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No Link Between State Budget Deficits and Public Sector Unions

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By Jon Melegrito Budget & Taxes State & Local Budgets

There is no link between state budget deficits and public sector unions. That’s the definitive finding of a study released this week by the University of California, Berkeley.

Commenting on the report from the university’s Center for Labor Research and Education and Center for Wage and Employment Dynamics, the Economic Policy Institute correctly points out that it’s the recession and housing bubble that caused state budget deficits, not public sector workers or their unions.

Titled “The Wrong Target: Public Sector Unions and State Budget Deficits,” the 12-page study demolishes one of the myths that too many right-wing politicians and propagandists cling to: That public service employees are to blame for the problems facing state governments. (Ezra Klein’s excellent piece on WashingtonPost.com last year made a powerful argument that the problems facing state governments are because of the failure of Wall Street and the horrible economy.)

This latest report – which was based on the authors’ analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – clearly refutes myths about the role public sector unions play in the current state budget crisis. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) used this exact bogus claim to justify stripping public service workers of collective bargaining rights. Walker later admitted that his so-called budget repair bill had nothing to do with balancing the state’s budget.

As Klein aptly puts it in a Washington Post piece, Unions Aren’t to Blame for Wisconsin’s Budget: “Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don’t blame the unions. Not for this recession.”