Ok, I have a confession to make.  For most of my life I admit that I have been mostly apolitical.  I’ve called myself an Independent mostly because I didn’t pay enough attention to politics to actually choose a side.  Pathetic, isn’t it?

Well, a few months ago I started opening my eyes to what’s been going on around me.  I live in Wisconsin, it’s my adopted home state for more than a dozen years now.  For the past few years, in the peripheral, I’ve notice little things about this wonderful state disintegrating; morals, ethics, the hard work ethic, etc.  I’ve seen taxes go up and up and up and seen nothing in return.  Some of the very reasons I moved from the east coast to WI were disintegrating before my very eyes and the more I tried to find out why, the more my research took me in the direction of the politicians, specifically the left leaning politicians of this state.

And The Education Begins…

Last November I decided it was time to stand up and show that I had a voice.  I researched the political candidates; the platforms they were running on, their past records, anything I could find, then I made my decisions using the information I gathered and voted.  I voted based on the principals that I myself practice; fiscal responsibility, don’t spend what you don’t have, smaller govn’t because I have a brain and am a reasonably intelligent person and can make my own decisions in my life. I also admit that I basically voted against most any incumbent on the ticket because obviously they weren’t doing the job for WI, they were only doing the job for themselves or for special interests or they didn’t have a position with enough strength to make any kind of change.  Time to ring in the new.  In the end Wisconsinites seem to be feeling the same way.  Most incumbents out with Conservatives taking control and leading the way.  Now it was time to wait and see what would happen.

It didn’t take long.  Governor Scott Walker took office and hit the ground running! He inherited a state with a $137 million budget deficit with approximately a $3.7 billion shortfall in the 2011-13 budget.  There’s also a $58.7 million payment to the State of Minnesota after the end of a tax-reciprocity agreement between Wisconsin and its neighbor; as well as an additional $200 million that the state is under court order to return to a medical malpractice fund.

NOTE – I’m going to try to do a brief overview here, way too much to go into detail on and there are so many details and so much that has happened here in WI since Gov. Walker took office.  I hadn’t planned on even getting into this but day after day and week after week my frustration level has risen to the point that I need to speak out.  The propaganda, misinformation and outright lies that are surrounding this debacle in WI are just mind boggling!  I went into this open-minded and read and researched, talked to people and listened to differing opinions and as someone who has considered their self to be politically Independent,  I have found myself moving further and further to the right!

As for Gov. Walker, one of his promises was to bring/create 250k jobs in WI and in his first step to do this he has implemented measures to make WI business friendly by offering incentives to bring new businesses in.

The first bill would provide a total personal income or corporate tax break for two years for businesses that relocate to Wisconsin. The incentive would be retroactive to Jan. 1 and would lower state revenue by an estimated $1 million over two years. Firms receiving it cannot have done business in the state for at least two years before moving here.

The second bill would add $25 million to the Economic Development Tax Credit program, bringing it to $98.1 million. The credits can go to businesses that locate or retain corporate headquarters in Wisconsin, create jobs, make capital investments or train workers. (JSonline)

Then the left starts throwing out accusations that Gov. Walker basically manufactured the budget deficit and handed out $140 million in tax breaks and spending which was proven to be blatantly false.

The Budget Repair Bill; The War is On!

Knowing that the upcoming budget was going to include massive cuts to balance WI’s budget shortfall, Gov. Walker unveiled his Budget Repair Bill. The idea behind the bill was to “balance the budget and lay the foundation for a long-term sustainable budget through several measures without raising taxes, raiding segregated funds, or using accounting gimmicks.”

The most obviously contentious provision of the bill was it’s aim to reign in the power of the public sector unions by eliminating collective bargaining for all but wages and increase public employees contribution to their health coverage and retirement by 12% and 5.8% respectively.  This included all public sector unions with the exclusion of police officers and firefighters.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has said he excluded the two groups from the bill—which curbs benefits and strips public-employee unions of nearly all collective-bargaining rights—to ensure that their critical public-safety work would continue free of disruptions or delays that such changes could cause. (WJS)

One of the components regarding unions included that no longer would the govn’t collect unions dues.  Public employees would have the option of sending them in or not and you can imagine that this didn’t sit too well with the unions.

Sure, there was a lot more to the Budget Repair Bill but in Gov. Walker’s bid to limit the unions’ power and get their hands out of the pocket of the taxpayer, he had figuratively thrown down the gauntlet and the reaction was as if they, the public workers and unions, had been sentenced to death, and maybe, in a way, they had to a degree.

Let The Protests Begin!

