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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Issue of the Week: Walker's Wisconsin Isn't Working

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When Gov. Scott Walker took office a year ago, he promised to create 250,000 jobs by the end of the first term.

But the unfortunate truth is that Walker has the worst job-creation record of all 50 governors.

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Walker's Wisconsin lost 23,900 jobs between March 2011 and March 2012, the highest percentage of job losses in the nation.

No wonder why Walker's facing a historic recall.

But Walker isn't talking about Wisconsin's employment free-fall as he campaigns around the state to save his own job.

Walker is talking about the $1 billion Wisconsin has allegedly “saved” because of his attack on public employees (just the public employees who didn't support him in 2010, of course, not all public employees).

Note that these “savings” primarily are coming out of workers' paychecks—about $3,000 cut from the average public employee's annual salary. That diminished earning power, of course, leads to reduced spending in local communities—at restaurants, grocery stores, shops and entertainment venues. And that reduced demand then leads to layoffs and little to no new hiring.

And another thing about Walker's “savings” from Act 10: They're really difficult to verify. For example, Walker is claiming that the city of Milwaukee saved $25 million because of Act 10. The real number is closer to $14.9 million of Act 10 savings, said Mark Nicolini, the city's budget and management director. The city saved another $5 million from changes to the police and firefighters' health care plans, a change made possible by a provision added to the state budget by the Legislature. It also made about $9.6 million of its own cuts to employee benefits—none of which were related to Walker's Act 10, Nicolini said.

He also noted that the city lost about $14 million in state shared revenue, transportation aids and the state recycling grant.

Milwaukee Public Schools shows a similar discrepancy. While Walker is claiming that MPS has saved $21 million, MPS spokesman said Act 10 savings in the 2011-2012 school year total $2.4 million and an estimated $7.7 million in the 2012-2013 school year. MPS won't be able to achieve any Act 10-related “savings” for teachers until the 2013-2014 school year, when their contract expires.

Walker can try to spin his record, but Wisconsinites know that they won't be fooled again.

Heroes of the Week
: Community for Change and Racine Interfaith Coalition

Wisconsin's concealed carry law, passed last year by the Republican-led Legislature, requires businesses and places of worship to post signs prohibiting handguns at all entrances if they want to prevent concealed weapons from being carried on their premises. This requirement extends to day-care centers and domestic abuse shelters, as well. Most commercially available signs prohibiting handguns depict an image of a gun, the appropriateness of which has been questioned by concerned citizens.

Community for Change and partner organization Racine Interfaith Coalition (RIC) decided to create a sign focusing on a message of peace. Instead of using imagery of a gun, the groups' “Place of Peace” signs feature a color illustration of a peace dove and the word “peace” in 11 languages, while still fulfilling the appropriate legal language.

The signs, available for a suggested donation of $1, are available through the Community for Change website, www.communityforchange.com/Place-of-Peace.html. Proceeds are donated to community organizations that focus on peace and nonviolence. The first recipient is the Women's Resource Center of Racine County, which serves women who are victims of domestic violence.

Event of the Week
: Voces de la Frontera May Day Solidarity March

On Sunday, April 29, the immigrants rights group Voces de la Frontera will hold its annual May Day Solidarity March. In the past year, Voces led the fight against the Republicans' gerrymandered legislative map and won a decisive victory in federal court, when a three-judge panel ordered that two Milwaukee legislative districts needed to be redrawn because they would dilute the power of Milwaukee's Latino voters.

Voces also scored a significant victory for voting rights when its lawsuit, filed in conjunction with the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP, resulted in an injunction against the Republicans' voter ID law, one of the most stringent laws of its kind in the nation.

But Voces de la Frontera's work is not done. It continues to lead the fight against mass deportations that separate families and is a strong supporter of Wisconsin's safety net, including BadgerCare and public education. Voces is also pushing for drivers' cards for non-citizen workers as well as in-state tuition for children of immigrants.

On April 29, the May Day Solidarity March will feature Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who is a strong supporter of sane, comprehensive federal immigration reform.

Marchers will assemble at Voces de la Frontera, at Fifth and Washington streets, at 12:30 p.m., and then march to Veterans Park. Buses are available from Marquette University and UW-Milwaukee, as well as cities throughout Wisconsin. For more information, go to www.vdlf.org.