Wisconsin standoff continues

Kathryn Schulze wears a message written on tape over her mouth inside the state Capitol Monday, Feb. 21, 2011, in Madison, Wis. Opponents to Governor Scott Walker's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers are taking part in their seventh day of protesting. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Republican backers of Gov. Scott Walker‘s plan to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employees are trying to move the explosive proposal closer to reality, even as Democrats remained on the run and protesters filled the halls of the Capitol for a second week.

The Republican-controlled Assembly planned to debate and possibly vote on the measure Tuesday, but Democrats said they would offer more than 100 amendments in an attempt to improve the bill or at least drag it out in the hopes concessions will be made.

Things are even more chaotic in the Senate, where Democrats have halted the measure with a dramatic decision not to show up since Thursday. That has left Republicans, who control the chamber, one vote shy of the quorum needed to take up the plan.

Republicans planned to forge ahead with other business Tuesday, including a resolution honoring the Green Bay Packers for winning the Super Bowl and a bill extending tax breaks to dairy farmers. Those bills have bipartisan support, but Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has tried to put pressure on Democrats by threatening to take up more controversial matters.

It’s a high-stakes game of political chicken that has riveted the nation and led to ongoing public protests that drew a high of 68,000 people on Saturday. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are budging: Walker says he won’t negotiate, and the 14 missing Senate Democrats say they won’t return until he does.

Public employees have said they would agree to concessions Walker wants that would amount to an 8 percent pay cut on average, but they want to retain their collective bargaining rights. One Republican senator also has floated an alternative that would make the elimination of those rights temporary.

Walker has repeatedly rejected both offers, saying local governments and school districts can’t be hamstrung by the often lengthy collective bargaining process. He says they need to have more flexibility to deal with up to $1 billion in cuts he will propose in his budget next week and into the future.

As the Senate Democrats have stayed away, Republicans have accused them of sidestepping their jobs. Fitzgerald said he may move ahead Tuesday with some contentious issues, such as a GOP-backed proposal requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

“You have shut down the people’s government, and that is not acceptable,” Fitzgerald said to Democrats during a brief meeting Monday setting the Senate’s agenda for Tuesday. Two Democratic senators participated in the meeting by phone.

Democrats counter that the Walker could compromise and put an end to the stalemate.

“It’s right in front of the governor,” Miller said. “He just needs to pick it up and allow us to move on. … This is a no-brainer.”

As Walker spoke under heavy guard at a late Monday afternoon news conference inside his conference room, thousands of protesters could be heard through the doors blowing whistles, banging on drums and chanting “Scott Walker has got to go!”

“This guy is power drunk and we’re here to sober him up,” said Bert Zipperer, 54, a counselor at a Madison middle school who was among the protesters. “He wants to do it unilaterally without any compromise. He wants to be a national conservative hero and he thinks he can get away with this.”

Walker’s plan would allow unions representing most public employees to negotiate only for wage increases, not benefits or working conditions. Any wage increase above the Consumer Price Index would have to be approved in a referendum. Unions would face a vote of membership every year to stay formed, and workers could opt out of paying dues.

The emergency plan is meant to address this year’s $137 million shortfall and start dealing with the $3.6 billion hole expected by mid-2013. The benefits concessions would amount to $30 million this year, but the largest savings Walker proposed comes from refinancing debt to save $165 million.

That portion must be done by Friday for bonds to be refinanced in time to realize the savings by June 30, the end of this fiscal year.

Walker said not passing the bill by Friday would make even deeper cuts necessary and possibly result in laying off 1,500 workers over the next four months.

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Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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4 Responses to "Wisconsin standoff continues"

  1. Carl Nemo  February 22, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Why should people even work 40 hours per week? Has anyone thought about it. It’s totally arbitrary and a tradition not set by government but by decree as a function of a manufacturer, George F. Johnson in 1916. The date is awfully close the the creation of the Federal Reserve and the Income Tax in 1913. I wonder, do I smell conspiracy among the sheperds, er I mean ‘Captains of Banking and Industry’ having a “plan for us”; ie. ‘their future ‘tax slaves’…?

