Workers' Uprising: Walker Unveils Disastrous New Budget, Threatens Democrats With Teacher Layoffs; Protesters Ejected from Speech
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The proposal by Schultz that so angered fellow Republicans was, after all, a modest one: He suggested that unions agree to have their bargaining rights rolled back right now on the understanding that they would be restored in 2013, after the state got its finances under control. Schultz's compromise got national media attention, which further angered his GOP colleagues, the source tells me.
Schultz has emerged as central to hopes for a compromise in Wisconsin. As multiple people have reported -- including Dave Weigel,David Dayen and Andy Kroll -- Senator Schultz has privately indicated he will vote No on Walker's proposal. Schultz's office is saying this is not the case, but the fact remains that he is involved in trying to persuade his fellow Republicans to reach a compromise with labor and Dems. And this isn't sitting well with his GOP colleagues.
Update: President Obama has taken some criticism for not inserting himself more forcefully in the debate over public employees unions. Today he weighed in on the controversy during an address to the National Governor's Association. The LA Times reports:
"I don't think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon," Obama said in televised remarks. "We need to attract the best and brightest to public service. These times demand it."
Initially, Obama had questioned Walker's proposal to curb collective bargaining. saying in a television interview that "generally seems like more of an assault on unions." Some Democratic allies had also urged Obama to make good on his campaign comments in 2007 that he would picket if workers were denied their right to organized and collectively bargain.
But the White House last week argued that Obama could speak forcefully on the issue without having to join the demonstrations, which have been going on for more than two weeks.
We assume the calculus at the White House goes something like this: right now, this is a battle between a far-right ideologue who refuses to compromise, and middle-class public workers. Public opinion is not on the governor's side. If the president visits Madison, then the story becomes Walker versus Obama, which changes the dynamic significantly.
Update: AFL-CIO Political Communications Director Eddie Vale reports a classy move by the embattled Wisconsin governor:
As we speak, Gov. Scott Walker & the Senate R’s are literally having the windows of the capital welded shut to keep people from passing food into the building to the people inside.
Our attorneys are collecting affidavits from the people who witnessed this, along with people who have been illegally denied access to a public, government, building.
We will be filing for a TRO [temporary restraining order] to open the Capitol.
It is a sad for democracy when Governor Walker and his R Senate allies are locking the people of Wisconsin out of their own state capitol.
Update: In a must-read analysis titled," Facts overshadowed in debate over union bill," the Associated Press demolishes Scott Walker's claims. An excerpt:
Walker argues the sweeping step is necessary to balance the budget not only over the next two years but into the future. School districts, cities, counties and other local governments need the flexibility, he says, to deal with more than $1 billion in state aid cuts Walker will announce Tuesday in his two-year budget plan.
That's certainly one way to tackle the problem, but it's not the only solution.
Walker has refused even to consider some of the other ways to raise the massive amount of money needed. He repeatedly has said his measures are the only way to fix the state's budget problems now and for the long term as he proposes deep cuts to state and local governments in his upcoming two-year budget.
He also is resolved not to raise taxes — an option used by Democrats who controlled the Legislature when the state faced a deficit that was nearly twice as large as the one Walker inherited. The Democrats also relied heavily on federal stimulus aid, which the state does not have available this time around.
Not raising taxes and not tapping federal aid leaves Walker with few alternatives other than reducing the money the state gives to schools and local governments or reducing Medicaid to the extent allowed under federal law.
Aid to schools and local governments is more than half of the entire state budget. Medical assistance programs are 9 percent, as is funding for the state prison system and money for the University of Wisconsin system. Walker won't make cuts to the prisons, but he's expected to make deep reductions in higher education.
As for Medicaid, Walker gives himself as much leeway as possible under the bill that passed the Assembly early Friday but remains hung up in the Senate because of 14 AWOL Democrats who skipped town to stymie efforts to vote on the proposal in that chamber.
Walker's bill gives his administration the power to make any changes necessary to Medicaid to save money, regardless of current law and without approval of the Legislature. Medicaid is a $1.2 billion part of the budget, but even with the freedom the bill gives him, Walker will be hamstrung by federal law that limits how many cost-saving changes states can make without a waiver.
Walker's new health department secretary, Dennis Smith, is a former federal Medicaid official who has advocated that states drop out of the program entirely. That position and others taken by Smith are worrisome to advocates for the poor, disabled and elderly, who are largely the beneficiaries of the program.