On the heels of Scott Walker abandoning his presidential bid, the Wisconsin governor is returning to the state and flipping through the old American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) playbook for ideas.
Walker comes back to Wisconsin with his approval at an all-time low. Following a sneak attack on the open records law, a plan to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a stadium for an NBA team co-owned by Walker's campaign finance co-chair, and mounting allegations of lawbreaking and political kickbacks at Walker's job creation agency (the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation), even Walker's longtime GOP supporters began to disapprove of the governor.
With his return to Wisconsin, some called on Walker to build bridges and mend fences.
Yet rather than reach across the aisle or putting his weight behind broadly popular measures, Walker is returning to an old divide-and-conquer strategy: rally the far-right base by scapegoating public workers, and push policies lifted from the ALEC playbook.
Just three days after ending his presidential run, Walker announced he was backing a plan to gut the state's civil service laws, a Progressive era-reform designed to safeguard against political patronage. Civil service laws provide a merit-based system for hiring (so employment isn't premised on political connections) and due process protections for firing (so public workers aren't fired for political reasons).
Walker's proposal reflects the ALEC "At Will Employment Act," which would eliminate civil service or other worker protections and (as the name suggests) make all employment at-will.
The elimination of civil service protections is particularly troubling in Wisconsin, because Walker justified the anti-union (and ALEC-inspired) Act 10 by claiming that public workers didn't need collective bargaining, since they would still be protected by civil service laws.
Walker said in March of 2011: "In Wisconsin, the rights that most workers have have been set through the civil service system, which predates collective bargaining by several generations. That doesn't change. All the civil service protections—the strongest civil service system in the country—still strongly remains intact."
But that apparently is about to change, and if the state's civil service system is altered, more scandals like the ones engulfing WEDC could follow.
"We have gotten a preview of what happens in Wisconsin when Gov. Walker and his gang strip civil service protections away, and it has been a disaster," commented One Wisconsin Now's Scot Ross. "State employees lost civil service protections when WEDC was created, and it has been plagued with unprecedented cronyism, corruption and incompetence ever since."