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Bellwether Watches for Tuesday, June 5th: Wisconsin and San Jose, CA

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Update: Walker wins big in Wisconsin and it looks like the voters of San Jose want public pension reform, joined by San Diego. This is encouraging news all around for fiscal sanity and restraint. KRC

The nation will be watching Wisconsin tomorrow to see if Gov. Scott Walker gets to keep his job. At the Free Market Institute at the Center, we will also have our eye on San Jose, CA where voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on public pensions for public employees (see WSJ article). The two votes will tell us something about the public mood in advance of the fall elections. In Minnesota, 89% of the state work force is unionized (a rate that dwarfs our neighbors, even Wisconsin, long thought to be the nation’s hub of labor culture).

 In part because the public employee unions are so powerful, the Minnesota legislature did not make a lot of progress in areas like school choice, pension reform, and the review of public employee compensation and benefits. Gov. Mark Dayton has not shown any willingness to part from the Afscme and SEIU playbook.

Despite high polling numbers among voters (even union households) , the Right to Work movement stalled because too many members of the GOP would not support the amendment with most citing fear of retaliation by the public unions. The spectacle of Wisconsin and the recall effort against Gov. Scot Walker dampened the appetite of many legislators for taking on public unions---even though the Right to Work amendment would have no impact on collective bargaining rights and just gives workers the freedom to decide whether to join a union or pay union dues.

(Here is a fun digression: when Peter Nelson, Doug Seaton and I testified in the Senate in favor of the Right to Work amendment, some friends in Wisconsin thanked us because so many union protesters left Madison that day to protest in Saint Paul! They got a respite from the relentless noise and disruption. We wondered why there were so many cars with Wisconsin plates in the parking lots.)

So we’ll keep an eye on our next door neighbors ---and San Jose.