Complied by Courier Staff
State legislators continue to work on a path that dismisses the needs of working and middle class families in Wisconsin. These legislators are consumed with “all things political” and not measures that put people back to work or helping them to survive in this challenging economy.
Four lead organizations that developed the Wisconsin Values Budget responded to the passage of the state budget. The Wisconsin Values Budget balanced the state budget without draconian cuts by asking the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share.
“The budget that was just passed by the Legislature is based on the false premise that Wisconsin has no choice but to balance the budget through deep, painful cuts to programs for children and families, said Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. “Not only is it wrong to balance the budget on the backs of children, it is also short sighted from a deficit reduction perspective because these deep cuts will create additional problems that will cost more in the long run to address.”
“Governor Walker and the leaders of the Legislature have decided to put the demands of the wealthy and large corporations ahead of the prosperity and well being of Wisconsin’s workers, seniors, children, and people with disabilities,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
“It is shameful to grant over $2 billion in additional tax giveaways to large corporations and wealthy investors and at the same time make slashing cuts to education, health care, transit, and other vital services that increase opportunity, security, and freedom for all Wisconsinites.”
“The Legislature’s budget is a job-killing assault on the public structures a prosperous middle class depends on, such as education, health and strong local governments,” said Jack Norman, research director, Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF). “Instead of more tax breaks for Wisconsin’s most prosperous individuals and corporations, legislators should have generated revenue from these sources in order to lessen the severe cuts.”
“Budgets aren’t just matters of arithmetic and account balances. They’re moral documents too,” said Joel Rogers, director, Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS). “By telling us how a society distributes the benefits and burdens of social cooperation, they tell us what it values and thinks is fair. This budget tells us that Wisconsin’s current government thinks the best thing to do in tough times isn’t to come together, be prudent, and share burdens with those who can shoulder them most easily, but to lash out at children and the poor, smack the middle class, weaken democratic institutions of all kinds, and shovel money to the rich and criminally irresponsible. That’s no way to run a decent state. It’s a disgusting betrayal of what made it great.”
Senator Lena Taylor (DMilwaukee), Senate ranking member of the Joint Committee on Finance, blasted the GOP’s final approval of Bad Choices, Broken Promises Budget of 2011 which wages the Republican political war on the working families and the middle class of Wisconsin. “Voters in Wisconsin demanded a budget that placed education and jobs as a priority. What the Republicans gave them was tax increases, fund raids, late-night political gifts to the interests, and a series of broken promises”. The Senate approved the budget 19- 14 with Taylor voting against the 1.1 billion dollar spending increase.
The Republicans rejected a series of Democratic amendments that would have restored 400 million dollars in cuts to schools, stopped the potential expansion of the voucher program statewide, restored long-term care for seniors, and ended the Alberta Darling repeal of Milwaukee Police Pay Laws. “The Republicans continued making their bad choices right to the end; cutting more money from schools but continuing to pay bad cops like those that beat Frank Jude. The GOP priorities are all messed up when spending taxpayer dollars on crooked cops is more important than our schools”.
Last week’s action was the last for the Legislature after 108 days of the GOP crafting a budget which violated Wisconsin Values and broke the promises made by Republicans.
In addition to the devastating budget, legislators have spent time on a concealed and carry bill and ignored key measures that are essential to ensure the extension of unemployment compensation for thousands of Wisconsin residents.
More than 10,000 unemployed residents are no longer receiving an estimated $89 million in federally funded jobless benefits because state officials have not acted to renew them.
The change to state law would not touch the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund and would provide 13 more weeks of benefits to workers who have been without unemployment for roughly a year and a half.
The change in state law could come before a state advisory panel this week, however, the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council has done nothing, despite knowing about the issue for months.
The Legislature could have gone ahead on its own. It did pass in the state budget a cost-saving proposal to stop paying workers the first week of unemployment insurance benefits-a difference to both the state and the workers of tens of millions of dollars a year. As a result of not acting the extended benefits ran out on April 16.
Representative Robin Vos (R-Rochester), co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, reportedly said in a recent interview that he thinks the federally funded extended benefits give laid-off workers an incentive to avoid jobs that pay less than their old jobs and to keep looking for better work.
Vos and other Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee added the one-week delay to the state budget, but did nothing on the extended unemployment benefits. U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) made the following statement on the Wisconsin State Legislature blocking Federal funding from reaching unemployed Wisconsinites:
“As proteges of Governor Walker, the Wisconsin legislature is blocking unemployed Wisconsinites access to extended benefits. Are they living in some fantasy land where good, family-supporting jobs are easy to find? This action tells the far too many unemployed Wisconsinites that they just aren’t trying hard enough to find a job. Yet, we know that’s not the case and new jobs just aren’t coming fast enough. Congress passed increased benefits because it is taking people longer to find jobs, and it’s a shame that Wisconsinites aren’t getting this help.”