The stalemate continues in Wisconsin where yesterday, where thousands of union protesters and sympathizers continued to protest loudly –but civilly– against Republican Gov Scott Walker’s proposal that would strip most of the state’s public union members of nearly all its collective bargaining rights, and mandate millions of dollars in give-backs.
Governor Walker rejected a compromise bill floated by a Republican state senator that would initially eliminate the union’s bargaining rights –just as Walker wants– and then reinstate those rights in 2013, giving the state time to get its fiscal house in order.
But Walker turned thumbs-down on that idea, telling MSNBC, “It [the alternate bill] will never get to me because other than that one state senator, all the rest of the Republicans are firmly behind our proposal.”
Union leaders say the workers are willing to give the governor the financial concessions he wants –amounting to a pay cut of 8 percent or more– but they’re standing firm against what they called the governor’s “union busting” provision, stripping their rights to bargain over anything except salary increases higher than the Consumer Price Index.
Walker’s plan does not end collective bargaining for the public safety workers –police, fire and state troopers. They supported his campaign but many participated in the protests.
Tens of thousands of people have been protesting in the Capitol Square since last Tuesday. Those public employees are expected to continue in the state capitol today, the eighth straight day of demonstrations, but Madison teachers, who’d been among the throngs of protesters over the past week, say they’ll return to classrooms today. Meanwhile, state senate Republicans plan to show up for work to tend to non-budgetary matters but their Democrats plan to remain MIA and say they won’t return home to vote on a budget bill unless Walker offers a compromise.
In a new development, the state’s non-partisan budget analyst, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, found a provision buried deep in the budget legislation that would give the governor unprecedented power to revamp the state’s health care program for children and the poor without following the legislative process, public vetting, and even state laws normally required.
The discovery came in response to a Democratic state lawmaker’s request for a list of non-budget items that Walker had folded into the budget-repair bill, some with far-reaching policy repercussions. The LFB noted that “while the provision may result in significant savings in the future… it would remove the entire Legislature from determining substantial elements of the medical assistance program.”
The implication is that Walker’s administration is seeking more unilateral control for itself over budgetary priorities, with far less opportunity for public input.