pass the bill or the layoffs will begin
Walker’s speech focused almost entirely on the backlash from his proposal to limit collective bargaining rights of public employees, stating again that the bill as written will provide adequate flexibility to the state and to municipalities to run their governments more efficiently. He quoted a number of emails he’s received in the last week supporting his position. He threatened that without the bill, thousands of state workers would be laid off, starting with 1,500 as early as next week, and stated that by continuing to stall the vote, Democratic Senators were giving their indirect consent to see that happen.
Walker did not address new concerns over the provision in the bill that would allow the Department of Administration to sell or lease public utilities without the consent of the Public Service Commission, the body that currently governs them. The bill’s provision would also order the PSC to “regulate as a public utility any person who purchases or contracts for the operation of any plant under the bill.” Effectively, this clears the way for the privatization of public utilities with no oversight outside the DoA, the leadership of which is by appointment of the governor. There has been recent speculation that Walker would like to clear the way for his second biggest campaign contributors, the Koch Brothers, to purchase one or more of those utilities.
In his brief rebuttal, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Minona), speaking from a hotel in Illinois, also focused on collective bargaining, and stated that the real issue is protecting workers’ rights, not compensation. He reaffirmed that the unions offered the requested financial concessions and that layoffs are not necessary. He went to say that attempting to pass the bill in four days was an attempt to “railroad the process” and urged compromise. He said “It’s time for the governor to recognize that and to allow the state workers of Wisconsin to keep their rights.”
Earlier in the day, in an ugly session, Assembly Republicans, who attempted to pull an early vote on the budget last Friday with no Democrats in chambers, arrived almost an hour late, setting the tone for a contentious debate on amendments introduced by Democrats, none of which were adopted. Debate continues, with a vote expected before the end of the session.