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Effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker begins

by CORY EUCALITTO | November 17, 2011

Just a week after Ohio voters overturned their state's collective bargaining law, things are heating up once again in Wisconsin over that state's similar reform bill. Despite failing to take back the State Senate through a series of legislative recall elections earlier this year, Democrats and union leaders in the state are unveiling their long awaited plans to recall Governor Scott Walker. The landmark legislation requiring increased health and pension contributions from public employees, as well as instituting new limits on public sector collective bargaining, remains front and center in the minds of Walker's opponents.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, efforts began in earnest Tuesday morning to gather the signatures needed for Walker's name to be placed on the ballot in a 2012 recall election. After filing paperwork with the state on Tuesday, organizers now have sixty days to collect at least 540,208 signatures. The group leading the charge, called United Wisconsin, describes itself as "a grassroots coalition of more than 200,000 Wisconsinites and organizations who have united to recall Governor Scott Walker."

The magnitude of the petition's launch demonstrates a deeply organized effort. According to reports, groups had put together nearly 100 events state-wide to begin collecting signatures. A contest sponsored by the Democratic Party gave eight Wisconsin residents the chance to be the first to sign their names. A strong Big Labor and Democratic Party backed organization, coupled with the fact that Wisconsin is home to 355,000 union members according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, means that chances of the petition's success are very real. Whether a recall election will bring Governor Walker the same fate as Ohio's fallen SB 5 remains unknown. 

One storyline that might tip the balance in Walker's favor is that of many local governments and school districts turning their finances around as a result of collective bargaining reform. State Budget Solutions mentioned some of those success stories, which include a local school district and the city of Milwaukee saving $3 million and $25 million respectively by avoiding costly healthcare negotiations, here.  These savings have in many cases prevented planned layoffs, unlike in Ohio where the repeal of SB arrived alongside the rejection of many school levies in the same election. Without reform to the broken collective bargaining system that has contributed to increased costs in the first place, districts have little choice but to assess increased levies. When these levies see electoral defeat, districts are left in a bind that only service cuts and pink slips might resolve. Reform in Wisconsin, on the other hand, has meant a $47 million drop in property tax levies adopted by school districts this year. This important juxtaposition is a success story for Wisconsin to tout. Indeed, Governor Walker mentioned in a recent interview that he planned a series of television ads outlining how his reforms have helped local communities.

The earliest election date possible, should organizers be successful in gathering signatures, is March 27. If more than two members run from either party, a primary would occur, and a general election showdown would take place on April 24. 

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