The following editorial is from The Greenbay Press Gazette, a very conservative publication.
Editorial: Walker on target, but approach troubling
The state of Wisconsin knew last fall it was in for a political sea change when Republican Gov. Scott Walker and a GOP Assembly and state Senate were elected to power.
State residents hardly can be surprised Walker wants to take drastic actions. He said as much in the campaign, but Walker didn't make clear his plan included limiting the rights of most public employees to collectively bargain. And he should have.
Walker's stand during the last week of protests and upheaval has been constant:
# Wisconsin faces an estimated $3 billion-plus biennial budget deficit.
# Tough times call for tough measures.
# Sacrifices are in order.
This newspaper, which endorsed the governor in his race against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, has a tradition of supporting fiscal conservatism on the local, state and national levels. We think Walker is on target in his intention to reduce a massive projected deficit. And frankly, it's difficult to imagine every public employee union in the state would have agreed to the changes Walker seeks. Still, bypassing labor without even trying only muddies the waters.
Walker wants public employees to accept changes in pension and health care contributions already thrust onto workers in the private sector. We support the governor's insistence on taking those steps. That said, his approach casts the debate as an anti-union campaign, and not a tough-but-fair shared sacrifice.
We also are troubled Walker's budget repair bill makes an exception for police, firefighters and the Wisconsin State Patrol. When he introduced the bill, Walker said Wisconsin always has treated those groups differently from other state employees, but critics have a valid argument in that their exemption smacks of political payback for support in the fall election. If sacrifice is the measure, then it should be applied equally to all, including those sworn to uphold the law.
Walker's line in the sand between groups of public employees was drawn deeper still with his announcement Feb. 11 that he'd readied the Wisconsin National Guard to respond as needed to any unrest. This disingenuous move to put the focus on working men and women, assuming they'd act out in a violent or unruly manner, reflects poorly on the state's chief executive.
What we have seen is not violence, but rather a groundswell of protest and pro-union support, most of it peaceful — if heated — as Wisconsin's budget woes take center stage here and on the national scene. We respect the voices of those protesting peacefully, even as we can't help but wonder how many of the outraged bothered to cast a ballot during the November election.
By week's end, Walker's proposal and the reaction thereto had taken on a life of their own, serving to hamstring not only state government, but also school districts that shut their doors because of absent teachers. Wisconsin's Democratic state Senate delegation fled to Illinois Thursday to avoid taking up the measure, further intensifying this political saga.
It's clear that at some point a sense of normalcy has to be restored in Wisconsin. The lawmakers, including state Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, will have to return to lawmaking. Teachers will have to return to teaching. Students should be in the classroom.
Sacrifices will be necessary as we navigate the difficult weeks and months ahead. All sides must work together to find a better way forward during these challenging times.