Gov. Jim, Doyle, the Journal Sentinel reports, is "defying" Scott Walker by moving ahead to try to settle contracts with state employee unions.

In other words, Doyle is doing his job.

He is still the governor, and the contracts in question run from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011 -- the same period as Doyle's final state budget. Workers have been working without a contract for a year and a half.

The agreements, close to being ratified, don't include any pay raises, but do provide for furlough days that are equivalent to a 3% pay cut.

But Walker, who has made unions and public employees his scapegoats, has asked Doyle to hold everything until Walker becomes governor in about eight weeks.

Why? Walker no doubt wants to reopen those contracts and try to extract more concessions from state workers. He will probably claim he has a mandate to do that. But even if he had such a mandate, it takes effect when he becomes governor, not on election day. And he will have an opportunity to negotiate his own contracts with the unions when these expire on June 30, the same time Walker's first state budget is to take effect.

This is all probably moot, because Democrats -- who still control both houses of the legislature and the governor's office until Jan. 3 -- do not have the courage to hold a special session and ratify those contracts before they leave office.

Failure to do so will leave the fate of those contracts in the hands of Walker and the new Republican-dominated legislature, who will no doubt reject them and try to squeeze -- retroactively -- more concessions out of the workers and their families.

Raatifying these long overdue contracts should be a no-brainer for Doyle and the Democratic "leadership." It is their job -- one could argue that it's their duty -- to get this done. After all, they were in charge for the period covered by these contracts.

So what's the hesitation? One would hope this isn't true, but one explanation is that the Democrats in the legislature don't want to act because the incoming GOP majority is threatening to reduce the size of the Democrats' staff if they do, to take a position or half a position away from each Dem legislator. And, all too often, it is perks that drive decisions in the Capitol.

Walker has been quite successful so far in portraying public employees as the enemy of taxpayers, the cause of budget problems and deficits. Democrats may be afraid to defend them. If that's the case -- if Democrats do not have enough fight left to even defend those workers -- they will have taken the first step toward perpetuating their minority status. And they will deserve it. 

UPDATE: Dems say they want to ratify new contracts, but time is running out.

Submitted by xoff on