In what’s likely a preview of the debate to come later this week, sharp words were exchanged in a preliminary meeting before Tuesday’s big Capitol public hearing on Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill. Democrat leaders cried foul over the rapid legislative process, while Republicans pointed out that Democrats had similarly hurried through their own budget repair bill last year – and did it without a public hearing. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) raised the central question for Democrats – whether the policy change in dealings with state workers belongs in the budget repair bill at all.
“The notion that we’re going to take away peoples rights to collectively bargain – forevermore – to take care of this short term fiscal problem, is just unbelievable,” said Barca, who added that the provision which greatly diminishes the right of state employees to collectively bargain is a “gargantuan change, and you’re doing it in six days.”
Assistant Minority Leader Donna Siedel (D-Wausau) said Democrats were “appalled” that the bill is being pushed through this week – which had Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) recalling the Democrat budget repair bill last year. “It is amazing to me that you two who were in leadership, can sit there with a straight face and argue process, after the budget repair bill you put through last session,” chided Fitzgerald. “You didn’t even do a public hearing. Introduced, 48 hours, signed into law by the governor, that raised taxes by almost two billion dollars. To sit here and say you’re appalled by the process? Wow. Wow.”
The Organization committee had to vote the budget repair bill before it advanced the daylong public hearing before the Joint Finance Committee.
Representative Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) noted that speakers testifying before that committee would be allotted just two minutes apiece. “There’s going to be literally hundreds of people testifying, and they’d better get their chance to have their day before our legislature,” Hebl said. That was too much for Fitzgerald. “How many taxpayers got to testify at the hearing when you raised taxes by two billion dollars? How many taxpayers at your hearing, the bill you voted for? How many got to testify that day? The hypocrisy here is unbelievable,” said Fitzgerald. “If you want to call this process rushed, that process was rammed through,” said Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbottsford). “The difference here is we do have transparency. The difference is we are having a public hearing on this. That’s why there are thousands of people at this Capitol.”