Tag Archives: Act 10

Open letter to Scott Walker: Look at Minnesota’s success to rebuild Wisconsin’s lagging economy

Dear Governor Walker,

I’ve read that you’re touring the state to hear from constituents as a way to get caught up after spending so much time out of state during your presidential campaign last year, and since I live over 250 miles north of Madison, I thought I’d address you on Blogging Blue rather than expect you to travel all the way up here.

I know that two of your biggest problems since you took office in 2011 seem to be job creation and overall business climate. Wisconsin has kind of been circling the drain on both counts for many years now, but I have some good news for you. Minnesota, right next door, is leading the nation on both counts! Last June CNBC rated Minnesota #1 in the nation for business, and over the weekend a new report shows that the Gopher state is #1 in job creation as well.m

This is great news, because not only is Minnesota very similar to Wisconsin in a number of ways, but Mark Dayton took over as Governor there the same year you did here, and with an even bigger budget deficit than you inherited!. In spite of all that, they’re now leading the nation in a pair of top economic indicators, and have a budget surplus of 2 billion dollars. That’s a lot of scratch, man!

I’m no scholar, and I can’t make an in-depth argument about how all this happened, but I can lay out some general points that I think can help you turn Wisconsin around pronto.

1. The CNBC report cites Minnesota as a ” union friendly ” state, so you might want to consider repealing Act 10 and that god-awful Right to Work bill since neither could, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered union friendly.

2. I know you went out of your way to repeal Wisconsin’s living wage law, but you should restore it immediately. Minnesota raised their minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, which isn’t nearly enough, but it’s better than the meager $7.25 workers are making over here.

3. Governor Dayton campaigned in 2010 on raising taxes on the wealthy, (something that seems to have escaped the attention of Wisconsin Democrats), and that’s just what he did, though none of the scare mongering about how everyone would leave actually came to pass. And Minnesota is #1 in business climate, job creation, AND they have a 2 billion dollar surplus! Woo Hoo!

4. Minnesota took the federal bucks to expand their Medicaid program, (Minnesota Care), since it was tax money Minnesotans had already sent to Washington DC, and they also created their own state exchange to maximize the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for their residents. I think they probably embraced the wildly experimental notion that a healthier population is happier and, as such, better able to get up and go to work in the morning. I don’t know for sure, I’m just taking a stab in the dark.

I’m sure there’s a lot more to all this than I’ve listed, and I know you have a ton of staff who could dig into it and sort it all out, but I just wanted to fill you in on some of the basics. I know how much you love Wisconsin and all of its people, but I also know what a busy guy you’ve been , what with all that presidential nonsense and the Koch brothers retreats and so forth.

So I just wanted to give you a hand. You’re welcome.

For more Blogging Blue commentary, go to bloggingblue.com

FBI ‘assisting’ in probe of abuse at Wisconsin juvenile detention centers | Problems said to derive from Walker’s privatization scheme

Wisconsin’s juvenile prisons are under a broadening investigation over allegations that guards were terrorizing inmates — a situation that some observers blame on the inability to attract quality prison workers since the implementation of Act 10. That law, Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation stripping unions of bargaining rights, has created a shortage of both corrections personnel and teachers in the state.

 Walker now claims that inmates are safe now and personnel and policy changes have been made. The governor also promised that anyone found to have violated the law would be held accountable as a result of the investigation.

Investigators have been looking into a range of alleged crimes at the prisons, including sexual assault and physical abuse of youth, witness and victim intimidation, and evidence tampering.

The investigation, which Walker said initially focused on just a couple of employees at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons north of Wausau, began quietly more than a year ago and became public this week. The FBI said Dec. 10 that it was now “assisting” the state Department of Justice with the inquiry.

Walker said the Department of Justice told his office about two weeks ago that problems at the prisons were more widespread than originally thought. At that point, Walker said he instructed Corrections Secretary Ed Wall “to take aggressive action in dealing with both personnel and policy.”

