March 1st was a busy day for many of us in Wisconsin. Around 4:00 p.m. Governor Walker gave his biennial budget address to a supportive audience of republicans and lobbyists hoping to extract money from republicans.  I was at the Capitol, but couldn’t get in because the Capitol at that point was locked down to people who do not agree with Scott Walker. So I was outside in the cold shouting “Shame!” instead of inside hearing how the Governor plans to weaken public education, but provide more tax cuts for corporations!  Yay??

(By the way, you can learn all about the Governor’s budget proposal on my “Save the State” page.  In a nutshell, it’s bad for the middle-class, but terrifying for the working poor.)

For most of us, the evening of March 1st was spent sifting though the budget and newspaper articles about the budget to determine if we’d still have health care, which of our kids’ school programs would be cut, whether or not we’d be laid off, or if our unemployment insurance would get cut off, or whether grandma could still afford to stay in her home, and on and on.  It was a bad night for those of us in the middle- and working-classes.  On March 1st the governor made it clear that he would balance his budget on the backs of us, our families and the people most at risk in our community.

But for Governor Walker, it was a totally relaxing night! After he finally got that annoying speech done, he announced to Twitter (see above) that he had a great night eating chili with the Mrs. and watching the boob tube. The tweet asked for derision and derided it was.  (Currently there is an inactive Twitter account titled Chili with Tonette.)

But this is not the first embarrassing Tweet from our Governor.  Here he is in February after the Packers’ Superbowl win and shortly before announcing that he would remove bargaining and union rights for most public employees:

Yes, for our Governor, winning the election and serving as Governor is like one long confetti-streaming party!  Woo-hoooooo! Packers win! Yeaaahh! Tax increases on the working poor! My life is awwwessoome!

Many times Walker’s tweets construct  some alternate Wisconsin reality that distracts us from what’s actually going on in this state under his leadership.  On Saturday, while over 100,000 of us gathered to protest his middle-class harming policies, the Governor tweeted:

Wow, glad the suburbanites in the mall by the country club liked your haircut and have the same level of disdain for working-class people as you do, Governor.

Anger and confusion are emotions almost universally triggered by Governor Walker’s Twitter account.  Here’s a typical moment from Sunday:

In a matter of tweets the Governor endorses a misleading column by a conservative commentator, finally acknowledges the crisis in Japan after two days of silence and then links to a discredited attack ad against working middle-class people funded by Karl Rove’s organization.  That’s our governor, politicking during tragedy and attacking his own constituents.

Of course, Scott Walker’s Twitter feed is ripe for satire, and satirized it is, frequently, on Twitter.  By my count there are at least twelve satirical Walker accounts that regularly mock Walker.

Most mock Walker’s policies, his arrogance, his questionable intelligence  and the overall tone-deafness he demonstrates when dealing with the public:

FakeGovWalker has bit more wit than most of the satirical accounts,  but is not as prolific as it should be:

RealGovWalker restates every GovWalker tweet in a way that makes sense to those of us who don’t understand Republican Newspeak:

GovWalkerHaiku strikes similar chords, but in, well, haiku form:

Others focus on Walker’s perceived insensitivity:

Fitzwalkerstan mocks the draconian policies of the Walker administration. (The handle refers to an angry quote by my Rep., Mark Pocan, who exclaimed last week on the Assembly floor that Walker and the Republican leaders, the Fitzgerald brothers, were turning Wisconsin into Fitzwalkerstan):

But with so many satire flags already on one man, it makes sense that some would chose to claim parts:

While others state their claim on the governor’s accessories:

WIGovPR focuses on the Walker Administration’s often incomprehensible PR strategy:

This is a bit of an aside, but if you ever want to read what it would sound like if  Governor Walker was criticized by a politically-shrewd dog, RexPoliticalDog has you covered:

But perhaps of most importance, there is one Governor Walker account that had been silent since December but emerged yesterday from its moth-balled closet. Governor Walker’s campaign account, which he uses to link to his fundraising page, sprung back to life yesterday (Was it on a state computer or his blackberry? Will the press ask?). Take this as a sign that Governor Walker is starting to understand the recall threat against him and his colleagues is very, very real:

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Sewing the seeds for a big season of recalls

In perhaps the most awe-inspiring show of solidarity since Wisconsinites began protesting Governor Scott Walker’s extreme budget measures nearly a month ago, farmers from across the state joined protesters in a tractorcade around the Capitol Square.  It was the start of what would prove to be the largest day yet of protests, despite the Governor signing on Friday his controversial proposal to strip public employees of most union rights.

