State Government and Political Roundup: Recall elections scheduled for early June
It appears that the expected recall elections against Governor Scott Walker and other Republican officials will take place in early June.
In a memo, the state Government Accountability Board said it could schedule the primaries as early as May first, and general elections as early as May 29th. But they'll need to give local clerks enough time to finish all the paperwork from Wisconsin's presidential primary and the local elections, both of which will be held on April third. And the Board would prefer not to hold a recall vote on May 29th, which is the day after Memorial Day. The Board has until March 19th to review the petitions, and determine if there are enough valid signatures to hold recall votes against Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four Republican state senators.
But the agency says it will ask a judge to extend the deadline. Walker's campaign said this week it would not challenge any petition signatures, because the courts didn't give them enough time to review them all. And yesterday, Kleefisch said the same thing. Both have asked the Accountability Board to keep looking for false-and-duplicate signatures, which the agency will do. The Board said it considered using statistical sampling to determine the numbers of improper signatures on the Kleefisch petitions - but it decided to use actual tallies, just as with the other recall targets. Kleefisch and Walker have also asked that the Board accept challenges from Tea Party groups which are reviewing the signatures. But the Board says it cannot do that by law.
Wisconsin's local governments and school districts are supposed to have new systems in place by now to hear complaints from public employees who are disciplined or fired. But according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, no one at the state level is checking to see if everybody has done that. Governor's spokesman Cullen Werwie says his office is confident that the local governments are quote, "working to comply with state law." Dan Thompson of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities says he assumes everyone's complying but he's not sure. Rick Badger of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees says most local governments have some type of grievance system - but the quality varies widely, and they don't necessarily give employees much protection. An impartial officer hears the grievances, but employers have the final say in all appeals. Thompson says he's not aware of any wronged employees using the new systems yet, but he still believes they have value. Local governments were ordered to have either new grievance systems or civil service systems in place by last October, to give workers protections after they lost most of their collective bargaining privileges.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Neumann says he would try to balance the federal budget within five years. And today, the former congressman explained how he'd do it if he's elected this fall. Neumann said his plan would give permanent approval to either the Bush tax cuts, or something like them. The plan also includes a repeal of the Obama health-care law - cutting one-and-a-third trillion dollars in federal spending over the five year period - and finding other cuts to make up for 368-billion dollars in current subsidies and tax loopholes. In unveiling his package, Neumann wrote that Washington has tried to increase federal spending to spur the economy, and it didn't work. And he said cutting taxes-and-spending would leave more money in people's pockets. Neumann said defense would be his top spending priority, and his plan would also help make Social Security and Medicare fiscally stronger. The candidate from Waukesha County calls his plan "America's New Way Forward." He plans to talk more about it during a luncheon in Madison today. Neumann is running in the GOP Senate primary in September, and his major opponents are former Governor Tommy Thompson and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.
Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefish says she won't be challenging any of the recall petition signatures filed against her. She told the Government Accountability Board her deadline of next Monday doesn't give her enough time for her campaign to finish its review. Governor Scott Walker's campaign said the same thing before his deadline, last Monday. An estimated 845 thousand signatures were on the petitions filed in the effort to recall Kleefisch. The GAB's deadline for verifying if there were enough signatures is March 19. Recall supporters collected about three times as many signatures as they needed, leading to the verification process.
Two polls released this week show a tight race for Wisconsin's soon-to-be vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. A poll out yesterday by Public Policy Polling shows Democratic Tammy Baldwin leading former Governor Tommy Thompson 46 to 45 percent, and leading former Congressman Mark Neuman 47 to 41 percent. However, a Rasmussen Poll released the day before shows Thompson with a strong lead over Baldwin, 50 to 36 percent. Taken together, the polling results show Thompson with a seven point margin over his two competitors.