Walker's Disastrous New Budget Could Devastate Schools, Cities Across Wisconsin
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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has unveiled a budget slashing aid to schools and local districts, cutting an estimated 12,000 jobs. Critics say the plan would devastate Wisconsin’s public education system. As Gov. Walker spoke, thousands of protesters were being denied entry to the state Capitol despite a court order to open the building to the public. We speak speak with Mary Bottari of the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy’s Real Economy Project.
AMY GOODMAN: In Madison, Wisconsin, protests continue outside the State Capitol against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. On Tuesday, Governor Walker unveiled his two-year budget plan.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Our state cannot grow if our people are weighed down paying for a larger and larger government, a government that pays its workers unsustainable benefits that are out of line with the private sector. We need a leaner and cleaner state government.
AMY GOODMAN: As Governor Walker spoke, thousands of protesters were being denied entry to the State Capitol despite a court order to open the building to the public.
Joining us in Madison—and then we’ll go to Indiana, as well as to Idaho—is Mary Bottari, director of the Center for Media and Democracy’s Real Economy Project.
Describe the scene yesterday, Mary, what happened outside, why people weren’t allowed in. I mean, tens of thousands have been inside the Capitol.
MARY BOTTARI: Tens of thousands have been inside of the Capitol peacefully, now going on over two weeks, in different stages. On Sunday, we had the largest rally in Madison’s history, perhaps the largest rally in U.S. labor history, outside of the Capitol. A hundred thousand to 125,000 people took to the streets. And there were no incidents reported. Protesters anticipated that on Monday morning at 8:00 the Wisconsin Capitol building would be open for business as it always has been, and some of them arrived early in the morning for various activities inside the Capitol—other citizens arrived for regular meetings inside the Capitol—to find the Capitol doors shut and a whole new array of procedures before they could get in. They had to call their legislator. They had to get escorted down. If their legislator didn’t want to see them, they never got into the Capitol building. This was extraordinary in Wisconsin history. We never had anything quite like that.
And after dozens of people were denied access, lawyers went into court and, on Tuesday morning at 9:30 in the morning, got a temporary restraining order opening the Capitol to the public. I stood outside in the freezing cold with a bunch of other people and a growing crowd, waiting to see if anyone would get in, and no one did. The Governor and his staff went back into court, trying to get that restraining order overturned. They wanted to make sure there would be no protesters in the building in advance of his 4:00 hearing. It was a tense standoff all day.
The Sheriff’s Department, the Dane County Sheriff Department, somewhere in the midst of all this, decided to quit the building, and the Sheriff did a press conference saying, "It is not my job to be a palace guard." So, at 4:00, when the Governor did give his budget address, the Governor was still under a court order to open the building, and he defied that court order. He went ahead. He gave his budget address, while thousands and thousands of protesters outside chanted, "Let me in!" Those chants could be heard inside the chambers. It was a very dramatic day.