State Budget News: Police allow protestors to stay inside capitol buildingWisconsin News
-- After telling everybody to get out by four yesterday afternoon, State Capitol Police gave in, and let several hundred protesters camp inside the building overnight.
MADISON - After telling everybody to get out by four yesterday afternoon, State Capitol Police gave in, and let several hundred protesters camp inside the building overnight.
Republican Governor Scott Walker’s administration tried to return the statehouse to normal business hours, after two weeks of loud 24-hour protests against the bill to end most public union bargaining powers. When the deadline came, some people left in groups of 10-or-20. But most stayed, and many went to the second floor in an anticipation of being arrested. Union officials said the closure was an effort to silence the bill’s critics, and they said Walker’s people capitulated. Massage therapist Kara Randall of Middleton called it a “victory for democracy.” Milwaukee Senate Democrat Lena Taylor thanked the protestors on Twitter for exercising their First Amendment rights. Loud chants and speeches continued well into the evening. Jim Palmer, head of the state’s Professional Police Association, said cooler heads prevailed – and he said it’s clear that law enforcement is now running the show. Palmer’s union opposes the bill, even though local police would be exempt from the cutbacks. A Walker spokesman refused to comment on the reversal to empty the Capitol.
Earlier in the day, the governor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the protests have not weakened his resolve to get government spending under control. The budget repair bill has passed the Assembly, and majority Republican senators have given their initial approval. But they need at least one of the absent Democratic senators to return to take a final vote – and all 14 Senate Democrats say they’ll stay away as long as it takes for the governor to compromise.
UW-La Crosse faculty members have voted to unionize, even though it would be banned under the governor's budget repair bill. Eighty-seven percent of professors voted last week to join the American Federation of Teachers. La Crosse is the seventh of the UW's four-year campuses where faculty and-or staffers agreed to join a union. That was after former Governor Jim Doyle approved such a move two years ago, when Democrats were in control of the Legislature. When Republican Governor Scott Walker introduced his budget package earlier this month, it was specifically mentioned that it would undo the 2009 approval to let UW staffers unionize. But Susan Crutchfield of the La Crosse English Department says that no matter what happens, faculty interests will be represented with lawmakers in Madison. A date has not set for the actual formation of the La Crosse faculty group.
The Wisconsin State Senate’s minority leader says Governor Scott Walker is playing politics, by insisting that his budget repair bill needs to pass by tomorrow to avoid layoffs of state employees. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the deadline is early this week to start the process of re-financing state debt. And if it doesn’t happen, the Republican Walker says the state cannot get enough money to pay 1,500 workers through June. Walker says he’ll wait as long as possible to hand out layoff notices. But Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) says the paperwork for the re-financing can still begin without the bill being passed – and there’s no hard-and-fast deadline to approve the actual re-financing. The measure would bring in another $165-million. And it’s part of the controversial bill which balances the current state budget in part by ending most collective bargaining powers for public employee unions. Miller and his 13 other Senate Democrats continue to stay away from the Capitol to block a vote on the budget package. They say it’s wrong to cripple public unions in the name of saving money.
Governor Scott Walker says the next state budget will have over a billion-dollars less in state aid to local governments and schools. The Republican governor will unveil his fiscal plans for the next two years tomorrow. He told Mike Gousha’s statewide TV show last night that schools would get the brunt of the cuts. Education groups have warned that Walker will slash $900-million from Wisconsin’s 428 school districts over the next two years. Walker told Gousha the number was true. Educators also warned that Walker would reduce the state-mandated school revenue limit by $500-dollars a child. That’s so school boards don’t jack up local property taxes to make up for the lost aid. The governor also repeated that lawmakers need to pass the current budget repair bill, so local governments and schools can deal with the upcoming cuts in state aid by controlling their labor costs. That bill has been the subject of massive protests, because it would virtually end collective bargaining privileges for most public unions. Many unions have said they’ll accept Walker’s plan to make them pay more for their health insurance and pensions. But Walker questions their sincerity, by pointing out that a number of local unions have scrambled to approve new contracts that don’t include the financial concessions. Rick Badger of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees says the union locals are just following the current law.