But at least one person with inside knowledge of the situation has contacted WiG to complain that Wall has purposely allowed the situation to fester in order to support Walker’s ultimate goal of privatizing Wisconsin prisons. Walker has received big donations from the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America.

“There were 88 vacancies when (Wall) accepted his appointment. Today, there are over 500,” wrote Christine Ewerdt, the wife of a correction officer, in an op-ed for WiG.  

She said that Wall has never worked one day within the confines of a correctional facility and purposely implements policies that are destined to fail, to further Walker’s goal of privatization.

“The vacancies within the DOC are staggering enough today to shut down activities in the prisons and create mandatory overtime, all at extra cost to taxpayers,” Ewerdt wrote. “Gov. Walker has long lobbied for privatization, and Wall is the tool he’s using to accomplish this goal.”

Current and former staffers at Lincoln Hills and the affiliated Copper Lake School for Girls have described what they called a culture of indifference at the facility.

But Walker said it was premature to assign blame and he had no plans to ask for Wall’s resignation “right now.”

The corrections department said all people identified as harming juvenile inmates or putting them at risk have been placed on leave pending the completion of investigation. Troy Bauch, a union representative for workers at the juvenile prisons, said about 10 workers connected to the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities are on paid leave, including one for more than a year.

The Corrections Department has not identified other staff members who have been removed.

The department announced Dec. 11 that security staff at the juvenile prisons must now wear body cameras in “all interactions with youth during acts of youth aggression, crisis intervention, and other circumstances.”

The department also said it was expediting the investigation of and disciplinary proceedings against staff members involved in abusing inmates, referring allegations of wrongdoing to the secretary’s office, assigning additional psychological staff to the prisons, adding more security supervisors from other prisons to assist, and increasing the training for guards.

Portions of this story are from a report by The Associated Press.

Scott Walker’s commercial attempts to salvage his campaign but instead shows why he’ll lose

Scott Walker’s supporters have released the first in a $7 million series of commercials to boost his sagging presidential campaign in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. The 60-second ad, titled “Fight & Win,” begins with dramatic footage of angry protesters converging on Madison in 2011 after Walker proposed gutting public unions.

The battle made Walker famous, but since then voters have become better acquainted with our bland, flip-flopping, gaffe-prone governor. He’s freefallen from the top of the polls into eighth place. Now Walker is reminding voters of his trademark achievement, which is not really an achievement at all: a law that divided Wisconsin in half politically and was foisted on the state without prior discussion or debate.

GOP governors in other states enacted nearly identical policies without generating the level of backlash and publicity that Walker did. He incited 100,000 people to demonstrate for weeks in frigid weather at the Capitol, earning Wisconsin the title of “most divided state in the nation.” His success at whipping up political frenzy is now his platform for a presidential run.

Act 10 sent school teachers, prison guards and other workers fleeing the state, leaving us with serious shortages in many critical areas. It’s also had a dampening effect on wages: Wisconsin’s middle class is shrinking faster than any other state’s, according to government data.

The way Walker handled Act 10 was not a show of leadership by anyone’s definition of the word. Leaders don’t ambush people with their ideas, they inspire people to rally around them.

Having struck gold by attracting news cameras from all over the world to Madison, Walker went on to govern the state in the most confrontational way possible. He even titled his revisionist memoir Unintimidated, which is also the name of the super PAC supporting him.

But in reality, Walker’s intimidated to the point that he sneaks controversial laws into the budget, then denies knowing anything about them when they generate a backlash. He has to make up stories to make him appear brave, such as the famous fabrication about his car being surrounded by hundreds of life-threatening protesters in La Crosse.

Walker’s gubernatorial tenure has centered on policy decisions written by the conservative corporate think-tank American Legislative Exchange Council, the brain child of Koch Industries, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Pharma and other special interests. He hasn’t spoken truth to power, he’s taken marching orders from power and collected tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions as a reward.