For the farmers who made it to the capitol, it was not only a chance to show solidarity with the other Wisconsin working families but also an opportunity draw attention to the potential impacts Walker’s  proposals will have on Wisconsin farm families. From the Capital Times:

“This isn’t us versus them, with farmers siding with union employees,” says Scott Schultz, executive director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. “In rural farm communities, Walker’s budget is hitting home in a number of ways.”

Although unions and collective bargaining have strong roots in the farm industry — the Wisconsin Farmers Union began in the 1930s — Peck says Saturday’s rallies are about more than preserving union rights.

Peck says many of those coming to Madison are upset by the realization that Walker’s agenda is “sacrificing Wisconsin’s quality of life for everyone, not just unions.”

“There are other things going on here. If BadgerCare is wiped out or scaled back, a lot of these people won’t have health care anymore,” Peck says.

Roughly 11,000, or one in seven, farmers and their family members receive health coverage through BadgerCare, according to the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

In additional to sharply curtailed healthcare access, under Governor Walker’s budget proposals rural communities may face a public education crisis.  Governor Walker’s budget cuts hundreds of millions from public education in the state (interestingly, it raises funding for charter and choice school).  But Walker’s budget does not give school districts any tools to increase revenues to offset cuts and instead only allows districts to cut (obviously Walker prefers the cuts to come out of the paychecks of middle-class teachers). But for very rural districts with fewer services and even fewer teachers, it will be hard to find enough to cut without dramatically impacting the quality of education rural students receive.  For a wealthier district, or districts closer to larger cities, it might be possible to consolidate services with other schools to find cuts.  But for rural schools, where students are often already bused for miles to attend a single high school that serves many farm communities, it will also be difficult to find more ways to consolidate without risking rural students’ ability to access comparable services.

Without good school systems, many rural communities may see dwindling populations as those who can afford to move to areas with better services will be far more likely to do so. For the rural students whose parents can not move, it will mean they no longer have access to the same level of education and opportunity as their suburban counterparts. For the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites, like myself, who descend from Wisconsin farm families and who share a deep passion for preserving Wisconsin’s family farm culture, Walker’s budget proposals will lead to a devastating and potentially irreversible disintegration of the lifestyle that brought our ancestors across oceans to sew Wisconsin’s rich farmland. Walker’s proposals are a betrayal of our fundamental support of rural living and truly shows that his values and not Wisconsin values.

Below are more images from Saturday’s Tractorcade:

4th Generation Badger with this tractor

One little legislator at a time

An "S" and a "Y" spell solidarity

Hope sustains Wisconsin farmers

People across Wisconsin were shocked this evening as senate republicans used legislative maneuvering to pass Governor Walker’s sweeping anti-union proposals. After weeks of claiming collective bargaining was a “fiscal matter” and, therefore, needed to be considered as part of the governor’s budget “repair” bill, republicans today changed their tune and decided it was NOT a fiscal issue and could be passed without a the democrats needed for a senate quorum.

To get the measure to the senate, republicans stripped all fiscal items from the bill in a legislative committee meeting that lasted for about two minutes, video of which is below. The only Democrat present, Peter Barca of Kenosha, asks repeatedly to have the changes to the bill read to him, but is rebuffed. The true kicker is that under Wisconsin’s open meeting law, the public must be given 24 hours notice before a public meeting unless there is good cause. Today we were given one hour and 50 minutes to get to the capitol. Most people were stuck in line at metal detectors as the republicans forced through these measures, which essentially ended over 50 years of peaceful labor relations in Wisconsin. In the video Representative Barca repeatedly tries to determine what “good cause” republicans have to justify the meeting, but is ignored. After a couple of short moments, the republicans pass the bill changes over the loud objections of Rep. Barca.

During the entire video you will repeated hear cries of “Shame! Shame! Shame” from within the capitol. Shame indeed.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Travesty of Justice.MP4, posted with vodpod

Okay, welfare queens, pick your uterus up by it bootstraps

Today, March 8th, marks the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day.  And what better day to point  out that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal would eliminate all state funding for family planning services for low-income people.  That’s right, apparently the math in Governor Walker’s mind tells him that the state funding condoms and generic versions of orto-tri-cyclen costs more than the state funding life-long public assistance programs for unwanted children.  That’s our gov, always using his big brain!

