Today is the two-year anniversary of the day Governor Scott Walker introduced his controversial collective bargaining bill.
Scott Walker may be a household name now, but two years ago he was just a freshman Republican governor with a little over a month on the job. When Walker announced the bill now known as Act 10 during press conference on February 11, 2011, he said he did not plan to negotiate. "This is what we have to offer. And if you're going to negotiate, you have to have something to offer. We don't have something. So we're laying it out on the table."
In a state where collective bargaining for public workers had existed for decades, the Governor said he wanted the legislature to act in a matter of days. "My hope is that the legislative leaders would start acting on this early next week."
Obviously, that's not how things happened. Massive protests erupted. Court battles ensued. And voters faced round after round of recall elections. It was a year-and-a-half of chaos that began that day. "It's one of those moments I don't think you forget, frankly."
University of Wisconsin LaCrosse Political Scientist Joe Heim says he remembers well the day Walker unveiled his collective bargaining proposal. Heim says it caught people by surprise because Walker did not signal it was coming. Heim says the mood is different now. "I think that in many respects, the public has moved on, I think the Governor has tried to move on. But I think there's some residual hard feelings in the legislature. There certainly is some hard feelings on the part of public employees."
Heim says it may take years more to judge the successs or failure of Act 10 and whether the budget cuts it made possible will do long term harm to education.