The stage is set for a final showdown on Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, after the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved an amended version of the proposal late Wednesday night.
Democrats on the committee were largely critical of provisions that end the collective bargaining rights of most public employees. It has sparked massive protest rallies at the Capitol this week, with the building being flooded by those urging lawmakers to “kill the bill.” It was also the focus of much of the testimony during an over 16-hour long public hearing that stretched into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
State Representative Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) urged committee members to remove the union busting provisions, along with higher pension and health contributions for public employees. She warned that the changes will cause real harm to working families in the state.
State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) says the bill will destroy “the fabric of who we are” and accused Republicans of seeking retribution against public employee unions.
However, state Representative Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) says the changes are needed to undo decades of bad budgeting decisions that have continued to push off debt. Strachota says the “day of reckoning in the state of Wisconsin is here, and it’s gonna cause every single person some difficulty.”
State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) accused Democrats of being melodramatic. He says much worse things have been happening to private sector employees in recent years, and state workers will still have a great life under the changes made in the bill.
A Republican-backed amendment was adopted by JFC. Among the changes it makes is to restore pension and health benefits for limited term employees and grant some civil service protections to local government workers. JFC co-chair Robin Vos (R-Burlington) says many of those are the result of concerns raised by the public.
Approval by the Finance Committee now clears the way for the Legislature to take up the bill. Republicans say they have the votes needed to pass the measure. It heads first to the Senate, with a vote expected later today.