January 30, 2015

Milwaukee Democrat hopes to work with Republicans on inner city poverty

Wisconsin Capitol Building (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Democrats in southeastern Wisconsin say suburban Republicans should have consulted with those who represent the city of Milwaukee before unveiling a plan to fight poverty in their neighborhood.

Representative David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) says he’s “still digesting” the 25-page document from Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Representative Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) that they unveiled on Wednesday. “I think it’s very important that those who’ve been elected in those districts are a part of that conversation,” he says, “So, I’m willing to have that conversation with my colleagues but I’m very disappointed that they did not reach out.”

Bowen was born and raised in Milwaukee. The former Milwaukee County Supervisor would love to sit down with his colleagues across the aisle and talk about bipartisan solutions that were not included in the report.

Struggling public schools would become charter schools, under the GOP package of proposals. Also, there would be corporate tax breaks for new businesses, and a localized version of right-to-work.

“The biggest issue that I see is that I’m ready to move forward on proven strategies to reduce poverty, not experiments.”

Bowen says addressing living wages is a proven method to help families struggling to get by, but notes it’s not included in the GOP proposal.

Bowen is hopeful this report will be the beginning of discussions on the difficulties faced by Milwaukeeans.

Governor Scott Walker says he needs to review the package before passing judgment.

Menominee Tribe ‘exploring options’ on Kenosha casino

Members of the Menominee Tribe are joined by other Kenosha casino supporters (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Members of the Menominee Tribe are joined by other Kenosha casino supporters (Photo: Andrew Beckett)

An official with the Menominee Indian Tribe says they are still considering their next move, following Governor Walker’s decision to reject their Kenosha casino proposal.

The tribe is joining with southeastern Wisconsin lawmakers in calling on the governor to reconsider the decision, which they argue there’s still time to do before a February 19th Bureau of Indian Affairs deadline. If he does not, Menominee Tribe Vice Chair Crystal Chapman-Chevalier says they are continuing to “look at any legal options we have available to us.”

Following a press conference at the Capitol Thursday, Chapman-Chevalier would not say if that could include a lawsuit or even submitting a new casino proposal. She said the tribe continues to work with their partners at Hard Rock International to evaluate the future of the over $800 million development and are “hoping that this will come to a positive resolution.”

The governor has insisted that his decision became final when he notified the Bureau of Indian Affairs last week that he was rejecting the proposal. Chapman-Chevalier argued that the federal government has the final word though, and they want Walker to take some extra time to reconsider.

Fitzgerald: right-to-work should be considered along with budget

The Republican leader of the Wisconsin state Senate is calling for debate on a right-to-work bill to take place as lawmakers in Madison consider the state budget plan Governor Scott Walker will release next week. Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who had indicated as recently as last week that the earliest the bill would come up in the Senate would be after the April election to fill a vacant seat, said in a release on Thursday that the debate should happen sooner.

“As we enter into a budget process that we know will present some difficult financial challenges, we have an obligation to the taxpayers to make every effort to ensure that Wisconsin remains an attractive site for business and to foster economic growth. With broad support throughout the state, it would be a missed opportunity to leave the workplace freedom debate out of that equation.”

Communications Director Myranda Tanck said Fitzgerald anticipated that the right-to-work debate in the Senate would be “somewhat simultaneous” with the consideration of Walker’s budget, and that a bill could be ready once the vacant seat in the 20th District is filled.

Fitzgerald cited the results of a survey on the issue which was released Thursday by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. The findings of a poll conducted by The Tarrance Group claimed that 69 percent of Wisconsin voters – and 51 percent of union households – support right to work legislation.

Governor Scott Walker has continued to maintain that in his view, right-to-work legislation would only serve to distract lawmakers from what he’s identified as his core issues. “I’ve never said I was against it. When I was a legislator I was a co-sponsor. I’ve said it’s a distraction because I ran on a series of things,” Walker said Wednesday. “That’s my focal point. I didn’t want the legislature distracted from that.”

Governor Scott Walker suggests UW faculty teach more classes

Bascom Hall, UW-Madison campus (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Bascom Hall, UW-Madison campus (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Governor Scott Walker is suggesting that University of  Wisconsin System faculty could work harder. The Republican governor said Wednesday that may help to offset the impacts of a $300 million dollar cut in state aid to that will be included as part of his state budget proposal.

Walker’s has presented his plan, which includes greater autonomy for the UW System, as “being like Act 10 for the UW,” a reference to the signature legislative achievement of his first term in office. “It will make them do things that they traditionally have not done,” Walker said. “Maybe looking at the use of faculty and staff a bit more efficiently. They might be able to make savings just by asking faculty and staff to consider teaching one more class a semester.”

But a UW Madison faculty rep says most are already “burning the candle at both ends.” Jo Ellen Fair chairs the University Committee, the executive committee of the faculty senate on the Madison campus. “Most faculty that I know of are working 60-70 hours a week. They’re teaching, they’re getting ready for their classes, they’re advising undergraduates, they’re advising graduate students. They’re doing their research and making sure that they’re current on the research in their field.”

Walker said that asking UW faculty to take on additional work “could have a tremendous impact on making sure that we preserve affordable education for all our UW campuses, at the same time we maintain a high quality education.”

“In some ways we’ve been good soldiers for a very long time,” said Fair. “Any kind of cut that has come our way from the state, we’ve said ‘well okay, that’s going to be tough,’ and we do it. But now we’re at the point where we’re really at a breaking point.”

As for the governor’s assertion that expecting faculty to work more will help to maintain the quality of the UW System, Fair has concerns. She worries about loss the of quality faculty, with a resulting decline in the quality of the degrees students receive.

“When they go out into the market, are they going to be able to use that degree from Wisconsin and people will be impressed with it, saying ‘that’s a great degree?’ Or are people going to say ‘it used to be a great degree, maybe we’ll hire somebody from the University of Minnesota instead.'”

Walker’s recommendations for the UW System will be included in the 2015-2017 budget plan he’ll unveil next week. It includes a public authority – an organization that is part of state government but free of most rules and regulations that apply to traditional executive branch agencies – to administer an annual block grant. The governor said that would give UW System greater control over things like procurement, human resources and even some building projects.

Governor Walker to attend Southern Republican Leadership Conference


Gov. Scott Walker

As he continues to explore a potential White House bid in 2016, Governor Scott Walker is adding another visit to a Republican state to his calendar this spring.

Officials with the Oklahoma Republican Party announced Wednesday that Walker will attend the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this coming May. The group says Walker is the fifth national Republican leader and potential presidential candidate to confirm they will attend the conference. He will join a list that includes Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.
The event takes place May 21-23 in Oklahoma City.

The stop is one of several visits Walker has scheduled this spring, as he tries to gauge how his message is resonating across the country. The governor spoke at a conservative rally in Iowa this past weekend, and plans to attend an event in New Hampshire this March.