Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wiscoinsin Democrats and Progressive Act NOW!!

The following is a letter written last week from
 Phil Neuenfeldt
President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO

Dear Dems and Friends,

Gov. Walker’s proposed budget is full of bad things for working people and the state of Wisconsin. From slashing funding for public schools, parks and recycling programs to even decreasing the number of on duty prison guards that keep communities safe – Walker’s outrageous budget leaves Wisconsin’s public services and infrastructure wholly underfunded.

Let’s be clear Wisconsin’s budget crisis is a direct result of Walker’s bad decisions. First, his irresponsible 2011 tax cut for millionaires ended up costing the state twice as much as projected. Then, in one of the worst decisions any Governor has ever made for Wisconsin, he refused to accept BadgerCare funds to the tune of $345 million over the next two years.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is responsible for reviewing and voting on all aspects of the Governor’s proposed budget. This week the JFC held two sessions and has discussed further meetings for the following week.

Here are just some of the harmful budget items that have been adopted during this week’s JFC executive sessions:

Attacks on Public Education: In the dead of the night, with no public notice or oversight, the Republicans on the JFC introduced and adopted a 29-page education plan that dismantles Wisconsin’s strong tradition of great public education. The JFC's plan expands the reach of failed voucher schools by using public dollars to increase the number of vouchers to be used at unaccountable private schools. The JFC changed the licensing system for teachers so that a bachelor’s degree or coursework in education is no longer necessary. In another affront to local democracy, the JFC voted to dismantle the way Racine elects their local School Board.

Public School Takeover: The Republican-controlled JFC secretly developed a plan for private special interests to take over public schools in Milwaukee, and potentially Madison and Racine, without receiving public input or giving notice to parents or taxpayers. Under the new scheme the Milwaukee County Executive will appoint a Commissioner to takeover 3 to 5 so-called failing schools and turn them over to unaccountable private voucher schools. These new rules will require the Commissioner to fire all the current staff and hire new staff. The employees would not even be considered school district employees under Act 10 and would not be subject to civil service rules and protections. In another move to reward special interests, private voucher schools will be allowed to purchase MPS schools and buildings.

Elimination of Night Guards at Prisons: The JFC approved Gov. Walker’s proposed budget to cut night tower Correctional Officer positions, leaving night towers vacant at a time when prisoners are most likely to escape. At the request of one of the members of the JFC, the night tower positions will continue only at the Waupun maximum security prison. All other prison towers will be empty at night.

Doubling Health Care Costs for State Workers: The JFC, in concert with the State’s Group Insurance Board, approved the Governor’s plan to increase health care costs for state workers. The changes will result in the doubling out-of-pocket and deductible costs and the quadrupling of prescription drug costs. The changes will go into effect on January 1, 2016.

Cuts to Public Broadcasting: While the JFC voted to scale back cuts to public media proposed in Gov. Walker’s budget, the budget committee approved $2.3 million in cuts to public broadcasting (Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television) that provide independent news coverage to all corners of the state.

Cuts to Recycling Programs: JFC adopted a 20% cut for local recycling programs, which may lead to higher service fees and/or a reduction of services at the local level.

Elimination of Funding for State Parks: JFC voted to accept the Governor’s proposal to delete all state tax revenue for our beautiful state park system while at the same time increasing entrance fees for individual users.

What happens next?
Over the next two weeks the JFC will take up other important components of the state budget such as the UW System, the structure of our Workers Compensation system, and Transportation.

After the JFC settles on its recommended budget, it sends the recommended budget to the Assembly and Senate for a vote. At this stage, legislators can introduce amendments to revise the budget. After the Legislature votes on all its introduced amendments and the budget as a whole, it goes to the Governor’s Desk for line-item vetoes and/or signage. It is anticipated that the Governor will sign the budget sometime in June.

What you can do?
It is important that working families hold legislators accountable for their votes on the budget. If you want to see changes to the 2015-2017 budget, contact your legislator and voice your concerns  http://legis.wisconsin.gov/About/Contact?can_id=5bc170c1ea3e81cb98e4445693ba386e&source=email-state-budget-update&email_referrer=state-budget-update 
The legislative hotline is 1-800-362-9472.

Reliable public services and infrastructure lead to good job creation. If we don’t invest in Wisconsin today, it is our children who will suffer. Contact your legislator today and tell them Wisconsin deserves a better budget.