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11 Steps to More Open and Honest Government PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Monday, 27 July 2015 11:20

capitol-dome-mdsnRepublicans who call the shots in Madison want to butcher the state’s open meetings law and turn our independent elections watchdog agency into a lapdog. It’s easy to focus on condemning the attacks, but let's think of ways to make open government laws sturdier and government more trustworthy.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 July 2015 11:42
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Wisconsin Deserves Better Than This Republican Budget PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Peter Barca, Assembly Democratic Leader, District 64   
Thursday, 16 July 2015 14:48

2015-budgetMADISON - While the ink dries on the new state budget, one thing remains clear: the anti-education, anti-middle class Republican budget is not a budget for the people of Wisconsin. It throws the people of Wisconsin under Governor Walker’s campaign bus as he travels to Iowa, New Hampshire and other primary states to launch his presidential run. And incredibly, the Republican legislature took the governor’s historically harmful budget and made it even worse.

The Republican budget will remove up to $800 million from Wisconsin’s public schools and give it to unaccountable private voucher schools over the next decade as a favor to their private-school campaign contributors. The state Department of Public Instruction estimates that most Wisconsin public school districts will see state aid cuts in the coming year. Not only have Wisconsin Republicans refused to make our public schools whole, they are continuing to essentially dismantle our public schools through massive cuts and creating uncertain teacher standards so they can focus instead on paying back their private-school campaign contributors.

Our local schools aren’t the only ones taking a huge hit. Republicans are also making a $250 million cut to our world-class university system. At a time when other states across the country are investing in higher education, universities in Wisconsin are facing the largest cut to higher education of any state in the country. This cut will only harm our universities’ ability to serve as a vital economic engine for our state and prepare our workers for success in a 21st-Century economy.

To top it all off, despite promises to the contrary, Republicans are kicking a bigger can down a longer road on needed infrastructure while also gutting funding for transportation projects with Republican legislators making changes to the governor’s budget that will cost 5,500 good-paying jobs. And they are dismantling successful long-term care programs that provide independence and confidence for thousands of seniors, people with disabilities and others with fragile health conditions.

Wisconsin has traditionally been known for having great public schools, strong universities, bountiful natural resources and a nationally respected model for caring for our most vulnerable. Yet the Republican budget sells out these proud traditions, our kids and our families in order to pay back their special interest supporters and further Governor Walker’s presidential ambitions. There is no part of what makes Wisconsin great that goes unharmed with this budget.

My Democratic colleagues have heard from citizens from across the state who told us how damaging this Republican budget is to their livelihoods and their communities, so we offered more than 50 amendments that fit Wisconsin values. Unfortunately every Democratic amendment was rejected – nearly every one on a party-line vote – as Republicans passed up every opportunity to make this budget better.

You deserved better than this budget. But despite all that is wrong with it, Democrats are more determined than ever to stand up for the people of Wisconsin and propose ideas that are true to the values we have held dear for generations: quality public education, a world-class university system, economic development and quality infrastructure, and working to improve the livelihoods and quality of life of Wisconsin’s hardworking middle-class families.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 July 2015 15:02
 
UW Budget Debate "A self-defeating liberal impulse" PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 16:11

2015-budgetMADISON - Wisconsin deserves far more than a debate over whether investment in our state university system should be cut by $300 million as the governor wishes or $250 million as legislative leaders desire. The debate should be about how to make education as affordable for future generations as past generations made it for us. Lawmakers here and across the country should be trying to figure out how to reach the goal of tuition-free college. The future of the American Dream depends on it.

Something predictable happens when it is suggested that the promise of free public education for all children be extended all the way through college. Hardcore right-wingers balk at the idea of paying for anything that helps someone else. But something else happens too. Liberals instinctively call for means testing, arguing that only those who could not otherwise afford to pay for schooling should get society’s assistance.

This liberal impulse is understandable. It is also self-defeating. It ends up undermining the very kind of public investments liberals think are so critically important. It does so by stigmatizing public investments and sowing the seeds of resentment and hostility toward the beneficiaries.

Means testing inevitably pits those who qualify against those who don’t. It is no accident that the government programs that have been most successful and enduring – like Social Security – are not means tested. Everyone pays, everyone benefits.

Means tests also are prone to creating poverty traps. You have to be needy enough to qualify for a public benefit, and you have to stay needy enough to keep receiving it.

In order to have a just and decent society, we need to be there for each other. And we need our government to reflect that spirit of interdependence. Arriving there depends on us being smart enough to resist impulses like means testing that make government programs vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics. To the greatest extent humanly possible, what government does needs to be done for the whole of society. Everyone pays, everyone benefits.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 16:36
 
Valuing our Hard-Working Families PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Nikiya Harris Dodd, State Senator 6th District   
Thursday, 18 June 2015 11:45

nikiya-harris-doddMADISON - As a mother, I can only imagine what parents must face when they have to choose between taking care of their sick baby or losing their job. I brought my baby into this world knowing that I would do anything to protect him and to ensure that he stays healthy and strong. Luckily for my husband and me, Wisconsin law includes strong protections for hard-working families like ours.

When Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law 27 years ago, it granted critical protections to parents and caregivers and gave businesses the boost they needed to maintain a healthy, loyal and educated workforce. Wisconsin led the nation in its efforts to ensure that our state valued its hardworking families and its businesses.

Wisconsin law recognizes that our hard workers often have dueling responsibilities- between their employment, children, taking care of an elderly parent, or tending to a sick spouse. Wisconsin’s FMLA law ensures job retention in the event of family emergencies so that businesses can maintain a quality work force.

Recently, Republican legislators have indicated their desire to repeal Wisconsin’s FMLA law, a move that would undermine decades of employer-employee protections. Wisconsin values the unique relationship that every employer has with their employees and allows for employers to sign off on employee FMLA requests to maintain a level playing field.

In addition, Wisconsin’s law provides better protections to families than the federal FMLA law. Unlike the federal law, Wisconsin law expands coverage to allow workers to get caregiving leave to care for a parent-in-law or domestic partner. Wisconsin also allows employees to elect for themselves whether to substitute accrued paid leave of any type for unpaid leave under FMLA. This includes compensatory, vacation, and sick leave.

Under the federal law, an employee can only use accrued sick leave for themselves or a family member’s serious health condition and only to the extent allowed by their employer. A serious health condition does not include the birth or adoption of a child.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s FMLA law has been under attack since 2011, when Republicans pushed legislation to limit coverage under Wisconsin’s law and allow the federal government to dictate our guidelines. At the time, the fiscal estimate submitted by the Department of Workforce Development estimated that this devastating move would cost the state nearly $900,000 annually.

As Wisconsin continues to recover from its economic recession and Gov. Walker’s $2.2 billion budget deficit, the last thing our hardworking families need to face is an additional financial hardship. With Wisconsin being a leader in its innovative and business-friendly approach to FMLA, it is unclear why Republican lawmakers now want to dig a larger budget deficit while simultaneously weakening protections for families.

Wisconsin is lucky to have talented, experienced workers, who take pride in their work and value their family above all else. My Republican colleagues would be doing a disservice to these extraordinary workers if they choose to gut Wisconsin’s FMLA law.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 11:52
 
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