What’s unintimidated about that?

Walker’s commercial moves on from Act 10 to crow about a lot of “accomplishments.” He claims to have created a “billion dollar surplus,” which was true in January 2014, but only if you don’t count the payments he put off until future budgets. And this year, when Wisconsin faced a $2 billion shortfall, Walker pushed through deep and unpopular spending cuts, including a $250 million reduction to the University of Wisconsin system.

The campaign ad claims Walker signed $2 billion in tax cuts into law during his first term. But those cuts, which overwhelmingly went to wealthy individuals and corporations, contributed to turning his $1 billion surplus into a potential shortfall in less than a year.

The ad also refers to the state’s unemployment rate dropping from 7.8 percent the month before he took office to 4.6 percent in June. It skirts the fact that Walker didn’t come close to his signature 2010 campaign promise, repeated in the 2012 recall election, that the state would add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of 2014. Only 129,000 jobs were added.

Wisconsin’s private sector job growth during Walker’s first term was 5.7 percent, compared with 9.3 percent growth nationwide. For many months during his first term, Wisconsin lagged at the bottom of the region in terms of job creation — and near the bottom of the nation.

Walker hopes to revive his moribund campaign by positioning himself as a fighter, but even if it were true, it’s not likely to resonate. Voters are tired of the sort of political gridlock and double-talk that he’s mastered. They want leaders who are unabashedly authentic, as evidenced by their embrace of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Voters are tired of scheming, self-serving tricksters more focused on manipulating their poll numbers and pleasing their donors than solving the nation’s problems.

In other words, Walker might as well throw in the towel. Not even a stellar debate performance on Sept. 16, complete with new facial expressions and newly invented stories, can salvage a candidate with his record.

Walker’s attack on higher-ed seen as ‘consequential, signal event’ by nation’s academics

Four years after taking union rights away from teachers and other public workers in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker now wants to strip job protections for University of Wisconsin professors in a move he likens to the 2011 law that made him a national figure and set up his expected presidential run.

Eliminating tenure in state law, as Walker proposed in January and a Republican-controlled legislative committee approved earlier this month, is part of a larger overhaul of higher education policy that he is talking about to Republican voters around the country.

Walker and Republican backers defend his higher education proposal as empowering university leaders to be more like a business and nimble in how they govern. University professors and their supporters, both in Wisconsin and nationally, are raising alarms that it’s an attack on academic freedom that could gain momentum in other states.

“Within the higher ed universe, this is being seen as an extremely consequential, signal event,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

A companion effort would take from professors and staff certain decision-making powers about campus issues including curriculum, research and faculty status. Combined with ending tenure in state law, the higher education proposal would be the first of its kind in the country, Nassirian said.

“Obviously the faculty are opposed, but there are plenty of folks who look at it and believe this, in fact, is the future,” Nassirian said, citing the increasing pressure on universities to be more efficient in light of escalating tuition costs. “And it may be.”

Wisconsin faculty members are sounding alarms that the changes will lead to a flood of departures for universities with stronger tenure. A petition signed by more than 450 of the university’s award-winning researchers asked lawmakers to reconsider.

More than a dozen faculty members came to a Board of Regents meeting with tape over their mouths, holding signs of protest. That’s a far cry from the 2011 protests at the state Capitol that grew to as many as 100,000 people when Walker went after public workers’ union protections.

Still, Walker openly makes comparisons. This is “Act 10 for the university,” he says, invoking the title of the union law.

Opponents say protests could grow, and extend beyond Wisconsin. Henry Reichman, vice president of the American Association of University Professors and chairman of its committee on academic freedom and tenure, said the proposed changes in Wisconsin could embolden faculty both there and around the country to become more organized as Walker mounts his expected run for the Republican nomination.

“One message to higher ed would be you really don’t want to support Scott Walker for president because if he can do it in Wisconsin, he will do it everywhere,” Reichman said.

