Walker agenda has been destructive for Wisconsin
The following was originally published as a column from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate on BizTimes.com
Wisconsin suffered through one of the worst years in her history in 2011 as a direct result of Scott Walker, the most divisive political figure here since Joseph McCarthy.
The radical Republican agenda, which is salting the earth for jobs-creation and blowing a hole in our budget, included never-before-seen cuts to education and health care. They attacked those supporting institutions that had over decades and in bipartisan fashion been built up to create to high standards of living for everyone in Wisconsin, as well as world-class universities and trade schools that led to job growth.
By cutting $2.6 billion from public education, Scott Walker and his Republicans signaled that they want to turn Wisconsin away from a path of high-tech sustainable job creation to a low-wage, low-benefit plantation of the large corporations that, incidentally, poured unprecedented mountains of sleazy cash into Walker's defense.
In slashing more than $550 million from public health programs, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites, including 29,000 children, will be kicked off their health care, and hundreds of thousands of seniors, children and working families will find themselves with a lower level of care, if they can even afford insurance at all.
Without warning, Walker dropped what he jokingly referred to as “the bomb” on working families, ending nearly seven decades of labor peace with his divisive, state-rending legislation that eliminated collective bargaining rights for public employees, As he gave out $2 billion in tax breaks to wealthy special interests, Scott Walker balanced the budget solely on the backs of hard-working public employees. And the way his sneaky legislation is written, the door is wide open for Walker to demand even more concessions from public workers to pay for more giveaways.
Up and down the line, programs that benefit working families and helped sustain our great Middle Class were torn apart, taxes on working families and seniors were raised by nearly $70 million, fees were raised by more than $100 million, including tuition hikes for UW students - all to finance $2 billion in corporate tax giveaways that have blown a hole in our budget and which, even nervous Republicans admit, do not create jobs.
It's NOT working. Wisconsin under Walker and the Republican "leadership" now leads the nation in jobs loss, even as neighboring states have seen modest gains. Walker called not one, but two "special sessions" of the Legislature meant to focus “like a laser” on jobs - which instead devolved into dysfunctional carnivals that had more to do with an extreme and foreign social agenda (IUDs are murder?) than with the real problems facing Wisconsin.
Under Walker, Wisconsin also entered into a hideous war on democracy, suppressing the vote for targeted communities in a raw partisan power play. The short-term political game for Republicans will result in long-term damage to the Wisconsin principle that everyone should get a place at the table, not just those who are born with fortune on their side.
The sleazy dishonesty that has become a hallmark of Scott Walker and his Republican Party has brought to light an unprecedented criminal corruption probe into Scott Walker and his current and former aides.
But there is a silver lining to this and it came from the people of Wisconsin themselves. The historic recall elections of the spring and the imminent recall of Walker himself showed that this outside corporate-funded agenda is being rejected all over the state and that, like a bad blizzard, Wisconsin can withstand the onslaught and emerge in a spring of renewal, with a new governor that focuses on jobs and not partisan power plays, who works for all, not just his corporate cronies.
The last year, Wisconsin got knocked down by the most divisive and dishonest governor in her history. In 2012, Wisconsin's going to pick herself back up and live up to her creed: "Forward."