Posts Tagged ‘unions’
After more than sixty straight hours of debate and two weeks of massive protests and controversy, the Wisconsin State Assembly voted 51-17 to pass the 2011 Budget Adjustment Bill this week. Again, without getting into any conflicts of interest, I only mention this given the national attention it has generated. Plus, I blame the longer hours I needed to work during this fiasco as my reason for not posting to my blog in over a week.
I also wanted to mention that a good friend of mine as well as a fellow blogger and legislative staffer, attended the counter-rally organized by the Tea Party in Madison last Saturday. Between the union protesters and the Tea Party counter-protesters who attended, there were about 70,000 people surrounding the Capitol in one of the largest stand-offs in Madison’s history. After spending the day at the Capitol, my friend uploaded a few pictures onto his blog, The TrogloPundit, some of which were “tame” and appropriate; others of which showcased “creativity’s” angry side (caution: explicit content featured). Yet, despite the content featured on a number of these signs featured in my friend’s photos, the unions are urging Governor Walker and the Legislature to “negotiate” with them…
Hmmmm… if you were confronted by someone carrying a sign with your picture featured within crosshairs or a slogan comparing you to one of history’s most notorious dictators who murdered millions of innocent people, would you be willing to sit down at the negotiating table with them?
It isn’t everyday that your employer is featured on nearly every national news network and media outlet imaginable, so I will devote a brief posting on the events unfolding in Madison, Wisconsin as we speak. I must disclose that I generally do not discuss Wisconsin politics on this blog as I believe it would be a conflict of interest given that I am employed by the state (while attending graduate school at the same time – which is definitely a challenge). I will make an exception at this time given the circumstances.
From The New York Times, to Politico, to Fox News, to CNN, and many more, virtually the entire nation is now familiar with the massive protests that have taken place throughout the week in and around Wisconsin’s capitol building. Additionally, my fellow legislative staffers and I have been dealing with hundreds of phone calls and thousands of e-mail messages as well as impromptu “meetings” with the protesters as they make their way to Assembly and Senate offices demanding to “kill the bill.” The protests began in response to Governor Scott Walker’s introduction of Special Session Senate Bill 11, also known as the Budget Repair Bill needed to fill a nearly $200 million shortfall for the current fiscal biennium that ends on June 30th this year, and also address a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the 2011-2013 state budget cycle.
Included in the 144-page document are concessions that unionized state employees will be required to make once the bill is signed into law. Among them are changes to collective bargaining rights and increases in contributions to their pensions (5.8 percent for 2011, which is in line with the national average for the private sector) and health insurance plans (at least 12 percent of the monthly premiums, which is less than half of what private sector employees pay for their plans). These changes alone are expected to save the state $30 million through June 30th, though they have also proved to be the most contentious components of the Budget Repair bill.
Demonstrating complete disregard for the legislative process as well as their obligations as elected officials, the Democratic members of the State Senate left the Capitol and headed down to Rockford, Illinois in boycotting the scheduled vote on the Budget Repair bill that was to take place on Thursday. At this point, it’s uncertain if the Assembly will instead take up the measure or wait until the Democratic Senators are brought back to the Capitol and the Senate reconvenes to vote on the measure. Stay tuned to those national headlines for updates on Wisconsin’s budget repair progress.