While the eyes of the nation focus on the 14 Democrats who boldly left Wisconsin to allow more public debate on the issue of workers’ rights in our state, the GOP in Wisconsin’s state senate are quietly fleeing from Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s extreme budget repair bill that would do away with said rights.
Last week, news broke that Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) was “lashing out” at his more extreme GOP colleagues for supporting what he called an “overreach” on the part of Gov. Walker. Talking to an interviewer on WEKZ-AM (1260) in Monroe, Sen. Schultz said:
“All I know is, we’re not talking. We’re wasting valuable time about collective bargaining, which I don’t ever remember being a part of the last election whatsoever. But most of all, you know, to me, this just looks like the classic overreach we see every two years.”
The story spread through the Capitol like a wildfire after a tech-savvy listener recorded the interview and posted the audio on the internet, available here http://youtu.be/4gTYJTTm3Y0.
But Sen. Schultz – who was already thought to be riding the fence – isn’t the only Republican fleeing Gov. Walker’s extreme bill.
Yesterday, Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) spoke with the Green Bay Press-Gazette, which reported:
“[Cowles] said Republicans already got the lion’s share of what they were looking for from unions in pension and health care contributions, and a compromise with Democrats on the rest of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill is expected soon.”
Sen. Cowles even went as far as to allude to scrapping the major sticking point for the left: “You have to be flexible,” Sen. Cowles said, “because some way, somehow there will be an amendment modifying the collective bargaining.”
Sen. Cowles has another problem to consider: The Green Bay Press-Gazette is reporting today that the recall effort against Sen. Cowles is proceeding rather successfully. Just a few days into the 60-day effort, “More than 1,200 have signed the petition, about 7.5 percent of the nearly 16,000 needed to initiate a recall election.”
Across the state, efforts like these have been launched, putting increased pressure on GOP state senators on the fence. An early survey by Strategic Telemetry couldn’t have been looked good to some of these senators, especially for Republicans like the ethically-challenged Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse) or Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac), who has a corrections facility in his district.
As the table illustrates, constituents by large numbers in these areas showed support for the rights of workers to collectively bargain.
And just today, Talking Points Memo reported that another GOP state senator on the fence, Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), had labeled Gov. Walker’s plan “radical,” saying:
“The concept is pretty radical,” said Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon). “It affects a lot of good working people.”
Olsen said he could support the changes on pensions and health care but had reservations about taking away other bargaining rights.
Public opinion might be influencing this group of senators to flee from Gov. Walker’s extreme attempt to take away the rights of workers. Poll after poll, from even GOP-leaning firms, has shown support for workers’ rights and unions climbing, while support for Gov. Walker and his extreme policies has taken a nosedive.