Editor’s note: BizTimes collected the following reactions to the Wisconsin Senate’s passage of a bill to revoke collective bargaining rights from thousands of public employees in the state. Readers are invited to add their comments at the end of the blog.
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker
“The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused. In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature’s action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government. The action today will help ensure Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs.”
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)
“Don’t let their complete absence fool you; the Senate Democrats forced that vote yesterday. They forced it three weeks ago, when they abandoned their jobs and fled to Illinois for a long-term vacation.
“And today, they’re ‘shocked’ that a decision was made without them in the room. Yesterday’s actions shouldn’t surprise anyone, much less any parent in Wisconsin. We know that sometimes, throwing a fit doesn’t get you what you want.
“Unfortunately for the Democrats, common sense is something Wisconsin is chock full of. Even the most stalwart protester, in the back of their mind, knows full well what would happen to them if they refused to show up to work for three weeks.
“So what did the Democrats do yesterday? They threw everything they could at the wall. They screamed that it was a violation of the Open Meetings Law, but the law says 100 percent otherwise – all rules followed. (Statute section 19.87 (2); Senate Rule 93.)
“Then they called it a dirty trick, something they would never do! Except the Democrats created the *exact same committee,* using the *exact same procedure,* last session when they were in charge. (Assembly Bill 75, June 24)
They said it was wrong to use a procedural/tactical maneuver to vote, despite the fact that they’re using a procedural/tactical maneuver to avoid the vote in Illinois.
“Then the Fugitive Fourteen said they were coming back immediately. Then they said they weren’t coming back at all. Then they said they’ll come back once the Assembly passes the bill, once their ability participate has completely, officially expired. As if we needed any proof that they never intended to be a part of the process in the first place.
“It’s amazing what lengths some people will go to fight against some much-needed change. It’s like a child, throwing a tantrum, because they don’t like the taste of the medicine.
“But this change absolutely gets Wisconsin closer to a balanced budget, a greater balance between the public and private sectors, and most importantly, it prevents deep, real layoffs at both the state and the local levels.
“I was elected with a clear agenda: improve the economy and create jobs. Somehow, the union bullhorn has made people forget that this agenda – getting Wisconsin back on the right track – is what’s really at stake here.
“Whenever the Senate Democrats decide to return to Wisconsin, and to reality, I think one thing is clear: with this bill behind us, and with the next state budget ahead of us, they’re going to find the place a lot better than they left it.”
Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin)
"Last night will be remembered as a black mark on the history of Wisconsin government. The actions by 18 Republican state senators leave no doubt that Governor Walker’s attack on Wisconsin workers has nothing to do with the budget and everything to do with advancing a national corporate agenda. Sadly, these actions further drive divisions within our state and threaten the future economic recovery of Wisconsin. Proponents of this plan should remember: Wisconsin’s citizens will hold their elected officials accountable."
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee)
“Last night, Wisconsin Republicans proved what we have been saying for a long time – Governor Walker’s desire to eviscerate collective bargaining in Wisconsin is about ideology not about the budget.
“We’ve already seen a lot of buyer’s remorse in Wisconsin. It’s no wonder that Governor Walker wants to move beyond this. But instead of negotiating in good faith with workers and listening to Wisconsinites, he rammed this through the State Senate with no debate.
“Over the years, Wisconsin’s state health care programs have been among the most successful in the country. In one action in the dark of night, Wisconsin Republicans have jeopardized the health of women, children, and our seniors. With Governor Walker in the driver’s seat, we can kiss goodbye the more than 30 years of bipartisan history in Wisconsin of protecting women’s health – ranging from breast exams to STD tests to birth control.
“He may think our memories are short, but we will not forget this. It’s despicable.”
Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin
“This is a dark day for open and transparent democracy in Wisconsin, and for the fundamental rights of workers. Whether or not the Senate’s action’s this evening withstand legal challenge, Governor Walker and his allies in the State Legislature have finally removed the pretext that their assault on workers rights is motivated by budgetary necessity. It is a power grab, pure and simple, designed to shift the balance of power in Wisconsin towards wealthy special interests and away from working people. The crass and heavy handed action this evening dishonors Wisconsin’s proud tradition of open and fair government that operates in the public interest.”
University of Wisconsin Chancellor Biddy Martin
"It is a sad day when polarization leads to a breakdown in the political process of the sort we are witnessing in the state and the nation. There is so little integration of ideas, so little synthesis of different strands of thought, so little openness to different points of view. It is hard to watch politics devolve to such a degree that compromise between parties seems a thing of the past."
State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee)
“Tonight’s vote was absolutely disgraceful. In a short roll call vote, 18 Republicans stood with a Governor to pass a bill that did nothing to affect the current budget, but only to achieve their political goals of the destruction of the middle class. Walker and his legislative rubberstamps achieved their goal of ending the Wisconsin values of collective bargaining and access to health care. Tonight is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for Christians, and in this time set aside for repentance and prayer, Republicans have turned judgment on themselves. Justice will flow down like a river on this state as Wisconsin recalls it elected officials who have betrayed the public’s trust.”
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO
"Senate Republicans have exercised the nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking Wisconsin’s working families in the dark of night. Walker and the Republicans acted in violation of state open meetings laws, and tonight’s events have demonstrated they will do or say anything to pass their extreme agenda that attacks Wisconsin’s working families. Tonight’s trampling of the democratic process in Wisconsin shows that Scott Walker and the Republicans have been lying throughout this entire process and we have been telling the truth – that NONE of the provisions that attacked workers’ rights had anything to do with the budget. Losing badly in the court of public opinion and failing to break the Democratic Senators’
principled stand, Scott Walker and the GOP have eviscerated both the letter and the spirit of the law and our democratic process to ram through their payback to their deep-pocketed friends. In the most deplorable manner possible, Republicans rigged a vote that stripped hundreds of thousands of hardworking teachers, nurses, EMTs and others of their rights.
Scott Walker and the Republicans’ ideological war on the middle class and working families is now indisputable, and their willingness to shred 50 years of labor peace, bipartisanship, and Wisconsin’s democratic process to pass a bill that 74% of Wisconsinites oppose is beyond reprehensible and possibly criminal."
Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer
“The Tea Party Express would like to congratulate Governor Scott Walker and the WI Senate Republicans for holding strong to the principles they were elected to uphold. In moments of great importance such as this, they have shown true leadership, maintained their integrity, and stood firm for what is right.
“Under tremendous pressure from union bosses, who have become irrelevant other than in their unquenchable thirst for power, Gov. Walker held fast and did what was best for the people of Wisconsin. This is a victory not only for the state, but for the nation, as many states now face their own budget battles, and will be forced to put a stop to union bullying that has become almost commonplace.
“We at the Tea Party Express hope the politicians in Washington take note of what happened today in Wisconsin, and draw inspiration from an elected leader who refused to bow to the political pressure of his far-left opponents. We wish Gov. Walker and the citizens of Wisconsin well, knowing that they have taken an important step towards fiscal responsibility and economic growth.”
Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans executive director Stephen Duerst
“On behalf of the Wisconsin College Republican chapters across the state, we applaud the efforts of Senator Fitzgerald and the rest of the Republican caucus. They have shown that one cannot run away from tough problems as their Democrat peers did. Rather, their leadership will allow the legislature to get back to business creating 250,000 new jobs for our generation and others, balancing the budget, reducing the debt that we as students may inherit, and continuing to improve the economy. The reforms that were passed for collective bargaining last night will grant flexibility to local governments while the governor responsibly balances the state’s budget and makes tough cuts in the process. We again applaud lawmakers for their willingness to provide more autonomy to the local.”
U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)
"This is not how Democracy is supposed to work. It’s an affront to workers and families across our state, not only public employees. This is not the way to build strength in our state or our economy – that will only happen when fairness and respect are restored to guide us."