.
Walker’s national attention may sidetrack talk that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Janesville, might end up being the Republican vice presidential candidate. Ryan is best known for ideas to change Social Security and Medicare.
Matt Pommer worked as a reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.