Wisconsin continues to stand strong against Republican attempts to reduce the salaries, health insurance, pensions and rights of its state workers. Among the recent developments:
Governor Walker created the budget crisis
Scott Walker and the new Republican-controlled state legislature in Wisconsin largely created the deficit problem they claim must be solved on the backs of public servants.
Walker claims that the state is broke. However, the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau, a sort of in-state CBO, disagrees with Walker and projects a net positive balance of 56 million for the state by the end of June, 2011 (read their report here, PDF). Further, the Bureau argues that the state would have had an additional
$139.7 $202.8 million to work with over the next two years if not for the tax cuts already passed during Walker’s brief administration. Yet further, as recently as February 1st, Walker did not announce his plans on how to pay for those cuts:
The measure joins three others Walker has signed in his first month in office that he said will send a message that Wisconsin is more business friendly. Walker, a Republican, has seen his legislative agenda speed through the Republican-controlled Legislature even though he has yet to explain how he'll pay for everything in light of the state's projected $3 billion budget shortfall.
Walker is exaggerating and fueling the state’s fiscal crisis as an excuse to break unions. Brian Beutler has more on this at TPMDC.
Senate Dems in hiding, not coming back until collective bargaining rights are secured
Greg Sargent was able to talk to one of the Wisconsin Senate Dems:
I just got off the phone with Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson, one of the Democrats who has left the capitol in order to stall the GOP's plan to roll back the bargaining rights of public employees. Speaking to me by cell phone from an undisclosed location, Larson said he and his fellow Democrats would not return until the GOP takes its assault on organizing rights "off the table."
"Each of us is in a secure location," he told me, confirming that they were not all together but were monitoring events on the Web and on Twitter. Larson refused to say whether he and his fellow Dems had left the state, as some have speculated.
"We're going to be staying away until we hear that they are taking the right to organize seriously," Larson continued, referring to Republicans. "They're going after 50 years of history in one week. Until they take that off the table, it's a non-starter."
This could go on for a while. Good. We can’t just put up a fight for a few days and call it off.
Police showing solidarity
Senate Dems aren’t too worried about the police tracking them down. The police are showing solidarity, including handing out bratwurst to the protesters.
Protests spreading to Ohio
Wisconsin is just where this fight is starting, but it does not end here. In Ohio, 5,000 protesters are descending on the state Capitol in building in Columbus to fight against a bill that would wipe out their collective bargaining rights. Newly elected Republican Governors and legislatures are trying to break unions in several states:
There are similar efforts in nascent stages just about everywhere Republicans took control of one or more branches of government: Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and to a lesser degree in Maine and Pennsylvania.
#WIunions is trending nationally on Twitter right now, too. This fight is not isolated, and it's not going to be over quickly. It’s coming to a town near you. And the image at the top of the post is a preview of what to expect.