Here’s the thing, as with many of the Governor’s proposals, this brain-dead logic has nothing to do with the cost to run a program, but has everything to do with complying with the GOP’s national platform.  Walker is in fact just copying the “big boys” in Washington D.C.  The GOP is attempting to rile up its Pro-Life base for 2012 by claiming that their move to defund Planned Parenthood and family planning clinics is really a move to stop the public funding of abortion.  But what Scott Walker and his D.C. counterparts ignore is that federal and state laws already prohibit the public funding of abortion.

But that’s not stopping local pro-lifers from backing these measures.  From the Capital Times:

Federal law, however, prohibits the use of federal dollars for abortion services, as does Wisconsin law, so none of the funds targeted in Walker’s budget are used to fund abortion services.

Barbara Lyons, Executive Director of Wisconsin Right to Life, nevertheless insists that Planned Parenthood uses taxpayer dollars to help “underwrite” its abortion practices.

But isn’t the whole point of family planning and contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies and, subsequently, abortions? Aren’t these pro-lifers actually backing policies that give them more of what they don’t want?

Like most poorly-reasoned Republican base-bating proposals, Scott Walker’s proposal will have dire consequences in Wisconsin.  Walker’s anti-family planning budget will cut numerous critical public health programs for low-income families in our state, which actually makes Wisconsin vulnerable to losing millions in federal matching dollars. Further, Walker’s proposals will restrict low-income people’s access to health care and will limit their ability to plan when and how to have children:

Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, says about 50 centers around the state would be affected by the elimination of family planning dollars. These centers, which treat men and women, provide cervical, breast and prostate screenings, sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment and access to birth control.

Walker’s budget proposal, she says, “has the threat of dismantling the family planning infrastructure in the state.”

One thing can be said about Governor Walker’s budget, his plan to cut family planning,  disease testing and treatment certainly holds fast to the national GOP platform: Big government in the bedroom, little government where you actually need it.

Residents protesting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bill packed a Wauwatosa town hall meeting hosted by Republican U.S. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner this evening, which he adjourned early after repeated interruptions from attendees. The protesters took particular ire with the presence and presentation of Republican State Senator Leah Vukmir, who was arguing with protesters over her support of Walker’s bill.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Attendees packed a meeting room in the Wauwatosa Public Library while an adjacent hallway was filled with the meeting’s overflow. Budget bill opponents hoping to recall Vukmir gathered signatures in the lobby of the Wauwatosa Civic Center while outside about 75 protesters denounced the bill and called for Walker’s recall.

“I am very disappointed in Congressman Sensenbrenner tonight for shutting down the meeting strictly because people were here in opposition and he got uncomfortable with them,” said Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Andrew Reiser.

Here is footage of the town hall in which you can hear Sensenbrenner sternly order protesters to be quiet while Vukmir parrots the same talking points we have heard Governor Walker exhaust over the last couple days. Attendees become especially incensed as Vukmir uses a news story from Oshkosh (also referenced by Governor Walker yesterday) claiming their district may be able to come out even, they think, under Walker’s budget proposal. “What about Tosa?!” shouts one angry protester at the 1:30 minute mark. The meeting is adjourned shortly thereafter to loud boos and calls of “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

Fun facts: Wauwatosa is Governor Walker’s adopted hometown and he won Vukmir’s district by 54%.  And yes, petitions are being gathered for Vukmir’s recall. Thoughts? Speculation?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Town Hall Meeting 3/7/11, posted with vodpod

This week Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continued his undeclared war on the majority of Wisconsinites by announcing a budget aimed at cutting public education, environmental protections, support of local governments and safety net services for the poor and disabled.  Apparently Governor Walker’s plan for creating 250,000 jobs is to start by ensuring the elimination of about 100,000 of them first and essentially destroying Wisconsin’s quality of life??

But never fear, not everyone in Wisconsin will feel the pain. The Governor’s budget gives an additional $400 million in funding to transportation!  But by transportation I mean only road building, as the Governor’s proposed budget would also decimate bus systems and pedestrian/bike programs. I’m sure this “improved” funding for road builders is all about job creation or something and has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that road builders gave over $120,000 to Governor Walker’s campaign–making them one of his largest donors.