    ***

    “The man responsible for instituting the 40-hour-work-week is Massachusetts native of New York George F. Johnson, who announced that no American should have to work more than 40 hours per week. This announcement took effect as a rule on November 1, 1916 in the Endicott-Johnson factories.[4] Johnson had a philosophy to divide all his profits evenly between capital, owners, and workers. 40 hours, to him, represented the even division of a workers’ time during the 5 days he gives his time for the production of good.” …extract from Wiki

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_time

    I’m supplying a link to “Working Time” from Wiki that discusses the amount of hours worked from primitive hunter-gatherer societies to that or our now stressed to almost burnt out modern civilization.

    My suggested solution for not only Wisconsin, but the nation as a whole is to adopt a 32 hour work week…period! No gimmicks, just 32 hours, tax revenus be damned. People will have more time for rest and relaxation; I.E., quality time while enjoying their ride in the “cosmic amusement park of life”…no?

    The article also has some fascinating charts as to how long citizens work in various countries. Recently there was an article on the web as to what countries had the happiest citizens and I’ve noticed a correlation to the supplied chart within this Wiki article to that of the Nordic countries, rated as the most happy of citizens in the world. Yeah I know, they’re socialist and pay high taxes, but at least the citizens are getting something in return unlike us where people work themselve to exhaustion pay heavy taxes too and live in a nation who’s most important product seems to be the exportation of engineered wars for profit, to benefit a relative small sector, the MIC at the expense of the greater population.

    So it would be a win-win for these Wisconsin public sector employees in that they’d have an extra day of leisure and yes less eight hours pay, but the state would save a substantial sum maybe not as much as an 8% cut across the board, but then again I haven’t worked any figures, so who knows? There no doubt will be overtime opportunities for eager beavers who want to work themselves to an early grave. As far as school is concerned the same. If the students haven’t learned much in 5 days, then surely being in school for four won’t make a difference. High school dropout statistics indicate most of them aren’t learning much of anything anyway. What’s an extra day in eternity. : )

    Carl Nemo **==

    • griff  February 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm

      Yeah Carl, I’ve thought about it. I’ve also wondered why we insist on raising the retirement age instead of actually lowering it, thereby giving folks more time to enjoy their lives instead of working until the end of it and getting younger people into the work force.

      Of course, the costs of Social Security and medical care are the driving factors for raising the retirement age, so those would have to be fixed first.

      Which is why the entire Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid system has to be totally trashed and people be allowed to fund profitable pension funds or some other means of procuring financial security for retirement. The government-run systems just ain’t gettin’ the job done. When they want to raise the age at which you can retire in order to save money, you know it’s all over.

      • Carl Nemo  February 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm

        Nah, ultimately they want everyone to die sooner than later. The money isn’t there anyway. Every scheme the government indemnifies is basically bust ot pilfered. They’ve gutted the U.S. Government employees pension fund too, but little is ever mentioned about that crisis that’s been swept under the rug.

        Social Security would still be totally solvent if the sob’s, starting with LBJ hadn’t started pilfering actual cash in the fund, then pitching U.S. Treasury IOU’s into a so-called locked box. Last year the redemptions began starting with a need for 28 billion in shortfall for the SS Fund. This year its suppedly 130 billion. The cunning thieves we have in D.C. try to project that it’s the voracious SS recipients that are at fault when in effect they’ve used the SS Fund as their personal ‘piggbank’ since the late 60′s. Now they have to come up with what they pilfered via the general fund at a time when we’re for all practical purposes bankrupt as a nation. Fie on them all…!

        Carl Nemo **==

  2. JosephConrad  February 23, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I find it astonishing that the ancestors of nearly every American who came here in the 19th. and 20th. century did so because they had to rise out of the TOILET they left behind in Europe, Asia and South America. Nearly EVERY WHITE ANCESTOR use a UNION to survive and feed their family.

    et entirely too many WHITE AMERICANS are COLD-BLOODED HYPOCRITES who find it so convenient to hate Unions and non-white immigrants. Every WHITE SO-CALLED AMERICAN NEEDS TO LOOK AT THEIR FAMILY ALBUM!

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