Facing Surplus, Wisconsin Republicans Go After Firefighters and Police

May 15 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Firefighter Protests Walker

You knew they would.

When the Wisconsin Republicans came for the public sector employees this spring, they exempted firefighters and police unions. But those unions didn’t buy into the divide and conquer strategy of the GOP; instead, they demonstrated with their brothers and sisters, protesting Governor Walker’s union busting bill (and continuous attempts to pass said bill in any way possible). They said then that if you come for one union, you come for all unions, exemplifying the meaning of and the power of Solidarity.

Now the Republicans are coming for the police and firefighters.

The Wausau Daily Herald reports:

Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, I-Manitowoc, introduced the bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for public safety employees on health care and pension contributions. Ziegelbauer’s bill does not require an employee to contribute to health care and pension funds, but would allow municipalities to mandate contributions.

Jeremy Kopp, a Wausau firefighter and the department’s union president, said he will urge firefighters to email and call legislators to express their opposition to Ziegelbauer’s bill.

Police and firefighters joined tens of thousands of public workers who protested this spring in Madison in opposition to Walker’s bill, even though they were exempt. Kopp said firefighters and police officers took part suspecting their jobs would be targeted in the future.
“We knew it would come eventually; we just didn’t know when,” Kopp said.

Josh Klug, a firefighter from Merrill and president of the Central Wisconsin Firefighters Association, said that firefighters statewide have made concessions during contract negotiations to help municipalities struggling with revenue losses. During union contract negotiations four years ago, Merrill firefighters accepted a smaller salary increase than they received in the previous contract, Klug said.

Ziegelbauer, who as an independent caucuses with the Republicans, says the bill is an attempt to apply key parts of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget repair bill to police and firefighters. Ziegelbauer voted for Walker’s union-busting bill.

That “revenue” loss does not exist anymore – that was a ruse. First, it only existed because Walker gave tax cuts to corporations and now, it only exists in the world of Republican spin:

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a revised estimate of state tax revenues showing Wisconsin collecting an additional $233 million this fiscal year, $204 million the next year and $199 million in 2012-13. Officials with the agency said the increase is likely due to an improving economy, a stronger stock market and higher business profits.

Did you hear that? The House that Scotty built was built on a lie. There are no revenue losses.

If Governor Walker thought he could move on from the vocal protests last February and March, he was wrong. “The Fight is Not Over” rally took place yesterday in Madison, with between 7,000-10,000 protesters showing up.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported, “We have to reclaim our moral outrage, our sense of indignation,” Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, said to cheers from the crowd. “We have to keep the pressure on and let them hear us.”

It’s telling that in the wake of the news that Wisconsin isn’t broke, is in fact facing a budget surplus and economic growth to the tune of a potential $636 million boost, Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans have not changed their story one bit.

When you take the curtain of “economic crisis” away from Walker’s justifications for his union busting, the truth is revealed to be a petty little puppet man, whose mouth moves when the Koch brothers pull his strings. Facing a surplus, Walker and the Republicans say they will not change course.

Instead, they will continue their miserliness, a proven economic failure. Republican governors are associated with lower rates of growth, and regretfully, Walker’s policies personify the factors contributing to lower growth. Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans seem hell bent on creating a fiscal crisis in Wisconsin come hell or high water; if they can’t do it themselves with tax cuts to corporations, they’ll just pretend it exists. If that doesn’t work, they’ll claim it’s time to pay “our bills” – as if workers’ pay isn’t part of those bills.

It’s impossible to have rational discussions with people whose actions are based on an ever-moving goal post. The Wisconsin unions have given financial concessions that should have addressed any real fiscal issues, but instead, the Wisconsin Republicans keep changing the goal post, moving it further down the field every time they get what they want. And now, given the revised estimate of a rosy fiscal situation, the Wisconsin Republicans are still demanding concessions and when they get them, still going in to kill collective bargaining.

The curtain has been lifted from Oz. The economic crisis the Republicans were so gleefully using to kill unions does not exist, but instead of backing down, they’re now coming for the firefighters and police.

Updated: 5:11 PM to clarity that Ziegelbauer caucuses with Republicans.

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