At the bottom of the page is a run-down of some of the budget info I’ve compiled over last couple of days. But it is very, very bad.  Huge cuts to education (the poorest districts will suffer the most).  But more funding to choice and charter schools–so rich people in the Republican Milwaukee suburbs will be set! Major cuts to environmental programs, like recycling?? Cuts, to local government with the aim of forcing them to cut salary and benefits for teachers.  It’s truly reprehensible. You can find out all about the budget proposal PLUS information about the battle to save unions on my “Save the State” page.  I will update it as the debates and battles continue.  In the meantime, here’s an ad from Bold Progressives, which supports ActBlue (which is raising money for the 14 Dem Senators in Illinois and to get the word out across the state about the devastation contained within the Governor’s proposals).

2011-2013 Biennial Budget (By Subject)

General

MJS–The new normal of sacrifice

Politifact: Scott Walker says Wisconsin is broke (Ruling: False)

Governor Walker’s budget cuts would reshape the state

Cieslewicz, Falk blast Walker’s budget plans

In Madison–Governor Walker packed his budget address with ringers

Scott Walker’s Budget Address: The ego has landed

Transformative, yes, but is this budget fair?

Wispolitics Budget Blog

Transcript–Scott Walker’s Budget Address

Department of Administration Budget Page

Education (K-12, UW-System, Charter Schools, Technical Colleges)

State actions have local teachers weighing retirement

MJS–Don’t forget students when mulling what’s next for MPS

MJS–Wisconsin school districts studying impact of proposed cuts

MJS–MPS has to cut $74 million more

Facing cut to state aid: MATC officials wonder how they’ll pay for new buildings

Walker’s war on equality

Walker’s budget hits MATC hard

Budget cuts hundreds of millions from schools

University of Wisconsin System faces $250 million in cuts, restructuring

Walker plans to phase out Wisconsin Covenant

Budget would take more than $20 million from Madison schools

Walker gives charter more chance

Good news, bad news for UW tuition

Local Governments

Municipal, county governments target of large cuts in Walker budget

Health Care (Medicaid, Badger Care, Women’s Health)

CT–Guess why Walker wants to freeze State Life Fund

MJS–Experimentation yes, but done with transparency

CT–Right-to-lifers are on cloud nine

MJS–Women’s health–Culture war redux

Advocates for people on Medicaid pan Walker’s budget speech

Walker’s budget removes insurance requirement to cover birth control

Budget aims to end growth of Medicaid programs in the state

Taxes

Walker’s budget slashes that aid poor

Walker’s proposed capital gains tax breaks get lukewarm backing

Environmental Issues

CT–Energy Programs get Walker ax

Walker budget would eliminate office of energy independence (Also pulls back on mandates for agencies to use less gas)

State recycling mandate, funding eliminated under Walker’s budget

Walker’s budget removes $1.1 million for recycling in Madison

Transportation

MJS–Busting Bus Systems

Walker budget eliminates money for bike/pedestrian improvements

Full speed ahead for Zoo Interchange

Other

State pension shift faces a 401 (k) turn

Ethan Allen closing stows hope

Walker’s budget all but kills public financing for state supreme court elections

Budget would end early release program for non-violent prisoners

Due to this blog’s ongoing focus on the Governor Walker’s attack on middle-class workers and, as of yesterday, pretty much everyone else in Wisconsin, I’ve added a new “Save the State” page to try to keep track of advocacy pages, legislation, news articles, editorials, fellow blog posts and just the odds and ends of Governor Walker’s adversarial administration. It’s located at the top of the page.  Enjoy!

Even though he’s no longer a Congressman, Dave Obey continues to fight for the regular people of Wisconsin, unlike Wisconsin’s current governor.  There are many great Dave Obey moments in the following video: “[The governor] is a temporary occupant of this building.” “It’s like they are doling out a little piece of Democracy a bit at a time. It’s a joke.” (Note, the last 7 minutes of this video are just black for some reason.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Congressman Obey Denied Access to Wisconsin Cap…, posted with vodpod

Sometimes it’s hard to be a Governor with national political ambitions.  The rich special interests that paid for your campaign demand bold action, you want to impress them to make a name for yourself, but there are all of these pesky laws and constituents that keep hindering your plans for national domination! It’s just not fair! Everyone knows you’re the next Ronald Reagan and the people of Wisconsin are your Berlin Wall!

