Controversial Budget Bill Passes Wisconsin Assembly, Senate Up Next

Thursday, June 16th, 2011 at 9:51 am

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin state Assembly has passed the budget on a party line 60-38 vote. The Assembly vote to pass Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s two-year spending plan came around 3 a.m. Thursday.

Democrats railed against the plan, repeatedly calling it an assault on middle class working families. They pointed to deep cuts to public education, the University of Wisconsin, and programs designed to help the poor.

But Republicans defended it, saying it makes the tough choices necessary to deal with a $3 billion shortfall and position the state for economic growth in the future.

The Associated Press reports a number of changes backed by Republicans were made before it was passed, including not extending the voucher school program to Green Bay.

The Senate plans to debate the budget later Thursday, and is expected to pass it.

The bill, of course, is the one that caused the huge protests in Madison back in February and March. Once it is implemented, it amounts to a take-home pay cut for all state workers because they will now be forced to pay more for their healthcare coverage as well as for their pension plans. That change is expected to take effect in late August.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a lower court judge was wrong to block enactment of the law that passed in March. The Supreme Court ruling in favor of the law was by a narrow 4-3 margin.

The fight over this law, will now move to an unprecedented summer of recall elections. Nine state senators will face a recall, including 6 republicans and 3 democrats, all for their actions earlier this year when the law was being debated and for when it passed.

The recalls are of huge importance as well because the power of the the State Senate hangs in the balance. The Republicans being recalled are accused of having violated the open meetings law, while the Democrats are being recalled for fleeing the state to Illinois to avoid voting on the bill.

The unions in Wisconsin aren’t going quietly though, in addition to crowds of protesters at the capital, a new lawsuit has been filed which says the bill is unconstitutional. The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO has joined forces with a broad coalition of worker right’s organizations, and yesterday they filed a legal challenge to Gov. Walker’s Budget Repair Bill.

This new suit alleges that the Budget Repair Bill violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by stripping away basic rights to bargain, organize and associate for the purpose of engaging in union activity, which have been in place for the last half century.

The suit contends that it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution for a legislature to discriminate among classes of public employees, particularly when doing so does not advance legitimate policy objectives but instead simply rewards political allies and punishes political opponents.

So in essence, the battle over this issue continues.

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