First, 17 hours of hearings and it didn’t take long for the Capitol to be overrun with throngs of people.  And then WI’s “honorable” Democratic Senators, instead of doing their job, decided to flee the state to IL on 2/17, ostensibly to give the public time to learn what was in the Budget Repair Bill. The 61 hours of debate in the Assembly to pass the House since the Senate Dems were holding the state of WI hostage by stalling the Bill in the Senate.

Three weeks later, after our beautiful Capitol had been occupied with people living and sleeping and protesting inside and out, the Democrat Senators were still refusing to return and do their jobs.  During that time, all the while saying they would be willing to give in to the financial concessions, the unions were scurrying around negotiating new contracts and contract extensions (Just a few examples 1, 2, 3 ).  Kind of makes you wonder the real reason the Dems were staying away, doesn’t it?  Oh, and many, if not most of these contracts of course did not include the concessions that the unions said they would be willing to give… surprise, surprise!  Some of them even included raises, even after the 2011-13 Budget was unveiled showing about a billion dollars in cuts!

And as our Capitol was awash in protesters, the MSM continuously portrayed the protests as civil and peaceful.  You didn’t hear them talk about the damage, approximately $350k worth, to the Capitol.  You didn’t hear about them defacing the Civil War Monument, you didn’t see the signs; vile and profane, to put it mildly, and much, much more.

Other interesting tidbits…

Circumvention and End Run

Since the Democratic Senators decided not to return to do their jobs despite requests, pleas and even legislative measures against them, the Republicans, even after traveling to meet with and try to negotiate with the Dems, tired of waiting and knowing they needed to do something to get WI moving, decided since they couldn’t work with them, they would work around them.  On 3/9, in a move that stunned many, Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald, after discussing the situation with three bipartisan bodies, found that they could remove the fiscal aspects of the bill leaving the majority intact and pass it without the necessity of a quorum.

Since the earliest days of the standoff, Republicans had been engaged in an informal back-and-forth with lawyers from the state’s legislative fiscal bureau, a nonpartisan agency, about their options. On Monday, they formalized their request: How much of the budget repair bill could be passed without a quorum?

They were thrilled with the response—almost all of it. Despite speculation that employee contributions to benefits (what Walker and his staff called the “5-and-12” provisions) would have to be stripped out, the bureau informed Republicans these could remain—meaning both of the main components of the bill could be passed without Democrats. Two other nonpartisan state agencies agreed, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Reference Bureau. The attorneys insisted that the legislation drop a refinancing provision as well as the sale of state-owned power plants. But most of the bill could be moved. Although the 5-and-12 and collective bargaining provisions would have a fiscal impact, they did not require the state to appropriate any money and thus could be included. “Democrats thought we wouldn’t be able to do the 5-and-12 with collective bargaining,” says Walker.

There was more good luck on Monday. In an interview with radio host Charlie Sykes, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who had lost the governor’s race to Walker last fall, pushed the Republicans to try to move forward without the Democrats. Barrett, working on the mistaken assumption that the 5-and-12 would require a separate vote, said:

Barrett: You could vote on those without those missing senators. You could vote on those tomorrow morning. You don’t need 20 senators to vote on those changes to the collective bargaining. Again, if someone really wanted to end this standoff, the way you would end it is simply have a separate vote.

Sykes: Would you favor that?

Barrett: I would certainly favor that.

So on Wednesday, when Walker spoke to Republicans in the senate, they not only had a legal opinion endorsed by three nonpartisan legal agencies, they also had political cover provided generously, if inadvertently, by the state’s most prominent Democrat.

In a late afternoon vote, senate Republicans passed the tweaked budget repair bill and sent it back to the assembly, which had passed the original version, for its approval on Thursday. (The Weekly Standard)

Gov. Walker signed the bill on Friday, 3/11.

The End is in Sight

Well, not quite yet.  Of course there were more protests and the AWOL Senators finally decided to come back and were, sadly, hailed as heroes by the unions and unions supporters.  Amazing to be called a hero when you refuse to do your job, hold an entire state hostage at the behest of a special interest group and stalemate true democratic proceedings.  And they say “shameful”!  It’s obvious they don’t know what “shameful” really is.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald issued a fitting statement;

“Today, the most shameful 14 people in the state of Wisconsin are going to pat themselves on the back and smile for the cameras. They’re going to pretend they’re heroes for taking a three week vacation.

“It is an absolute insult to the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who are struggling to find a job, much less one they can run away from and go down to Illinois — with pay.

“Their appearance at the Capitol today is in direct violation of the contempt order issued by the state Senate earlier this month, and it proves their absolute disregard for the institution of the Senate and the constitution they took an oath of office to serve.

“But the people of Wisconsin won’t forget what they were really doing these past few weeks.

“Sen. Tim Cullen refused to come back to save 1,500 jobs.