Walker, who attended Marquette University but did not graduate, initially proposed cutting the university’s state aid by 13 percent, or $300 million. Budget writers in the Legislature have reduced the proposed cut to $250 million, while still voting to eliminate tenure in state law, leaving it up to the university’s regents to set a policy as is done in every other state.

But the Legislature’s budget committee went even further, proposing to change the law to make it easier to fire those with tenure. Now, tenured faculty members can only be fired for just cause or if there’s a financial emergency. Under the new provisions, the administration could fire them “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection.”

The Legislature is expected to vote on the proposals this month or next, when passing a state budget. Walker has been campaigning for the GOP nomination for months, in all but name, but says he won’t announce his decision until the budget is passed.

In taking tenure out of state law, the legislation would let the Board of Regents set its own policy on that matter. But with 16 of the 18 regents appointed by the governor, taken together with the broader authority under state law to fire faculty, opponents of the move say the resulting policy is bound to be feckless.

“Tenure will be gone as we know it and I think it’s a step backward for our relationship with faculty members,” said Tony Evers, who serves on the Board of Regents in his capacity as state superintendent. Evers fought against Walker’s union restrictions against teachers and other public workers four years ago and signed the petition that led to the 2012 statewide vote over recalling Walker from office. Walker won that vote.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Bradley braces for infusion of right-wing money against her reelection campaign

The Wisconsin Supreme Court currently has a 4–3 conservative tilt, but if right-wing Republican groups succeed in ousting two-term incumbent justice Ann Walsh Bradley from the bench on April 7, the state’s highest court will move farther rightward, with a solid majority of 5–2.

To ensure this happens, major corporate money, including third-party donations from such lobbying groups as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Koch brothers-backed Wisconsin Club for Growth, is expected to flow into the campaign of Bradley’s opponent. Together the two groups spent an estimated $8.3 million for “issue ads” helping to elect conservative justices Annette Ziegler, Michael Gableman, David Prosser and Patience Roggensack, according to wiconsinwatch.org. That amount dwarfs the $3.2 million spent by those same judges on their own campaigns.

Judicial positions are nominally non-partisan, but any illusion that’s the case evaporated long ago. Bradley’s opponent — Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley — denies he has any ideological bias, but he’s sent out tweets using the hashtag #tcot, which stands for “top conservatives on Twitter.” He admits that the Republican Party helped circulate his nominating papers, and he’s appeared at GOP gatherings throughout the state promoting his conservative agenda and asking for help.

Daley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he’s attended those events simply to speak with voters who are most likely to share his philosophy. He called Bradley an “activist judge,” a criticism that Republicans in the state frequently aim at judges who’ve issued opinions against Gov. Scott Walker’s policy agenda, including his union-busting Act 10 and his law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.

In a conversation with WiG, Bradley blasted Daley for co-opting the Republican agenda and for having Republican operatives on his campaign staff. She said that her campaign did not accept help from the Democratic Party to circulate her nominating papers and that her campaign would not accept contributions from political parties or attorneys and litigants with pending cases.

In fact, Bradley said that maintaining judicial independence is the centerpiece of her retention bid. It’s not only unethical for partisanship and campaign donations to influence application of the law, she said, but it also erodes the public’s perception of a fair justice system.

Knowing that conservatives would probably spend massive amounts of money on advertising and TV commercials that misrepresent her record, Bradley thought long and hard about seeking a third term on the bench.

“I know what is coming in the last few days or weeks of the campaign,” she said.

But it’s that knowledge that ultimately determined her decision to run. “I think it’s time to stop this influx of partisanship in the judiciary,” she said. “My vision of a judiciary is different form what we’ve seen in the recent past five years.”

According to Bradley, Wisconsin ranks No. 2 in the nation for special interest advertising in judicial races — behind only Pennsylvania.

“It’s not this way in other states, and it doesn’t have to be this way in Wisconsin,” she said.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and The Associated Press contributed to this article.


