In The News
GOP creates state budget mischief
By Dominique Paul Noth
Labor Press Editor
Reeling from the failures of its domestic and foreign agendas, the extremists in the Republican ranks seem determined to plow the same discredited path. They are making it abundantly clear to the public that only by voting them out of office by even bigger majorities will federal and state policy improvements move quickly forward.
In effect they have made Madison a mini-echo of Washington, D.C.
In our nation’s capital, the small edge of the Democrats in the Senate, combined with the Bush administration veto power, has delayed or stalled much of the agenda of the House and the bipartisan progressives.
In our state capital, where Republicans have a small edge in the Assembly, the GOP has sought to thwart the budget rescues and genuine give and take offered by the Democratic governor and Senate.
In the Senate proposal, two-thirds funding for K-12 would be maintained and the University of Wisconsin system would be fully funded, with tuition programs that make college accessible to all. The Healthy Wisconsin Initiative – hailed as the best project in the nation – would move ahead, providing every Wisconsin resident with the same high quality health care legislators now receive.
Among other gains shepherded through by Majority Leader Judy Robson and Sen. Robert Wirch are lower property taxes and protected vital services, land stewardship and protecting SAGE to ensure smaller class sizes for Wisconsin’s children.
The budget version squeezed out by the Assembly Republicans is in contrast regressive and vindictive, indefensible to even more moderate members of the GOP. It would, as Robson summed up some of its worst points:
“Lay off 200 corrections officers and compromise public safety.
Slash funding to local governments, forcing them to either raise property taxes or cut fire and police services.
Slash millions of dollars from our schools, resulting in property tax increases, bigger classes for our kids, threats to school breakfast, four year old kindergarten and extracurricular programs. Estimates are that 1,700 teachers would be fired.
Jeopardize funding for public TV and radio, which includes the important safety program "Amber Alert" that helps keep kids safe.
Slash funding for cervical and breast cancer screening. Force the closure of family planning clinics. Gut funding for Juvenile Diabetes programs.
Deny healthcare to thousands of kids by cutting BadgerCare Plus.
Keep the healthcare perks legislators receive to themselves by cutting Healthy Wisconsin.”
One Assembly proposal with immediate impact on the labor community would eliminate the UW School for Workers, the oldest university-based labor program in the US and one of the most effective statewide education efforts of the UW extension.
A conference committee from both Madison houses will seek to make one sensible budget out of the diverse proposals, with Gov. Doyle’s line-item veto power hovering in the background, but even Doyle can’t return funds slashed in many cases, so the safest prospect is to eliminate the worst ideas in conference.
Unions have gathered together to work toward that end and believe that rank-and-file logic and anger can be reflected not just in calls to legislators but in participation in public hearings.
One such public hearing is set for Milwaukee’s at 6 p.m. Wednesday, August 15, at Serb Memorial Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave. The Milwaukee County Labor Council is urging strong attendance and gathering more information on the budget proposals.
Contact information is also provided for the eight-members of the conference committee supposed to reconcile the versions to avoid an impasse. They are:
Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, (608) 266-3387, Rep.firstname.lastname@example.org
Assembly Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), (608) 266-2401, Rep.email@example.com.
Rep. Kitty Rhoades (R-Hudson), (608) 266-1526,Rep.firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit), (608) 266-2253, Sen.email@example.com
Sen. Russ Decker (D-Schofield), (608) 266-2502, Sen.firstname.lastname@example.org
Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser (D-Kenosha), (608) 266-5504, Rep.email@example.com
Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), (608) 266-5660, Sen.firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), (608) 266-3510, Sen.Jauch@legis.wi.gov.