Walker signs Budget Repair Bill

Story by Taylor Kuether

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Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill was voted on by the Senate Republicans last week Wednesday, putting the bill into law as soon as the end of
this month.

Democrats and unions began filing lawsuits almost immediately to halt the bill’s progress. Controversy remains over the manner in which the bill was voted on last Wednesday.

Communication and journalism professor Terry Chmielewski said he didn’t think Wednesday’s vote was right or even legal and that splitting Senate Republicans and Democrats wasn’t right either.

“Unions are the voice of the people,” Chmielewski said, “and they are the ones who Scott Walker wants to eliminate. You have to accommodate workers, that’s part of the ball game.”

Chmielewski also noted that the origin of the bill is very important. “It comes from the governor but it also comes from the Koch brothers,” he said. “It shows a nationwide desire to have the voices of the working-class people be eliminated.”

Collective bargaining, or the negotiation between one or more unions on terms such as income and worker’s rights, began in Wisconsin more than half of a century ago and will be among the first commodities stripped to balance the budget.

“The provisions that have passed were designed to plug a little gap between revenue and spending, the deficit that existed in the current fiscal year that ends June 30,” said political science professor Rodd Freitag.

“The way they’ll do that, largely, is by having state employees and public employees take more (out of) their pension for their health care benefits,” Freitag said. By doing this, he said, the state would save money and repair the budget by bringing it back into balance in the current fiscal year.

The initial proposal of the bill, Freitag said, was to refinance and, in essence, borrow the money and pay the interest later. As of right now, though, Freitag believes that nothing is truly finalized.

“The legislature needs to take more action in order to have the numbers come out right,” Freitag said. “There were parts that they weren’t able to do with the Democrats gone. There are still a few more votes that need to be taken.”

As for immediate repercussions of the Budget Repair Bill, Freitag said we’ll all be a little bit poorer. “We’ll all just have a little less income,” he said of fellow faculty and staff.
“It’s going to have some severe effects on our ability to educate our children. We’re having to lay off teachers,” he said, noting one Menomonie case in which an award-winning teacher is being laid off because she was one of the first hired.

“I think there’s going to be some very bad effects,” Chmielewski said, “Especially in the area of public education.”

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