UW alumni mobilize to fight Walker’s draconian budget cuts

Gov. Scott Walker is fond of comparing his proposed $300 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System to Act 10, his signature legislation that gutted collective bargaining for public workers and sparked massive protests.

Opposition to the UW cuts doesn’t look to flare that intensely, but system leaders have no plans to go quietly into the budget cut night. Despite their president’s call for calm, campus heads are ratcheting up warnings about how the cuts would cripple the system and starting to mobilize tens of thousands of alumni in an effort to convince Walker and legislators to scale the reduction back.

“I realize this may make you feel helpless,” UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer wrote on that school’s website. “However, the beauty of democracy is that we all have a voice. I would encourage you to use that voice. … We simply cannot allow the UW System, one of the state’s greatest assets and economic drivers, to be weakened in this way.”

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in an email to The Associated Press that the governor’s plan is to empower the system leadership and give them flexibility over the use of their resources.

The Republican governor’s two-year budget plan calls for cutting the system by $300 million while keeping a tuition freeze in place for in-state students. In exchange Walker would give the system more freedom from state oversight and laws on building projects, procurement and tuition increases when the freeze expires in 2017.

Walker, who is grappling with a $2 billion deficit while ramping up a 2016 presidential run, has said less oversight would give the system the flexibility to absorb the cut, much like he said Act 10 helped government employers absorb budget cuts in 2011.

“Our proposal gives new cost-savings reforms to the UW through an authority, while protecting the hardworking families and students by freezing tuition for another two years,” Patrick said.

The depth of the cut coupled with the inability to raise tuition to offset it has left chancellors stunned. A Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimate shows UW-Madison next year would lose $57.7 million, nearly 12 percent of its current annual budget. UW-Whitewater would take the biggest percentage cut at nearly 19 percent.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank railed against the cuts. She warned they’ll lead to layoffs, force tuition increases for out-of-state and international students, push disgruntled faculty to leave and hurt the flagship campus’ reputation.

System President Ray Cross followed that up by imploring chancellors and regents not to view the cuts in a “rhetorical, inflammatory or emotional way.”

But campus leaders aren’t sitting still.

Whitewater’s Telfer made his appeal for a write-in campaign on last week. Blank sent a blast email to UW-Madison’s alumni the day of the regents meeting imploring them to write to Walker and legislators and demand they reduce the cut, saying the reduction “puts at risk the investment that generations of Wisconsinites have made to create a highly ranked university in our state.”

Blank also has scheduled a series of public forums on campus next week to discuss how the cuts would affect the school.

Tom Luljak, a spokesman for UW-Milwaukee, which stands to lose nearly $20 million in the budget’s first year, said that school’s alumni have been calling asking for information about how to contact legislators. He said the school is preparing information for Panther Advocates, a formal group of active alumni who communicate with lawmakers regularly, although that group’s efforts on the cut hasn’t begun yet. Chancellor Mark Mone has promised to reach out to any group that might help lobby for more money.

“I can’t help but be angry,” Mone said during a Jan. 28 speech. “I can’t help but be upset.”

Lynne Williams, a spokeswoman for UW-Superior, which is in line to lose $2.3 million in the first year, said campus officials plan to lobby lawmakers during the Superior community’s annual state Capitol lobbying day on Feb. 25.

Walker tweeted that critics of the UW cuts sound like critics of Act 10, which he said helped the state.

His budget still needs legislative approval. The Legislature’s budget committee will spend months revising it before forwarding it on for votes in the full Assembly and Senate. Republican leaders already have said the UW cuts look too deep and the governor himself has said he would be open to giving the system more money.

‘Right to work’ is a step backward for workers

Republican politicians, their corporate patrons and their cheerleaders on hate radio are gearing up to push “right to work” legislation on Wisconsin.

Everyone deserves the right to work. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Not.