“Sen. Mark Miller refused to come back even to make sure his own staff were safe in the Capitol he abandoned.

“Sen. Fred Risser refused to come back out of respect for the institution and dignity of the state Senate.

“Sen. Bob Jauch refused to come back even though our side was negotiating in good faith to try to find a reasonable compromise.

“Sens. Jon Erpenbach, Chris Larson and Lena Taylor were all too happy to pat themselves on the back and smile for the cameras in Illinois, never mind their constituents here in Wisconsin.

“And Sens. Dave Hansen, Kathleen Vinehout, Tim Carpenter, Spencer Coggs, Jim Holperin, and Julie Lassa refused to come back to actually do the job they were elected to do.

“To the Senate Democrats: When you smile for the cameras today and pretend you’re heroes, I hope you look at that beautiful Capitol building you insulted. And I hope you’re embarrassed to call yourselves senators.”

Thank you Sen. Fitzgerald!

Now all that needed to be done to finalize the bill was for it to be published.  Roadblock one – Secretary of State Doug LaFollette refused to immediately publish the bill even though it was requested that he do so by the Governor.  He decided to wait a full ten days and not publish until March 25.  His reasoning? To give people time.  Well, seemed to me they’d already had plenty of time.  Of maybe he meant time for more unions to negotiate their contracts or for the unions to mount as many legal maneuvers as possible?

And that’s just what happened!  More contracts pushed through and roadblock two – union backed lawyers request and are granted a TRO against LaFollette from publishing the bill into law.  Judge Maryann Sumi, whose son, Jake Sinderbrand, was affiliated with both the AFL-CIO and SEIU and who runs a leftwing organization, whose husband, Carl Sinderbrand,  is an environmental lawyer, has publicly come out against Walker, the budget bill and has also donated to several of the Dem Sens who fled the state, presided over the case and issued the TRO. Conflict of interest?  Now why would we possibly think that?  And she sees no conflict and has refused to rescue herself.

So the Budget Repair Bill is stalled by the courts… or is it?

Although Sumi issued a TRO against LaFollette, seems she forgot to enjoin the Legislative Reference Bureau, the body that actually publishes the bill.  LaFollette only appoints a date, which he did initially, March 25.  After the TRO was issued he attempted to rescind his initial publication request although whether that’s even legal or not is up in the air.

Thing is, the LRB is required by law to publish any bills within 10 days after they are signed.  Needless to say, the Dems, Libs, unions and supporters are all up at arms, raging that Gov. Walker defied the court order, etc., etc., etc.  Bottom line is the Legislative Reference Bureau published the bill as they are required to do within ten days after it is signed. The TRO was issued against LaFollette, not the LRB. So in actuality, Gov. Walker did not defy anything, nor did anyone else. The law mandated publication and it was published.

So Is It Law or Isn’t It?

That’s the big questions now, is the Budget Repair Bill law as of Saturday 3/26, the day after publication, or is it not? Depends on who you talk to. Of course the Republicans and supporters say that it is and of course the Democrats and their supporters say it’s not.  What it really comes down to is the law and Rick Esenberg of Shark and Shepherd, puts his legal mind in gear and breaks down the law and statutes on the issue.  His final conclusion, it’s law!  Read all the details here, it’s a great piece, wonderfully written and detailed.

Of course, this still isn’t the end, it’s going to be kicked around and into court.  No doubt if it first hits a lower court,Dane County’s liberal judges, will say it’s not a valid law yet, then it will be appealed and eventually kicked to the WI Supreme Court.  At this point all I can say is that time will tell.

Personally it’s pretty hard to argue against Rick Esenberg’s reasoning but no doubt they will…

In Retrospect on the Doyle Administration…

And what about Doyle’s time in office, was everything so wonderful, so transparent, so above-board and even-handed then? WI saw politicians pandering to the unions; taking dues, giving contributions, sitting at the table to negotiate with the same politicians they elected to give more, more, more, taking from the pocket of the taxpayer. WI saw Doyle and his cronies pass a billion dollar tax bill in 24 hours with no notice, WI saw no bid contracts, ie. the $48 million train contact given to a Spanish company after Doyle got back from Spain, etc. These are just a few things that WI saw, rancid cream rising to the top that even the MSM reported. And nary one bitch, moan, complaint or squeak from the liberals.  No yelling when Doyle raided the medical malpractice fund for $200 million in ’07 (which the court ordered has to be repaid), no screaming when Doyle raided the transportation fund for $1.3 billion over his 8 years in office and of course no bitching when WI got $701 million in stimulus from the fed and $680 million of it went to fund public employees. Where were the protests, where were the rallies, the people up at arms when all of this was happening?

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