By Gov. Scott Walker -
Hey Illinois, imagine for a moment a different future for your state — one in which your budget deficit becomes a massive surplus, your pensions are fully funded instead of facing insolvency, your taxes are going down instead of up, teachers and public workers are being hired instead of laid off, and schools are expanding instead of shutting down.
If you want to see what that future looks like — and how to get there — just look north to Wisconsin.
When I took office in 2010, we inherited a fiscal disaster much like the one facing Illinois today. My predecessor had been using accounting gimmicks to balance our state budget on paper while digging Wisconsin into a deeper and deeper hole with each passing year. We faced a whopping $3.6 billion deficit, one of the largest per capita deficits in the country — with no way to close it.
To put our fiscal house in order, we passed a law called Act 10 that ended collective bargaining for everything except base wages. We freed school districts from the stranglehold of collective bargaining rules — allowing them, for example, to buy health insurance on the open market and hire and fire teachers based on merit for the first time. Today, thanks to these reforms, our $3.6 billion deficit has become a $759 million surplus. School districts across Wisconsin have saved tens of millions of dollars, money they have used to offset state spending cuts and improve education, instead of closing schools and laying off teachers. Property taxes dropped for the first time in over a decade. Unemployment is down. Our bond rating is solid. Wisconsin's pension system is the only one in the country that is fully funded. And we did it all while avoiding tax increases, cuts to programs like Medicaid, and mass layoffs of teachers and public workers.
You could do the same in Illinois.
Read the rest of Gov. Walker's letter at the Chicago Tribune HERE