5 June 2013Dear friends,
I went to the Capitol yesterday morning, to be there when the Joint Finance Committee convened to take up Walker's 2013-15 budget. I wore red for public ed. I knew there wasn't much of a point to being there, since there was no public testimony allowed and the deals had already been largely made. But I wanted to be a visible presence; a physical body to represent the teachers and students who couldn't be there because they were at school. I wanted to be a presence equal, at the minimum, to the dozens of paid lobbyists scurrying like rats around the building, their audibly hollow sense of self-importance shaming them with every step.
|This woman's sign expressed a common concern: |
that democracy has been stolen
from the people of Wisconsin.
Later, I found out they'd started a line for lobbyists to enter the room as seats opened up, without offering the first place in line to those who'd been there since early morning. The hubris is contagious, and the palace guard are not immune.
I chose to remain visible rather than be brushed out of sight and mind, and wandered around behind the desk-barricaded halls. I stopped by the hearing room for AB225, a dreadfully ugly anti-democracy bill that takes aim at open elections and coddles lobbyists like you would not believe. I stopped by to see my legislator, Gary Hebl, and had a nice chat with his aide. Had lunch with a friend from DPI while we listened to the Solidarity Singers fill the Rotunda with their collective grievances and hopes.
Meanwhile, the committee started late. They heard and ignored some stirring testimony and recaps of public comment by Democratic committee members, then took a lunch, then voted to reject federal money that would've helped so many of our citizens, and especially the working families who are struggling so hard to make ends meet in this Walker-frozen economy. Then they took a break and said they'd be back at 5. Then 7. Then 9:30. Then we didn't hear from them again until they reconvened after 2am. I'd long left the Capitol to get some work in and get home to meet the kids after school. And I fell asleep to the drone of WisEye re-runs waiting for them to come back. I woke up to the news that they'd doubled-down on Walker's anti-education proposal by expanding vouchers statewide.
In the dead of night, after making the public and their colleagues wait nearly twelve hours while they wheeled and dealed behind closed doors, the GOP-heavy Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 along party lines to do the following as they pushed Scott Walker's anti-Wisconsin budget through to the legislature for passage. Some highlights of what all that lobby money bought Wisconsin:
- Tax cuts! Don't get too excited though. Only for the rich. And kicks the can down the road.
- Reject federal health care money at the expense of all Wisconsinites (and the disabled are especially hard hit), which means no insurance to nearly 100,000 people who would have been immediately eligible. This is the first phase of a string of legislation on the agenda that disproportionately affects Wisconsin women and children. The plan also has an absurd provision to reimburse hospitals for unpaid bills instead of using the federal money to provide those patients with the insurance they need. Note that those patients, of course, will still be hounded by debt collectors even after the state provides the hospitals with their taxpayer-funded handout. The icing on the cake: rejecting the federal funds means it will COST Wisconsin taxpayers $120 million to force 85,000 people off
- An outrageous attack on free speech by calling to end UW support for the Center for Investigative Journalism, which provides the public's link to Capitol transparency through its website, http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/.
- Expand the proven-to-underperform-regular-public-schools voucher system statewide to allow public education money to be used for private schools, while throwing the tiniest of bones ($75/student) at public schools, and in clear defiance of the will of the people (who voted overwhelming against the pro-voucher agenda of Don Pridemore in reelecting Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers this spring, and have uniformly opposed voucher expansion in every poll).
- Provide a tax deduction for private school tuition. Note: since vouchers are basically just a taxpayer-funded coupon that doesn't cover all of tuition, this means voucher parents can double-dip!
He even provides a handy auto-form here, but I highly recommend changing the text provided to something slightly more accurate.
Be sure to copy/paste the final results and send it from your personal email as well. You never know what happens behind the Walker wall of manipulation.
Here's my improvement to the propaganda suggested. Feel free to copy or get creative with your own and copy/paste it in the comments below, too, to inspire others.
June 5, 2013
Dear State Rep. Gary Hebl:
Dear State Senator Mark F. Miller:
I strongly DISCOURAGE you from supporting Governor Walker’s proposed budget, which will create LITTLE opportunity for ANY Wisconsin citizen through limited but effective government.
• The Governor’s proposed budget will help NOT Wisconsin families and small businesses by cutting income taxes for the first time in over a decade, and WILL continuing ITS STRANGEHOLD ON MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS BY freezING property taxes.
• Through the statewide expansion of school choice and by promoting performance-based funding for schools, the Governor is STEALING MONEY FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND ENSURING THAT WISCONSIN STUDENTS ARE NOT AFFORDED FREE AND EQUAL EDUCATION ENTITLED TO THEM BY THE WISCONSIN CONSTITUTION. PARENTS ALREADY HAVE "CHOICE" IN WISCONSIN THROUGH THE OPEN ENROLLMENT SYSTEM.
• By turning down Obamacare for Wisconsin and instead turned Medicaid into a true safety net through entitlement reform, the Governor is ensuring that FEWER Wisconsinites have coverage while WASTING TAXPAYER MONEY AND HURTING THOSE WHO MOST NEED HELP. PAYING OFF HOSPITALS INSTEAD OF PROVIDING MEDICAL COVERAGE IS AN ABSURD ABUSE OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS.
To keep Wisconsin moving forward, please stand with taxpayers like myself, in REJECTING Governor Walker's RADICALLY IRresponsible budget.
Ms. Heather DuBois Bourenane
Walker's begging Wisconsinites to write their legislators, and I'm begging, too. WRITE YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY.
The legislation on the agenda this session puts Act 10 to shame. If you spoke out in 2011, you should be speaking twice as loudly today. The fire and momentum of the protests may be gone, but the imperative is not.
Tell your legislators: Reject the Walker budget. No public funds for private schools. Embrace the Affordable Care Act and accept the funds that will help so many Wisconsinites back on their feet. Support Wisconsin families and freedom of press. Reject the special needs vouchers that were pulled out of the budget last night but may come forward again as separate legislation (the same attempt was rejected in the last legislative session when every single disability rights and student advocate group spoke out against it).
Stay vigilant, friends. It's depressing, I know, but they are banking on our ignorance and/or complacency to get this budget into law as soon as possible. If you're feeling like there's nothing you can do, there is something. You can stay informed. And you can keep speaking out. Stay on top of all things budget at the Wisconsin Budget Blog. And follow my own newsy posts on facebook.
|My governor made the biggest cuts to public education in any state |
since the Great Depression and all I got was this lousy bumper sticker.