It seems as if the votes are there among Republican legislators to rewrite labor law in Wisconsin, thereby eliminating most collective bargaining rights for public employees and, through changes in benefits, effectively cut workers' pay annually about 8-10%.
This is the culmination of years of talking-points regurgitation about mythical, highly-paid public employees who game the system while goofing off, when, in fact, most public workers are modestly-paid everyday Wisconsinites who haul our trash, teach and care for our kids, plow the streets, and make sure the restaurant food you eat and the water you drink from the tap doesn't kill you.
I have a daughter-in-law who teaches middle-school math. She's up at dawn, grades work at night, spends heavily out of her pocketbook on supplies and rewards. And breaks up more heated arguments and scrums on the playing field every week than an average NFL referee handles in a season.
You couldn't entice me to do her job for triple her salary - - yet somehow she has become the scapegoat for a special-interest, self-serving Republican legislature more interested in harming unions than achieving taxpayer equity or better budgeting.
I'd love to see these legislators contribute something to the sacrifice.
How about those tax-free per diem payments for meals and driving expenses of up to $88 day for just setting foot in the Capitol on any given day, including weekends, or when the legislature is out of session?
How many of you get paid for driving to work, and regularly having lunch, too? (I can understand the lodging reimbursement, though many out-state legislators drive in and out and do not rent apartments.)
From a 2009 Legislative Reference Bureau paper on legislative compensation:
"...each legislator may claim a “per diem” allowance for food and lodging expenses for each day spent in Madison on legislative business. The current maximum allowance for legislators who establish a temporary residence at the capital is $88 per day; for legislators who do not establish residence, the maximum is half that amount ($44).Some legislators receive more than $10,000 this way a year in gravy from the state treasury and they don't have to report it as income.
Legislators are also reimbursed for certain travel expenses and receive an allowance to cover general office expenses, printing, and postage."
How about the mileage reimbursements they get by simply filling in a form for driving around their districts to bean feeds and church suppers and high school graduations?
How about the free cell phones?
There are plenty of legislators who, with these tax-free, taxpayer-supplied benefits earn far more than their $49,000, part-time annual salary- - and far more than the average school teacher or plow operator or crossing guard.
And if legislators want to argue that the perks are justified and their salaries are truly modest, then acknowledge the same is true for typical public employees - - and get off their backs.