News / USA

Wisconsin Budget Battle Continues

Demonstrators bang drums and chant inside the state Capitol during the eighth day of protesting against Governor Scott Walker's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers,  in Madison, Wis., February 22, 2011
Demonstrators bang drums and chant inside the state Capitol during the eighth day of protesting against Governor Scott Walker's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers, in Madison, Wis., February 22, 2011


The battle about balancing a budget in the Midwest state of Wisconsin has entered its second week, with no end in sight. 

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, is refusing to negotiate on legislation that would end collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. His proposed $137 million budget repair bill also calls for increased employee contributions to pension and health care benefits.

Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill have fled the state to prevent the measure from passing. As tens of thousands of people continue to flood the state capitol of Madison to protest, other states are watching developments in Wisconsin as they prepare to tackle their own fiscal problems.

Freezing rain and ice did not keep thousands of protesters from filing into the state capitol building in Madison, as the battle to balance Wisconsin’s budget entered its second week.

School teachers, government workers, and even police and firefighters joined the chorus of voices in the Capitol Rotunda opposed to Governor Scott Walker’s move to end collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.

Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, said, “This is ground zero for the nation. We are definitely at the critical point. What happens here is going to be reflective all across the nation.”

Mitchell admits that firefighters - along with police and other safety officers - are exempt from Walker’s controversial plan to close a $137-million budget deficit. His organization still opposes, however, changes to collective bargaining rights.

“I think if the bill passes, it tells other governors that they can fight organized labor,” said Mitchell.

“Wisconsin is kind of a test case,” according to Dennis Dresang, professor emeritus of Political Science and Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin.  He said the final outcome of the budget fight in Wisconsin could have a ripple effect throughout the United States, especially in states facing dramatic budget deficits.

“This is going to have the biggest implications for those states where Republicans control the Governors office and both houses of the state legislature," said Dresang. "So we’re talking especially about Ohio, for example, which seems poised to do this, Indiana, and a number of other states.”

New Jersey Governor, Republican Chris Christie said he supports Walker. Christie is on the verge of a showdown with unions as he unveils his state budget.

Dresang said Christie and other governors may find the resolve to limit the power of unions in their states based on what happens in Wisconsin. “If Wisconsin succeeds, I think it will embolden other states to do the same kind of thing. If it falters in Wisconsin, I think that other states may proceed a little more slowly on this and not be so drastic in terms of the kinds of rights they’re talking about taking away.”

But the ever increasing number of people braving inclement weather in Madison just to have their voices heard is having an impact outside the state of Wisconsin, according to firefighter Mitchell.

“We just got word that the governor of Michigan said that he doesn’t want to fight organized labor because of what he sees here in Wisconsin,” said Mitchell.

But it appears Governor Walker does plan to continue his fight against organized labor in an effort to balance this year’s budget, and beyond. Wisconsin also faces a $3.6-billion budget shortfall over the next two years.

"What we're proposing in this budget adjustment bill is really about our commitment to the future," said Walker. "And if we fail to make that commitment we're ultimately going to have to deal with the consequences, not only ourselves, but the consequences we'll pass on to our children and their children into the future."

As Walker refuses to budge, Democratic lawmakers refuse to return to the state capitol to vote on the controversial measure.

What stands in his way are 14 Democratic lawmakers. They have fled the state of Wisconsin and the Republican controlled legislature, to prevent passage of the bill.

Lawmakers need a quorum for the measure to pass, which requires at least one Democrat to be present for the budget repair bill vote in the Republican controlled legislature.

Kane Farabaugh

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs