The eyes of the nation have been transfixed on Wisconsin for the past week, as a tea party governor and his allies in the statehouse have met awe-inspiring public resistance to their attempt to ban collective bargaining rights for public employees -- legislation that would neither save the state a single dollar nor create a single job. But Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s agenda, as represented in his proposed budget “fix” bill, is more than just an ideological assault on workers and a power grab for himself. It is a full articulation of a perilous conservative agenda for the states.
As this Dispatch will explore, included in the same bill that takes away the basic rights that generations of workers have fought and died for are measures that would both weakenthe state’s “Badgercare” health care program for hundreds of thousands of residents and allow the unregulated sell-offof state-owned power plants to the Governor’s corporate allies. Other backward-looking policies that Gov. Walker and Wisconsin conservatives have advanced since coming to power have included corporate tax giveaways, the imposition of a two-thirds legislative majorityto pass tax increases, the rejection of $800 millionin federal funding for high-speed rail, and even efforts to suppress the votethrough a “voter ID” law. Meanwhile, in neighboring Illinois, state senators from both Wisconsin and Indiana have crossed the border to courageously stand up for their constituents-- becoming temporary guests in a state where many of the draconian policies advocated by their conservative neighbors are being countered by responsible, progressive efforts to ensure economic security.
With each passing day, the reality of the destructive nature of the conservative agenda in the states is becoming increasingly clear to a public watching events unfold rapidly both inside and outside statehouses across the nation. As the assault on the middle class spreads from Wisconsin to states across the Midwest and throughout the country, progressives everywhere are standing in solidarity with those who are standing up, fighting back, and promoting a constructive vision for true economic securityfor our states.
State legislators from Wisconsin and Indiana who have recently sought out-of-state refuge to block votes on major anti-labor bills have all made their way to one neighboring state: Illinois. There is more to this choice than simple geographic proximity: while Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has expressed no interest in extraditing the lawmakers, the state’s pro-labor political climate -- including the recent advancement of policies that will raise wages and job security for workers and improve the state’s fiscal health -- has made it a welcoming destination for lawmakers fighting conservative efforts to slash and burn their own state economies. Illinois families stand to benefit from greater economic security at a time when they would be in danger of losing their rights and financial footing in neighboring states.
In a statement announcing his anti-labor efforts two weeks ago, Gov. Scott Walker argued that Wisconsin “must take immediate action to ensure fiscal stability” and that his proposals would “meet the immediate needs of our state and give government the tools to deal with this and future budget crises.” Nevertheless, the Governor's actions in the last month not only demonstrate hypocrisy, but additionally indicate that he places the interests of the affluent over the needs of the middle class. Similar to right-wing officials across the country, Gov. Walker is manipulating fiscal pressures to advance egregious policies that will only serve corporate interests and exacerbate the pain that working families are already experiencing as a result of the downturn.
As we have noted, even more than attacking the rights of Wisconsin workers, Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal threatens the economic security of Wisconsin families. Among the many damaging proposals that Walker is attempting to unilaterally force through in the budget “fix” bill is Provision 16.896, which would allow the sale of the state’s heating, cooling, and power plants to private corporations without the solicitation of bids. Adding insult to injury, Walker also aims to strip away the ability of the Public Service Commission to approve or certify this buy-out. In other words, if this bill were to pass, state-owned utilities could easily be bought by corporations as the latter wishes. As the content of an incredible 20-minute call between Gov. Walker and an impersonator posing as a prominent billionaire contributor revealed this week, it’s powerful corporate interests that truly direct the right-wing agenda in Wisconsin and other states across the nation.
The health care debate continues to boil in the states – all the more evident in Wisconsin, where a newly elected conservative majority in the state legislature is joining with Gov. Walker to eye draconian cuts to Medicaid. As part of Gov. Walker’s budget “fix” plan that nominally promises to close a state budget gap of $3.6 billion, he is proposing a $1 billion cut to health care programs that serve the disabled, elderly, and low-income residents currently served through BadgerCare, the state’s Medicaid program.
Mismanagement: Privatization Efforts Jeopardize Public Safety and Health- In this brief, One Wisconsin Now details Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s track record with pushing for the privatization of public assets in recent years, and documents the excessive costs, mismanagement, high risks, job loss, lost accountability, and negative impacts on the middle class, working families, and vulnerable populations that have occurred as a result of these efforts.
Good Rules: Ten Stories of Successful Regulation- In contrast with the misguided conservative assault on regulations, this DEMOS publication provides examples of successful government rules that have greatly helped and protected American families, workers, consumers and businesses, including common sense regulations like municipal building codes, American’s with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and Acid Rain regulations.
Apples to Apples: Private-Sector and Public-Sector Compensation in Iowa- The Iowa Policy Project compared education, work experience, annual hours worked, race, sex, disability status, and firm size for the public and private sector, and found that on average, Iowa’s public employees tend to be more educated than their counterparts in the private sector, and earn less, even when benefit packages are accounted for.
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