A great rally by the UW-Madison Teaching Assistants union and students. I would put the crowd at 1,000. Waiting on the State Street plaza of the Capitol, one could hear them working their way up the south sidewalk of State Street. They arrived at the Capitol Square at precisely 12 noon.
Some of them got as far as the outer lobby of the Governor's Office on the first floor of the East Wing.
They chanted "Kill the Bill." meaning, of course, Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, which would gut collective bargaining and require government employees to pay half their defined benefits pension (which few employees enjoy) and 12.6% of their health insurance, up from 1 percent (when the nationwide average is 29%).
Kill the R.T.A.
Speaking of killing things: It's in draft bill form, not yet assigned a number. It is the bill I have been predicting that will eliminate regional transit authorities, including Dane County's.
It will be circulated for cosponsors starting tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 15. In the Assembly, it is being authored by Rep. Steve Nass, Rep. Keith Ripp and Rep. Robin Vos, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.
Senate authors are Glenn Grothman and Van Wanggaard. All Republicans.
Significantly, it dissolves RTAs 90 days after enactment of the bill, but prohibits imposition of an RTA sales tax immediately upon enactment of the bill. Significant because time is a factor. Dane County's RTA is planning a referendum on the April 5 ballot for a one-quarter cent sales tax. Here is the document.
The Tea Party to the rescue
Monday's rally at the Capitol will look like a dress rehearsal. Tuesday, the labor unions are expected. They will be joined by tea partiers. No wonder Capitol Police are on 12-hour shifts all week.
Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth are busing tea party activists from around the state into Madison. The object of both groups is to pack the public hearing on Walker's bill scheduled for Tuesday at 10 am at the 412 East hearing room at the State Capitol. That has to be the toughest ticket in town.
Buses will pick up tea partiers from Rhinelander, Wausau, Racine, Milwaukee, Sheboygan, and Fond du Lac.
The Wisconsin Patriot Coalition expressed its support for Governor Walker's Budget Adjustment Bill "as a first step in moving our state back onto the path of financial prosperity."
I stopped in to see my favorite liberal Democratic legislator after the rally. That would be Terese Berceau, who is my west side Madison rep in the Assembly.
She bemoaned the job Republicans had done demonizing public employees. I countered that the public employee unions -- especially the teachers unions -- had done most of the heavy lifting. $150,000 bus drivers, anyone?
Does it not speak volumes that Chris Rickert, the mild-mannered WI State Journal columnist, this morning took to task the teachers union for coming too late to the reform party?
... had all these reforms been proposed a year ago, Wisconsin probably would have had a better chance at winning a grant through the Obama Administration's Race to the Top initiative, a $4.35 billion program to provide millions to states that make concrete moves toward reforming public education. Wisconsin was twice rejected for the program. [Wi State Journal: Union plan too late to help schools]
If you had to guess, whom would you say is more in touch with statewide sentiment? Today's march by the Teaching Assistants Assn. or the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel?
Walker's decision to force a showdown with organized labor is long overdue. The state must rein in its legacy costs. As Walker told the Editorial Board Friday: "These are things that frankly GM and Chrysler should have gotten a better handle on, and they wouldn't have been in the problems they got into."
He's right, and it's about time.
Employees whose salaries are paid for by us taxpayers should not have collective bargaining or union rights. Period. Employees have the ultimate bargaining chip by their ability to seek other employment.
There is a serious disconnect with the concept of professionals being members of unions. ... Walker should channel his inner Ronald Reagan and give any state employee who engages in a job action a deadline to return to work, or be fired. (Proposed, but not enacted yet.)
From the Racine Post:
Make no mistake, what's going on in Madison this week is nothing short of revolution. Regardless which side you're on -- with Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislative majority or with Democrats and the state's unionized employees -- there's no doubt the capitol is 2011's Valley Forge, Gettysburg or Tahrir Square. The governor says he has already alerted the National Guard to maintain order.
We're not the only ones
Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Idaho are eliminating or scaling back collective bargaining for government employees. Even Barack Obama is trying to cut back on government.
BE SURE TO VOTE TUESDAY!