This past week has been a controversial one in the state I live in. Wisconsin has been all over the news, making national headlines. Governor Scott Walker has stirred the waters with the proposal of his “Budget Repair Bill” which is an effort to help my state get out of the financial mess it is in.
Make no mistake; Wisconsin is in trouble despite some in the media trying to say otherwise. Governor Walker’s long-term goal is to see our budget get balanced not only for the remainder of this year but beyond. What is contained within his repair bill has caused what is now 8 days of protesting at the Capitol building in Madison.
So what has everyone up in arms? Unlike other states that are cutting funding for schools, university systems and other local governments, his proposal is to prevent hurting the core services offered in our local government.
Governor Walker is asking teachers to pay more for their healthcare and retirement benefits, between 5 and 7%. Now some teachers are actually okay with this but others are not.
In fact it caused some school districts to shut down, including my daughter’s for one day, which definitely had me up in arms. I do not like seeing the education of our children being interrupted because of protesting.
Additionally, there have been a lot of discussions within schools where the students are hearing only the teacher’s side and some of them have been protesting outside their schools. The reality is that the students should not be dragged into this. They are getting only one side and it may not be the most accurate.
The biggest controversy in Governor Walker’s proposal is the removal of collective bargaining. However by limiting it, Walker anticipates saving nearly $68 million for Wisconsin school districts. This is besides the savings of teachers paying more into their healthcare and retirement benefits.
The reaction has been a mixed bag. Teachers and other union members/leaders have been demonstrating their opposition. Some have camped out in the state’s Capitol building for days. Signs and shouts of protest continue to make the top news story every night in my city.
The 14 Senate Democrats of Wisconsin decided to run. They went into hiding in the state of Illinois. At one point we had state police looking for them and meanwhile, Governor Walker continues to implore them to come back to Wisconsin and do the job they were elected and are paid to do.
I loved what Walker said in one of his press conferences, “If you want to participate in democracy, you have to be in the arena. The arena is right here in Madison, Wisconsin.”
An interesting component to all of this is Walker’s insistence that the Senate Democrats were well aware of his plans. He stated that he had briefed Senator Miller and Representative Barca, who were provided an outline of what was in the “Budget Repair Bill” before the news broke out in the press.
Governor Walker didn’t know the Senate Democrats had plans to skip town and only found out about it through the media. His discussions on the repair bill have been transparent and forthcoming in the objectives, yet their response was simply to tuck tail and run.
Walker has been urging them to come back and make their case and that no one is going to get anywhere if they refuse to come back to their state. Yet they are not budging and insist that until they hear Walker say he will compromise, they refuse to come back.
So what is the potential end result of this? If there is no vote on this “Budget Repair Bill” it could potentially lead to thousands of state government employees and local government employees such as teachers, city and county workers being laid off.
What continues to really bother me is the way the Senate Democrats have chosen to deal with this. There has been rumor of cutting their direct deposit paychecks, forcing them to come back. I cannot believe that our elected government officials have chosen to handle things this way.
Now we wait and see who will ultimately be the winner…but can there really be a winner?