Legislative Report -- Budget Hearings, April 5, 2011
The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance has begun its deliberations on the two-year state budget, also known as 2011 Senate Bill 27 (and its identical companion, Assembly Bill 40). The Walker budget is an all-out assault on working families and vital services that are the foundation of our economy and our quality of life. This special bulletin contains detailed information on the various ways you, your coworkers, family and union brothers and sisters can have your voice heard and build momentum to defeat this despicable budget proposal.
What we know about the schedule of events:
The GOP-controlled Legislature is rushing through the budget deliberations. What normally is a 4-5 month process (from March through June) may run only a few months this year. This bulletin is intended to let you know what to expect with the Legislature’s budget deliberations, along with specific actions you can take to do your part. We know you are involved in many activities this spring. We offer a variety of options for making your mark on the budget, some of which won’t take much time but are important to build a strong public case against the budget and to document our voices.
The Joint Finance Committee members began agency budget briefings last week. On Thursday, April 7, the first of four hearings will be held at the UW-Stevens Point from 10-6 p.m. The second hearing will be at the UW Superior on Friday, April 8 from 10-5 p.m. A third hearing will be in West Allis on Monday, April 11 from 10-6 p.m., and the final hearing will be at Neenah High School on Wednesday, April 13 from 10-6 p.m. Speakers will be limited to two minutes. The few, remote public hearings that are being held will end at the designated times, and time limits for speakers will be strictly enforced, like never before. For more details, go to the Joint Finance website,
Here’s what you can do:
If you can make it to the hearing, even on this short notice, that would be great. We know many of you will find it difficult to attend these remote hearings in person. Therefore, we present to you, below, other ways to have your concerns heard.
First, in response to the limited number of hearings and their location in far reaches of the state, Democrats in the state Assembly have decided to host their own public hearings in our communities. A complete list of those hearings and locations can be found below. These are legitimate public hearings on the budget, and a number of legislators will be in attendance to listen to the testimony from whoever wishes to speak, as long as it takes.
Like any other public hearing, you may choose to speak or simply register your concerns by completing the registration forms that will be available at every hearing. If you have written comments, please bring 20 copies (if you are able) to give to committee members. If you can’t that’s ok. Be sure to include your name and home address on any documents you submit. Tell them you are an AFSCME member.
Second, you can attend the Joint Finance hearings in any of the four locations. Once again, you can choose to register or speak. If you have written comments or testimony, try to bring 20 copies.
Third, if you cannot attend the official Joint Finance hearings, you can email your concerns to the Committee. We strongly encourage EVERYONE to send an email message to the committee, even if you plan to attend in person. We’ve prepared a sample message (see below) that you can send to Joe Malkasian, Joint Finance Committee clerk, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “AFSCME member opposes SB 27” in the subject line, and write your concerns in the body of the email, rather than as an attachment, so it’ll be easier for Joe to manage the thousands of messages that are expected to come in. It’s an easy way to identify messages coming from AFSCME.
Fourth, we hope you don’t forget to email, call or write your own state Representative and your own state Senator and let them know what you think of this budget. You absolutely must put your home address in the email to your own legislators. The first thing legislators and staff look for is if the address of the sender is someone they represent. Emailing legislators who do not represent you is not advised because the messages will be ignored and deleted.
Fifth, please also send a note to Gov. Walker himself to let him know your views. His email is email@example.com.
Here is a sample email you can send to the Joint Finance Committee, your state Representative and state Senator and the Governor:
I am writing to voice my opposition to the Governor’s budget bill and to ask you to reject it in its entirety.
Governor Walker’s budget is an assault on the working people. The Governor calls for all to sacrifice, but there is no shared sacrifice in this budget. Instead, corporations and investors get tax breaks while those at the lowest income levels will pay more in taxes. This budget calls for deep cuts in state aid to schools and local governments, which will harm services to children, senior citizens, students, struggling families, and the disabled.
It calls for massive increases in spending on highway construction, but cuts local transportation aids, which will affect transit services that working people rely on, threaten countless city and county highway worker jobs, and leave our roads in disrepair. It calls for the centralization and privatization of critical economic support services, which will hurt the poor and jeopardize hundreds of professional economic support staff jobs. SB 27 dismantles the UW System by making the UW Madison run like a private corporation directed by a Board of Trustees, rather than the highly respected and more accountable UW System Board of Regents.
