Scott Walker passed a controversial bill in 2011 that sought to strip collective bargaining rights of public sector employees. The bill would help shift costs to solve a $3.6 billion Wisconsin budget deficit. In the wake of its passing, health insurance for public sector employees was immediately impacted. Health risk assessments were mandated with a primary new focus: wellness. Modifications such as higher co-payments were applied to Union health plans in an attempt to decrease costs by 5%. The bill mandated a cap of 88% employer contributions to the lowest possible plan, directly conflicting with the 90.5% cap that is embodied in Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Prior to the bill, Union employees only contributed 6% towards their health insurance plan. According to a 2012 Kaiser study, that percentage greatly exceeds traditional employer standards.
As a result, there was movement in 2012 to recall Governor Walker’s election and replace him with Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett. The election caught national attention as money and support from outside groups poured into Wisconsin. In the end, support from 53% of the Wisconsin electorate was enough to keep Walker in the Governor’s seat, making him the first American politician to ever withstand a recall election.
Other GOP Governors viewed this win as a sign of things to come. It brought forth the idea that despite Obama’s popularity, voters at the local level still care about deficits and runaway government spending.