So what do you, Scott Walker, do when things don’t go as planned?  What do you do when tens of thousands of people from your state continue daily protests against your attempt to take away their labor unions? What do you do when poll after poll after poll after poll after poll after poll shows that the public is against your measures to limit collective bargaining? (Note, the first three of these polls were done by conservative organizations). What do you do when the majority of people surveyed in Wisconsin say they would vote for your opponent if the election was held again today? What do you do when you’ve learned that you and your allies are vulnerable to recall? What do you do when you get sued for violating labor laws? And the City of Milwaukee’s lawyer says your budget “repair” bill is unconstitutional?  And what if the media doesn’t grow tired of the protesters as you predicted they would and they keep reporting about the protesters day after day after day?

Well if you are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his Republican allies, you don’t negotiate to end the public’s concerns about your measures, but instead go after the very expression of political dissent. Today protesters were no longer welcome in the Wisconsin State Capitol because they were protesting too much…errr…they’re dirty or broke something, or something. Don’t ask for evidence because none will be provided!

Unfortunately for Governor Walker, the Wisconsin State Constitution forbids the legislature from preventing public access to the State Capitol (Article 1, Section 4).  The state is citing an administrative rule to defend itself on this one (They cite DOA rule 2.04)–but since when does an administrative rule trump the State Constitution?

Article 1, Section 4 of Wisconsin State Constitution taped to the locked door of the Wisconsin State Capitol

One thing has become clear from the stalemate on Governor Walker’s budget adjustment bill, Governor Walker is very good at staying on message.  His message to Wisconsin has been: blame the Democrats who fled to Illinois.  He reiterated this message again this morning.  The Governor’s message is: if you don’t come back, every bad thing I do to this state will be your fault.  But such a message is incredibly disingenuous. Here’s why:

Democrats, Unions and even one Republican have come to the table with compromise legislation, Governor Walker refuses to compromise

  • As mentioned previously, Democratic members in the state assembly last offered a compromise proposal to the budget adjustment that gave Governor Walker 90% of what he wanted and would have saved the state even more money. This compromise was voted down by the Republican-controlled Assembly.
  • Further, leaders of the state’s largest public employee unions have made it clear that they will support the Governor’s concessions so long as they can continue to collectively bargain. These unions combined represent approximately 150,000 public employees–by far the majority. Again–such an agreement gives Governor Walker essentially everything he’s asked for, minus the incredibly controversial collective bargaining proposal that the majority of Wisconsin residents, even when polled by conservatives, do not support. But instead of doing the reasonable thing and agreeing to “win” by 90%, the Governor has been working to discredit the unions’ statements by pointing out recent (? not sure–no dates are given) union negotiations in which unions did not take big cuts. Walker’s logic in this regard is faulty.  He provides no evidence that the unions in question are part of the unions that have agreed to his concessions, or unions that would even be involved in negotiations on the state level (it appears they are all municipal unions). Wisconsin is full of tiny bargaining units of 100 employees or less, so yeah, not really the unions we’re talking about here. In other words, different unions, different employer at the bargaining table. Further, Walker’s release completely ignores the fact that the municipalities in question have made the choice to agree to these contract terms.  That’s likely because, unlike the state, the cities of Madison, Janesville and others know that it is in their best interest to retain their high-quality public workers.
  • Republican Senator Dale Schultz proposed, but ultimately did not allow a vote on, a compromise bill that would contain union concessions and suspend collective bargaining for two years.  Schultz claims he did not propose the measure because the Democrats were Illinois (I don’t get it either).  But the fact remains that the bill had no Republican support, and it appears that he may have been threatened by Republican leadership for even proposing a compromise.  Frankly Governor Walker and the Republican Legislative leadership are incredibly foolish in their disregard Sen. Schultz’s measure. Accepting such a term would again give them everything they want and also make them look like reasonable leaders.  Further, as Governor Walker has the ability to line item veto the sunset requirement for the collective bargaining measure, they could have passed the compromise and removed all the language that made it a compromise in the first place.

If public employees do get laid off in Wisconsin it will not be for any unwillingness to negotiate on the part of union supporters–it will be because Scott Walker and his legislative puppets (they are supposed to check and balance, right?) wants to win completely and at any cost.

One thing the Governor consistently ignores with his never-ending slew of same-sounding press releases and tweets: he is the leader of this state.  When there is unrest in the state, when there is a legislative impasse in the state, when Wisconsin voters are barred from their Capitol, when Legislative leaders propose violating labor laws to force the other party into compliance, when neighbors begin to feel anger against their neighbors–it is the state’s Governor who should step up to be the leader who resolves the conflict and find the road to compromise.