The budget proposal cuts funding for the Technical College System and the UW system, and caps student financial aid, threatening the ability of thousands of students to get the education and training they need to become productive citizens. The budget cuts funding for K-12 education, but greatly expands privately run, taxpayer funded charter and choice schools, and allowing those schools to operate with even less accountability than current law requires.
The budget threatens the jobs and employment status of thousands of state workers every state agency across the Wisconsin, which will undermine public access to vital services.
SB 27 cuts funding for popular recycling programs and puts it under the control of the newly created semi-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The budget also takes some of the ‘tipping fee’, which is the fee that garbage haulers pay to deposit waste in landfills, and gives it to the WEDC for business. SB 40 calls for closing two juvenile schools and moving female offenders into a new school on the grounds of the current Lincoln Hills School for Boys, an unwise move by any standard.
The budget also eliminates the early release law enacted in 2009, and restores the misguided “Truth in Sentencing” law which resulted in the overcrowding of our correctional facilities, threatening the safety of workers and inmates alike and leaving offenders with few incentives to seek rehabilitation, while cutting the Department of Corrections’ budget and eliminating staff positions.
SB 27 cuts $500 million from Medicaid, with few details of what would be cut, hurting thousands of low income families who rely on the Medicaid dollars that fund BadgerCare services. The Medicaid cut also is sure to affect health care services and long term care, threatening care to our most vulnerable citizens, as well as health care workers.
These are but a few examples of many bad choices contained in the Governor’s budget. As a public employee and proud member of AFSCME I am disturbed by the priorities of this budget. I consider this budget an insult to our traditions and a threat to our way of life.
Public employees were unfairly blamed for the state’s deficit situation by Governor Walker when he introduced the misnamed Budget Repair Bill. This bill underscores the Governor’s disdain for public services and for the workers who are on the front-line in serving our citizens, our society and our economy every day. It simply must be rejected if Wisconsin is going to continue to be a great place to live, work and play. The Walker budget threatens our most basic values.
Thank you for considering my views.
(Please include your name, full address, city, email address, and AFSCME local union number.)
Here are the cities, locations, and times of the Assembly Democrats’ Budget hearings:
Oshkosh – Sat. April 9, 10:30-4:30 pm, UW Oshkosh’s Reeve Memorial Union
Eau Claire- Sat. April 9, 10-4 pm, Chippewa Valley Technical College
Baraboo, Friday, April 15, 1-7 pm, UW-Baraboo Gymnasium
Green Bay, Saturday, April 16 10-4 pm, Brown County Central Library
Rhinelander, Saturday, April 16, 10-1 pm, Nicolet Technical College, Learning Resources Building
Wausau, Monday, April 18, 1-7 pm, Northcentral Technical College, Health Sciences Building
Janesville, April 20, 1-7 pm, Blackhawk Technical College, North Commons
LaCrosse, Monday, April 25, 1-7 pm, UW-LaCrosse, Cartwright Center
Appleton, Monday, April 25 1-7 pm, Appleton Public Library
Fort Atkinson, Monday, April 25, 1-7 pm, location TBA
Merrill/Tomahawk, Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29, details TBA
Kenosha, Monday, May 9, 10-3 pm, Gateway Technical College, Auditorium
Racine, Wednesday, May 11, 5-10 pm, Gateway Technical College
We will post the details of the hearings on the www.wiafscme.org website. For more information, contact AFSCME lobbyist Susan McMurray at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the AFSCME area office at 608-836-6666.
To read a comprehensive summary of the budget bill, please read the Legislative Fiscal Bureau summary of the budget - http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/.
Wisconsin AFSCME website - www.wiafscme.org
LFB budget summary - http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/
Institute for Wisconsin’s Future – www.wisconsinsfuture.org
Wisconsin Budget Project -http://wisconsinbudgetproject.org/
WisPolitics Budget Blog - http://budget.wispolitics.com/
“The budget is not just a collection of numbers but an expression of our values and aspirations.” -unknown.