Budget reforms implemented under the state’s recent collective bargaining reforms now exceed more than $1 billion in savings for taxpayers, according to a statement Gov. Scott Walker made public Monday.
In the statement, Walker said the largest savings came from reducing the budget to the public school system and lowering property taxes. The total amount of tax dollars saved can be viewed online at reforms.wi.gov.
By removing the right of state workers to collectively bargain for their salaries, Walker said he was able to lower the take-home pay of the average public employee by approximately 8.5 percent.
Changes to correctional facilities saved the state an additional $2 million and school districts who competitively bid their health insurance plans saved an average of $220 per student under Walker’s reforms, according to the statement.
The amount of total savings was calculated from a compilation of state and local budgets and by talking to various officials throughout the state.
Several Democrats challenging Walker in the recall election said the governor’s numbers are misleading, and his projected savings of $1 billion is inaccurate.
Milwaukee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett said in a statement that Walker is trying to distract voters from his failed promises to create jobs. As a result of budget cuts, Barrett said the state lost almost 1,500 teaching positions in the past year and still faces a large $140 billion deficit.
Secretary of State, Doug La Follette, who is also running for governor, said he did not believe Walker’s claims were honest.
“I thought about it, and it’s a political gimmick,” LaFollette said. “Despite his promises, we have lost thousands and thousands of jobs and seen cuts from technical schools and universities.”
Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond Du Lac, said the $1 billion saved was a milestone for the governor.
The Fond Du Lac district reported saving $4 million as a result of collective bargaining reforms, according to Thiesfeldt, and $2 million of that came from savings to employee pension contributions.
Thiesfeldt added that without the collective bargaining reforms, there would have been increases in tax bills during the last two-year budget period.
“The biggest thing is that Act 10 has given flexibility. There was no flexibility before, because [schools] were under the thumb of these contracts,” Thiesfeldt said.
In response to Democrats’ claims that school budget cuts have only been successful because of massive teacher layoffs, Thiesfeldt said layoffs only occurred in the Milwaukee, Kenosha and Janesville school districts because they refused to implement the collective bargaining reforms.
Although these districts represent only 13 percent of Wisconsin public schools, Thiesfeldt said 43 percent of layoffs came from these districts.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin released a statement Monday alleging Walker’s numbers did not add up. The statement did not address how the numbers did not add up, but did highlight several claims by Walker the party alleged are false, including claims that “he did not raise taxes,” and “his reforms are working for Wisconsin School Districts.”
The statement said Walker has provided $2.3 billion in tax giveaways for millionaires and out-of-state corporations, while at the same time slashing $2.6 billion from public education.