It’s all about the future.
That was the general theme of Gov. Scott Walker’s two-year $59.2 billion budget proposal he gave Tuesday inside the Capitol State Assembly in Madison.
Walker addressed a slew of issues that ranged from UW Madison splitting off from the UW System and local job cuts.
But Walker stressed throughout his speech that the pros outweigh the cons and that his bill will provide many long-term savings and will, in turn, help Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion deficit and balance the budget.
“This budget is about our commitment to our future,” Walker said during his 25-minute address. “Working together I know we can do it.”
The bill holds state tax dollars nearly flat, slashes aid to public schools by $834 million and local governments while expanding state aid to private schools, eliminating 1,200 state jobs with possible layoffs and placing the tightest limits on property taxes.
In an effort to educate UW-Whitewater students, faculty and staff members, Chancellor Richard Telfer will hold a listening session at 8:30-10 a.m. today in the University Center’s Summers Auditorium.
Democratic Sen. Mark Miller, who is the minority leader and who spoke after Walker’s speech, is still very upset about Walker’s bill.
“This is a continued assault on the middle class of Wisconsin,” Miller said from a location in Illinois. “[This is] disappointing to me and the democrats. He continues to promote the fiction. He is bent on breaking the back of working men and women in Wisconsin.
“The communities are hurt the worst; the poorer communities.”
An estimated 21,000 jobs in the state would be eliminated over the next two years under the bill.
“It destroys the middle class in Wisconsin,” Madison Democratic Sen. Fred Risser said. “This budget is very defective. It goes after the most vulnerable in our society. There’s no reform.”
But Walker doesn’t see it this way.
“The facts are clear and Wisconsin is broke,” Walker said. “We weren’t elected to make the easy decisions, but ones that help our children and our grandchildren.”
There has been constant division amongst the Democrats and the Republicans throughout these past two weeks. This was shown Tuesday, as the Democrat assembly members in the chamber rarely clapped during the speech.
And 14 Democratic senators have been hiding out in Illinois since Feb. 17 to avoid voting on the bill.
“He just continues his dance and they have given him exactly what he needs to balance the budget,” Julie Lassa, Democratic senator from Stevens Point said from a Northern Illinois location.
The bill did, however, pass through the assembly last Friday. But as a result of those Democrats missing, it cannot be passed through the senate.
Rep Evan Wynn (R–Whitewater) is in agreement with Walker and his beliefs on the bill.
“Today I fulfilled my promises to the constituents of the 43rd Assembly District by casting my vote in favor of balancing Wisconsin’s budget – without job-killing tax increases,” Wynn said. “The bill also gives school districts, county governments, and local municipalities the local control they need to rein in their spending at their level.”
Local Representative Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, along with Wynn, were two of the 51 Republicans who voted to pass Walker’s budget-repair bill last Friday. The bill passed through the assembly with a vote of 51-17, with 28 representatives not voting at all.
All Democrats who were present voted against the bill along with four Republicans.
Wynn also called on the missing Democratic senators to return to Madison and stop playing “hide and seek.”
“While the hypocritical Democrat senators complain about Republicans not meeting with their constituents, they are hiding out in Illinois,” Wynn said. “The Senate Democrats should have real leadership and show up to their own Madison offices.”
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have flocked to Madison to show their displeasure for the bill and its affects for more than two weeks.
The main aspect in the bill the protesters are upset about is that their collective bargaining rights would be stripped.
But Walker has not budged throughout this struggle and has said he is not negotiating.
“This is a reform budget,” Walker said. “It is about getting Wisconsin working again – and to make that happen, we need a balanced budget that works and an environment where the private sector can create 250,000 jobs over the next four years.”
Walker added regarding the deficit, “This deficit didn’t happen overnight. We need a leaner and cleaner state government.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s opponent in the gubernatorial election last fall, is against the bill.
“This is like a family crisis,” Barrett said. “You don’t move forward by pitting a community against each other. Is that what we want in a society?”
Education was a major topic in the bill.
In addition to Walker saying UW Madison could split from the UW System, Walker said he is open to UW-Milwaukee and other four-year campuses splitting off and becoming independent.
“We need a commitment toward the future,” Walker said. “Together we will change the way government works in Wisconsin. Our budget holds these principles.”