Wisconsin Senate Republicans Admit Budget was Never the Issue, Vote Exclusively to Eliminate Collective Bargaining Rights
Last night, Wisconsin’s 19 Republican State Senator’s revealed their true intentions by passing a bill with an 18 to 1 vote that would strip collective bargaining rights from public sector workers. Governor Walker and his Republican colleagues in the Statehouse initially argued these provisions were necessary to close the state’s $137 million budget shortfall. However, their true intentions were exposed last night when they isolated anti-union measures from the bill and voted to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees.
This maneuver only adds more evidence to the fact that this struggle was never about fixing Wisconsin’s budget problems. In fact, just before Wisconsin’s workers made Walker’s radical proposal national news, there was hardly any problem with the state budget. Governor Walker had been in office less than two months before he signed $117 million in corporate tax breaks. As a result of this, the state now has a budget shortfall of $137 million.
It is apparent that Walker and his Republican colleagues created this so-called “fiscal crisis” by their own volition, and are now making middle class Wisconsinites pay the price. State employees and their unions had offered to pay more for their health benefits and retirement security to close the gap, but we now know that Walker was never interested in making a deal. Instead, he has taken away workers’ very ability to bargain, while simultaneously pushing for and achieving unnecessary tax breaks for business interests.
Three weeks ago, Wisconsin’s 14 State Senate Democrats fled the state to prevent a vote on Governor Walker’s budget proposal, which included these union-busting provisions. A vote on Walker’s budget proposal would have required a quorum of at least 20 members, and with only 19 Republican Senators, the absence of the 14 Democrats could have indefinitely prevented a vote. However, Republicans discovered an obscure parliamentary rule whereby legislation not related to the appropriation of funds requires a smaller quorum. Under this rule the 19 Republicans could reach a quorum by removing all fiscal provisions in the legislation, stripping it down to only those provision that target public employees. Doing just that, the Senate passed the bill with no debate and without a single Democrat present.
Where Wisconsin’s workers go from here, we cannot tell just yet. But rest assured if there is anything we have learned in the last three weeks, it is that Wisconsinites will not take this assault lying down. NFFE pledges to continue supporting the fight for workers’ rights in Wisconsin, and throughout the nation.