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March 5, 2015

Walker says he’ll sign right-to-work on Monday

Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

Right-to-work legislation is nearly ready for Governor Scott Walker’s signature. The bill has yet to pass the Assembly, but Walker told the annual Business Day in Madison, sponsored by Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce, that he plans to sign it next week.

“By passing that, and by us signing it into law on Monday, it gives us one more tremendous tool,” Walker said. Walker said making Wisconsin the nation’s 25th right-to-work state sends a strong message to job creators. “If you’re a company that’s here and you’re looking to grow, or if you’re talking to one of your colleagues in the industry and trying to get someone to come here, we now have given one more big thing on that checklist to say that Wisconsin is open for business.”

Right-to-work has been the product a fast-paced legislative process which saw the controversial bill introduced less than two weeks ago. The state Assembly is set to debate the measure on Thursday.

UW’s Cross asks lawmakers to reduce budget cut

UW-Madison campus

UW-Madison campus

University of Wisconsin System officials briefed members of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance, on how the proposed UW System public authority and increased flexibilities included in Governor Scott Walker’s budget could impact the UW.

System President Ray Cross supports the changes. “Ultimately we will make the cost of higher education in Wisconsin predictable and stable for families, taxpayers and of course you, decision makers.” Cross told the budget panel on Tuesday. “We will be able to forecast prices.”

But Cross said a proposed $300 million state funding cut to the UW – a condition of those greater flexibilities – “truly is serious.”

“We appreciate that many of you in this room have already acknowledged the need to reduce the proposed budget cut,” Cross said.

He asked lawmakers to approve the UW System authority along with a dedicated and stable funding stream. Cross also asked them to reduce the budget cut.

“I want to share with you today the same message I’ve given our local legislators. The $300 million proposed cut to the UW System is too much, and too fast,” said UW Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt.

Cross’ support for the restructuring proposed in the governor’s budget is getting some resistance on UW campuses. An open letter from 74 faculty members, posted online, has garnered hundreds of signatures.

“Not only is it being implemented top down, without sufficient input or discussion from faculty, staff, students and citizens but also without the kind of thing that any corporation would do, the kind of due diligence . . . to determine whether or not there actually were substantial savings, and how much,” said Richard Grusin, director of the Center for 21st Century Studies and professor of English at UW-Milwaukee.

“The lion’s share of cuts will have to be personnel cuts, and this is why the $300 million is a concern for everyone.”

Grusin said that while the $300 million cut is potentially catastrophic, he said that “in a certain sense,  the public authority is even worse.”

Bucks owners asked to pay more for arena

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch

Maintaining the NBA’s presence in Wisconsin will remain a budget priority – and maybe a tough sell.

Joint Finance Committee co-chair, Representative John Nygren (R-Nygren), said Monday that the Bucks owners should contribute more toward construction of a new arena. Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan have pledged at least $150 million.

A Forbes magazine list released Monday identified Dinan and Lasry as two of the 400 richest Americans.

Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-2017 state budget includes $220 million in state bonding toward construction of a new NBA arena in downtown Milwaukee.

“What the governor recognized is, first and foremost, a significant decrease to the state budget of the Milwaukee Bucks leave,” outgoing state Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch told finance committee on Monday.

Nygren told a press briefing prior to Monday’s committee meeting that he’d like to see Lasry and Dinan contribute more towards the arena’s cost.

The NBA has said that if a new arena is not built by fall 2017, the league can buy back the team for $575 million.

DOA quizzed on Walker security detail

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

Questions were raised Monday about Governor Scott Walker’s security detail, during the first day of agency briefings on the proposed 2015-2017 state budget. “I’d like talk for a minute about the governor’s security detail,” state Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) told outgoing Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebcsh. “How big is it?”

Huebsch, who’s being succeeded at the head of DOA by Scott Neitzel, didn’t know the answer to that, although he was able to explain that security detail costs are closely scrutinized by the state Government Accountability Board. “I understand that the governor has to have security wherever the governor goes, but the governor doesn’t have to do every single political thing under the sun, which it seems like he’s doing right now,” Erpenbach said. “So are the taxpayers paying for all of that?”

“We understand the scrutiny level that is coming on there, and making sure that it is going to be something is assigned to the campaign as it should be, or provided by the taxpayers as it should be,” depending on the nature of Walker’s travel, Huebsch explained.

Erpenbach, a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, which began agency briefings on Monday, also wanted to know about a $4.00 an hour increase for members of the Wisconsin State Patrol’s Dignitary Protection Unit. Huebsch said that increase for the 10 member unit also included elimination of overtime pay, and thus represents an actual savings on the governor’s security costs.

Unions rally to oppose right-to-work

rallycropSaturday was sunny, windy and cold as hundreds gathered at the state Capitol in Madison to oppose fast-moving and controversial right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin. “I stand before you, as a proud teacher and union member, not as a terrorist,” said WEAC President Betsy Kippers, directing a jab at comments made this week by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The right-to-work bill passed the state Senate this week. Democrats and labor unions have argued that the legislation is unneccessary, opposed by many businesses, and harmful to workers. Republicans argue right-to-work is about the freedom of individual workers to not join unions, and they claim it will make Wisconsin a more attractive destination for businesses. If passed and signed into law by Republican Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin would become the 25th right-to-work state.

“This isn’t good for Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Laborer’s District Council President John Schmidt told the crowd gathered on the State Street steps at the Capitol. “It’s another part of ‘divide and conquer.’ And make no mistake about it: right-to-work is designed to divide us.”

“This legislation, which is a lie that is covered by a thin cloak, of a claim of worker freedom. When we remove this cloak and see the bill for what it is, you see the body of labor suffering the death of a thousand cuts, one scab at time,” said Bill Carroll, President of Teamsters Local 200 in Milwaukee

Union members and supporters were urged to show up this week as the bill moves through the process in the state Assembly next week. “I see whole families coming together to stand up for worker rights, and that is beautiful,” said Wisconsin AFL-CIO’s Stephanie Bloomingdale. “And you know what? We are beautiful, and we are not terrorists.”

The state Department of Administration put the crowd at 2500-to-3000.