“Right to work” is another perverse construction from the people who apply the euphemism “wise use” to environmental destruction and “class warfare” to appeals for economic justice. 

“Right to work” laws are another kick to the guts of the already-reeling labor movement, and attacks on labor unions are attacks on all working people, including you and me.

Union members are the folks whose blood, sweat and persistence over many generations won us all the right to collective bargaining, eight-hour workdays, weekends off (what a concept!), occupational safety regulations, workers’ compensation and child labor laws. None of these reforms would have been achieved without the power of organized labor.

Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10 dealt a strong blow to public employee unions and the GOP-controlled Legislature is now poised to push “right to work.” Here’s what you need to know about this legislation in a nutshell:

When the majority of employees in a workplace vote to form a union to represent them in negotiations with management, all employees are required to pay to cover the expenses of that representation. 

This is only fair because all employees — even those who don’t like unions — benefit from the higher wages, improved working conditions and other advantages that result from collective bargaining. If a worker is fired and thinks he got a raw deal, for example, his union pays for the legal representation to appeal that firing. 

“Right to work” legislation allows individual workers to opt out of paying union dues despite the services their unions provide for them. It undermines the financial viability of unions and the entire concept of unions. That’s why “right to work” is so strongly supported by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and other business groups. They’re working overtime — and without time-and-a-half pay — to push the legislation with the help of their many front groups and their talk radio shills.

“Right to work” campaigns use the brutally effective corporate tactic of divide and conquer to destroy worker solidarity and to cripple the ability of unions to stand up to management. 

This affects us all, because organized labor may be the only countervailing force to the excesses of unrestrained capitalism. 

This is not Marxist rhetoric — the struggle is real. You can see it worldwide in the race to the bottom engaged in by huge corporations that make increasingly exorbitant profits by squeezing workers with the lowest possible wages. You can see it in secret trade agreements that exempt corporations from taxes, environmental regulations and the most elemental labor standards.

Proponents claim “right to work” will encourage job growth and prosperity. In fact, “right to work” laws drag down the wages and working conditions of all workers. In states with “right to work” laws, there is a higher percentage of jobs in low-wage occupations than there is in non-“right to work” states. On average, workers in “right to work” states make about $5,000 less than workers in states without such laws. There are higher rates of poverty, and the rate of workplace deaths is a whopping 36 percent higher in states with “right to work” laws.

If you would rather not see Wisconsin become the “Mississippi of the North,” contact your state legislators and the governor’s office today to say “no” to “right to work” legislation.

Amid presidential campaign, Walker’s deficit balloons to $2B

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will have to plug a roughly $280 million budget shortfall by the end of June, and the state faces a two-year deficit that could be as large as $2 billion, based on new estimates released from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

When Walker took office in 2011, the state faced a roughly $3 billion budget shortfall, based on agency requests. Walker declared that the state was “bankrupt” then, an assertion that was supported by the media.

Somehow, there’s no mention of “bankruptcy” in the right-wing media this time around.

Walker used the 2011 deficit as an excuse to dismantle public unions, an action that was high on the agenda of right-wing groups such as the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. His Act 10 forced public workers to pay more for their health care and pension benefits and ended nearly all their collective bargaining rights. He made deeper cuts to education than any other governor in the nation, including cuts to public schools, the University of Wisconsin and technical colleges. He also cut the state workforce, taking millions of dollars in income out of the state’s economy.

Over his first term, Walker turned down hundreds of millions of federal dollars for expanding Medicaid, building high-speed rail and expanding high-speed Internet service in the state. Those were among the decisions that put the state on the slowest track in the region for job creation.

But Walker’s Act 10 brought the largest demonstrations to Madison in decades, making him an instant sensation with the  tea party acolytes Fox News. Now Walker is using his fame to mount an exploratory campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

The governor has spent a great deal of time since his re-election pulling together his presidential campaign, visiting other states and raising funds. The latest budget figures were released just a day before Walker joined other GOP presidential hopefuls at separate events in Iowa and California. Democrats renewed their criticism that Walker is distracted by his political ambitions and instead should be focused on fixing the state’s budget problem.

