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Thursday, March 5, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 7.0° F  
CITIZEN DAVE: Thoughts and ideas about city building from Madison's former mayor
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Citizen Dave: Paul Soglin scapegoats unions just like Scott Walker
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Soglin never spoke out against the wage increases.
Credit:Phil Ejercito

According to Mayor Paul Soglin, a small projected city budget gap is my fault and the fault of the Madison Common Council. But mostly he says it's the fault of the public employee unions.

In a Capital Times story by Jack Craver, Soglin claims that he must roll back small pay increases I negotiated back in 2011 to close a $4.5 million budget gap. That's simply ridiculous.

First, Soglin has a relatively small budget gap to fix. It amounts to less than 2% of the city's $255 million budget. I routinely closed gaps of twice that size and more without going after unions. If Soglin can't fix a 2% problem without rolling back small pay increases for workers than he's incompetent.

Second, Soglin is being disingenuous. When the contracts were approved back in early 2011, it was a way of fighting back against Governor Scott Walker's pending bill to eviscerate public employee unions. As a show of unity, the council and I marched with union members from the City-County Building to the Overture Center where the council voted unanimously to approve the contracts. Soglin marched along and attended the meeting and he never spoke out against the wage increases.

Third, the increases were a reasonable product of a collective bargaining system that works. In the first two years of the three-year contracts (2011 and 2012), the pay increases had actually fallen below the rate of inflation. Additionally, the contracts called for union members to pay substantial portions of their health insurance and retirement benefits, which saved the city millions. City employees are already doing their part to help the budget. They don’t need to be asked for more.

A competent mayor could fix a 2% budget gap easily without voiding fair union contracts that were negotiated in good faith. Instead, this mayor seeks to scapegoat public employee unions and his predecessor and the council. Reminds me of Scott Walker.

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