Mary Burke has studiously avoided saying she’d attempt to repeal the Act 10 collective bargaining reforms, a caution we attribute to the certainty that her supporters detest the reforms, while Burke herself just might realize they’re crucial to managing state and local finances.
If that’s the case, then her performance last week as a member of the Madison school board identifies a problematic style of leadership based on ducking the risks that come with being a leader. The candidate who won’t say she’d try to repeal Act 10 on behalf of her statewide union constituency voted to help the Madison teacher union continue evading Act 10 by extending pre-Act 10 contracts.
Not that we expect Burke to lose any sleep over it, but this presents her with a logical dilemma: How does she effectively say “drop dead” to Madison property taxpayers, while expecting to receive about 70 percent of their votes, come November?
We don’t know if Burke secretly values Act 10, but it wouldn’t be mysterious if she did. As a member of the Doyle administration, Burke saw firsthand the rolling deficit built into state budgets, reaching $3.6 billion by the time Scott Walker moved into the governor’s office. Walker soon turned the deficit into a hefty surplus, without big government employee layoffs or benefit cuts.
So Burke needs to ask herself if, were she to find herself in the governor’s office next January, would she rather ride the successes of Walker’s good work, or restore the Doyle approach and run for re-election in 2018 with deficits building anew?
It’s clear that she’s willing to help her Madison teachers get away with whatever they can. Whether she’s willing to subject the whole state to that treatment is an open—and urgent—question.