“The Scott Walker claiming that he cut taxes and balanced the budget faces a different reality at home,” said WisDems communication director Melissa Baldauff in a press release. “While Walker is campaigning in Iowa and promising caucus voters he’ll be back there soon and often, Wisconsin is facing a $2.2 billion budget deficit for the next biennium that is well on its way to $3 billion and higher. Worse, the state is expected to end the current fiscal year with a $283 million shortfall.”

Baldauff continued: “Instead of bragging to Iowans about how he busted unions with an unnecessary budget repair bill in 2011, Walker needs to start talking to his Republican Legislature about a budget repair bill right now to address this staggering deficit. The $283 million shortfall for this year is more than three times the $79 million threshold in state law to trigger a budget repair and is more than double the amount of the deficit Walker used as justification to pass his contentious Act 10 legislation. Wisconsinites need to start hearing real, serious solutions from Scott Walker about how he will close this deficit without gutting critical services or raising taxes on the middle class.”

Walker will not release an emergency budget plan to balance the $283 million shortfall for the year that ends June 30, his spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in an email to The Associated Press. The state constitution requires the budget to be balanced, meaning that savings will have to be found over the next five months to make up the deficit.

Walker’s deficit will likely spur deep cuts across state government, which would please conservatives, but make it difficult for him to follow through on additional  promised tax cuts. Walker and Republican legislative leaders have stressed for weeks that difficult decisions lie ahead.

Wisconsin’s two-year shortfall hits about $2 billion when state agency requests — which will certainly not be filled in full by Walker or the Legislature — are taken into account. The budget will be about $650 million short by mid-2017 just to continue spending at current levels.

Walker is set to release his roughly $68 billion, two-year budget on Feb. 3 and the Legislature will make changes to it over the next several months.

Co-chairs of the Legislature’s budget committee issued a statement attributing the budget woes to the $2 billion in tax cuts passed during Walker’s first term, which they supported. Large cuts went to the wealthiest Wisconsinites, while cuts for the middle class were minimal and taxes for some poor residents increased under their plan.

The Associated Press contributed.

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds anti-union law

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on July 31 upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers.

The passage of the measure in 2011 — known as Act 10 — sparked massive protests at the Capitol and led to a recall election, which Walker survived. The law prohibits public employee unions from collectively bargaining for anything beyond base wage increases based on inflation.

The protests have continued regularly, with sing-alongs at the Capitol and demonstrations around the state, along with the legal challenges.

The state’s highest court released its 5-2 ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of the law on July 31. Justice Michael Gableman wrote the majority opinion: “Collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not a constitutional obligation,” he wrote.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley were the two dissenters.

The case was brought by the teachers union in Madison and a union representing public workers in Milwaukee. The labor groups argued that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights to free assembly and equal protection.

Early on July 31, Walker’s office released a short statement under the headline, “Governor Scott Walker’s reforms upheld in all Supreme Court cases.”

Regarding the court’s ruling on Act. 10, the governor said, “Act 10 has saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $3 billion.  Today’s ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews called the ruling morally bankrupt.

He said the court’s decision “reversed 50-plus years of legislation, which enabled public employers and employee groups to work together to make workplaces not only more productive but safer.”

Referring to the dissent by Bradley and joined by Abrahamson, Matthews said the court reframed, dodged and twisted the issue to reach its verdict. “Governor Walker said he would divide and conquer public employees and he did with Act 10. Now his conservative supporters on the Supreme Court have said what he did in acting to divide and conquer is constitutional.”

A federal appeals court has twice ruled that the measure is constitutional.

The state’s highest court also has upheld the 2011 voter ID law and the law creating the domestic partner registry.

Are you missing out on our ticket giveaways and free discount coupons? Simply like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.