Government and Political News: Experts believe the effects of the "Budget Repair Bill" won't be known until after the recall electionWisconsin News
-- For many, Governor Scott Walker’s expected recall election will be a referendum on his repeal of collective bargaining privileges for most public workers.
For many, Governor Scott Walker’s expected recall election will be a referendum on his repeal of collective bargaining privileges for most public workers. But according to Milwaukee’s Public Policy Forum, voters have no idea what the real impact has been on local governments and public schools. The Republican Walker and his legislative majorities approved a state budget last year that cut almost a billion dollars in state aid. And he said the municipalities, county governments, and schools could make up for the cuts by scaling back what the unions gained from their bargaining power – and by making all public employees pay more for their pensions and health insurance. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie has repeatedly said the budget changes avoided thousands of public worker layoffs, protected taxpayers, and helped balance budgets. But Democrat Kathleen Falk, who vows to restore union bargaining if she wins the recall election, said schools and communities have been thrown into crisis. The Public Policy Forum says it’s impossible to tell whether the net effects have been good or bad at this point. And there is no complete statewide data about the total impact on schools and local governments. Last fall, administrators said schools cut almost 34-hundred positions through layoffs and retirements. But Walker’s office said most were in schools which extended their union contracts just before the bargaining law took effect. The League of Wisconsin Municipalities said the union law and extra employee contributions would only cover 70-percent of the state aid cuts in 36 large cities. But the league said the estimate was made a year ago, and it did not cover many smaller places.
Wisconsin Democrats have filed a complaint against billionaire businessman David Koch, saying he’s using his tax-exempt status to help Governor Scott Walker win his expected recall election. The State Democratic Party has asked the I-R-S and the state Government Accountability Board to punish Koch on the basis of his recent remarks to the Palm Beach Post in Florida. Koch said he and his brother Charles were helping Walker quote, “as we should … We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.” Democrats said the remarks were proof that Koch was using tax-deductible funds to help a political candidate. But two officials of Koch Industries said David Koch was not speaking for the company, his brother, or the Americans for Prosperity Foundation – of which he’s a board member. They said Koch was only referring to what the Prosperity group is doing, and his opinions of what’s happening in Wisconsin. Missy Cohlmia of Koch Industries said David Koch was not planning to campaign for Walker, or to speak directly on his behalf. The Americans for Prosperity are currently running statewide ads supporting Walker’s budget reforms – but they don’t mention the governor directly by name. Koch Industries general counsel, Mark Holden, said the Koch Brothers have been an issue in Wisconsin for a year. That was when a prankster imposed as David Koch in a phone call to Walker in which the governor let his guard down and made off-the-cuff remarks about the massive Capitol protests over the union law. Holden said the issue has been quote, “more heat than light” and a “false storyline.”
Former state Representative Terry Van Akkeren will be sworn in tonight as the new mayor of Sheboygan. He won a recall election on February 21st, after Bob Ryan was targeted for three alcohol-related episodes in a four-year term which lasted about 13 months shorter than scheduled. Now, some officials are speaking up for Ryan – especially his efforts to control city government spending and attract new businesses. Sheboygan City Administrator James Amodeo said Ryan worked very well with those looking to create new or expanded businesses. Amodeo told the Sheboygan Press quote, “In hard economic times, people want to move into your area, but they would like everything for next to nothing – and Bob did a pretty good job of making sure he didn’t give away the store.” Sheboygan County Board chairman Mike Vandersteen said Ryan quote, “has a lot to look back on and be proud of during his tenure as mayor.”