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New England is generally considered among the most leftleaning regions of the country. This perception is largely correct, as it is refl ected in the partisan tilt of the state’s politics: Republican politicians are a rare species and becoming ever more so every year. However, recently, the region’s dominant political tendency has run up against fiscal reality.
New England states, like states across the nation, are facing deep budget deficits, forcing state lawmakers to find ways to close the budget gaps by tackling one of the biggest costs they face: government employee compensation. As we saw in Wisconsin and Ohio, Republican lawmakers who take on the government employee union lobby can expect an all-out backlash from it. While public employee unions have not been as vocal in their opposition to Blue Team-proposed cuts, Democrats depend on campaign support from unions in a way Republicans do not, so alienating those unions could prove costly politically, which makes Democrats less likely to offer bold reforms—if any at all.
Yet even so, now state lawmakers in the nation’s most heavily Democratic region are trying to close their states’ budget gaps, and are being forced to confront entrenched union interests. As chief executives of state governments that do not enjoy the power Central Falls, Rhode Island: driven to bankruptcy by municipal pensions to print their own currency, governors must take action if their states are to avoid bankruptcy. Public sentiment across the nation appears increasingly open to cutting public spending, and New England isn’t immune to that trend. The general public could well reward at the ballot box those lawmakers who take on the public employee union lobby. Whether the region’s politicians can take advantage of that remains to be seen.