Why recall target Gov. Scott Walker is taking his message to Illinois
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is facing a recall, but he still found time to visit Springfield, Ill., Tuesday to take on one of his favorite targets: Illinois' $8 billion budget deficit.
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Inviting Walker to Illinois is part of the agenda of business groups “to slash the modest pensions earned by teachers and police and other public employees,” says Anders Lindall, public affairs director for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31.Skip to next paragraph
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Walker is “the spear-carrier of a nationwide attack on the middle class … and on the very idea that government can invest in education, health care, and other priorities that serve everyone in our society,” Mr. Lindall says.
Pension reform is one area in which Walker says he helped to reduce the budget deficit he inherited upon taking office. Under a new law, public-sector employees in Wisconsin pay 5.8 percent to 6.65 percent of their salaries toward pensions, while keeping their current benefits. Before Walker became governor, they paid less than 1 percent.
In Illinois, public-sector employees already contribute as much as 8 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. State employees who contribute to Social Security pay 4 percent.
Illinois’ unfunded pension hole of about $80 billion is the result of at least three decades of state leadership failing to set aside adequate funds for future pensioners, says Jeff Brown, a former economic adviser in the George W. Bush White House and director of the Center for Business and Public Policy at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Forcing the burden onto school districts and universities or public workers will erode the state’s ability to recruit and maintain world-class employees, he says. A more realistic solution, he adds, is to spread the burden fairly among all parties.
“You’ve got serious discussions running the gamut from making the workers pay it all to making the employers pay it all to making the state pay it all, which is the current law. My guess is, in the end, we’ll get some convoluted mix of the three,” Mr. Brown says.
In a statement Tuesday, Illinois state Senate President John Cullerton (D) said, facetiously, it was “great” that Walker spoke to corporate leaders in Illinois. He hoped it would emphasize the difference in tax rates between the two states: Illinois' personal income tax rate is a flat 5 percent, while the income tax rate in Wisconsin is graduated, ranging between 4.6 percent and 7.75 percent depending on how much a household earns.
“He’s helping convince the business community that his system of graduated tax rates is the way to go.… I can’t wait to hear how he’ll help us next,” Senator Cullerton said.
Also on Tuesday, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) urged Illinois companies to immigrate to her state, during comments at a tea-party rally in downtown Chicago.
“I’m happy to poach more if Quinn continues to march down the path he’s on right now," Ms.Kleefisch, who also faces a recall vote June 5, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It’s all fair in economic development.”
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