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May 16 2012

Governor Walker: Fact v. Fiction

Scott Walker and the GOP have made drastic changes to Wisconsin in the past 14 months.  The list is long and the information is telling of their agenda, which appears to be straight out of the ALEC / Corporate Favoritism playbook.  Who is really running your state?  Here are some issues to consider when discussing the election with your family, friends and colleagues.

Video testimonials why Scott Walker is facing a recall election

Education and Public Schools
Equal Pay for Women
Taxes
Jobs
The Wisconsin Retirement System
Health Care: Collective Bargaining
Health Care: Family Care
Health Care: Women’s Health Care
Health Care: Badger Care (Medicaid)
Workers’ Rights
Cuts to University of Wisconsin System
Limiting Access to Higher Education
Cuts to Technical College System
Voter ID
Child Labor
Sick Leave

On Education

Scott Walker claims that school districts were able to balance their budgets while improving education quality because of his reforms.

Fact: By law, school districts have always had to balance their budgets—this is nothing new.

Scott Walker is responsible for cutting $1.6 billion from our public schools and then claims the action is intended to improve quality. All across Wisconsin, school districts are in a fiscal crisis and children are losing opportunities like art, foreign language, music and vocational training.   

In a recent statewide survey of school superintendents:

  • 71% of districts cut in at least one core area
  • 59% of districts increased class size
  • 46% of districts made cuts in art, music and phys ed
  • 45% of districts made cuts in career and tech ed
  • 28% of districts made cuts in special education

(Source: Department Public Instruction).

Several school district administrators have gone on record acknowledging that the tools aren’t working. Here’s a recent example, taken from the River Falls Journal: Tools are not working

PolitiFact rates as “true” Kathleen Falk’s statement that Governor Scott Walker enacted “the biggest cuts to education in our state’s history.” PolitiFact concludes: “Falk claimed Walker’s cuts in state support to local schools, tech colleges and public universities amount to the largest in state history. We found previous cuts in those areas, but not in all three in the same year, and not nearly as deep when you roll them all together as has Falk. We rate her statement True.”

Scott Walker asserts that school districts were able to hire more staff thanks to his reforms.

In reality, 4,000 education jobs were lost this year as a result of budget cuts.  Nine out of 10 Wisconsin students attend a district that had staff reductions.

The Walker Administration often compares new hires only to the number of staff let go—it ignores entirely the historic number of staff that retired.   When total leavers and new hires are tallied up, thousands fewer are employed. (Sources: Cap Times; Department Public Instruction).

PolitiFact rates the Walker administration’s jobs claims that “the overwhelming number of school districts reported their staff stayed the same or grew after the 2011-’13 state budget “false.”  Read the full assessment.

Scott Walker argues that if school districts would not have extended their contracts with the union, they wouldn’t have to reduce staff.

That’s simply not the case. Even with the pension and health care concessions offered by educators, districts all across the state have had to make further cuts.

Consider the following news stories (and these are just a few – you can find examples all across the state):

Appleton Post Crescent
Menasha faces $2million school deficit

Beloit Daily News
Outlook for schools: more cuts

Madison Area / Channel 3000
Lodi school districts considers more cuts

Parkview School Board Votes To Close 2 Rural Schools to cover budget shortfall

Chippewa Herald
Lake Holcombe to cut 6 staff members

Eau Claire Leader Telegram
Eau Claire faces $4.2 million shortfall

La Crosse Tribune
La Crosse School District Facing $2.8 million cut in 2012-13

Walker’s reforms accomplished absolutely zero
Saving money, but budget repair bill doesn’t offset state cuts

Oshkosh Northwestern
Oshkosh schools face $17.8 million deficit, new financial forecast shows

Superior Telegram
Superior schools deal with brutal budget cuts, more to come

Tomah Journal
Education cuts real, and more to come

WUWM
Different opinions on how budget affects schools

For more perspective on this important topic, join the discussion on Facebook at Speak Out For Wisconsin Public Schools. Learn about the fiscal crisis affecting school districts across the state and here what parents, educators and community members are saying about the current state of public education.

Governor Walker claims his cuts are improving education:

“This year we saw better class sizes, fewer teacher layoffs, property taxes were kept in check, and educational opportunities for students were the best they have been in a decade.”

A continuation of unfounded claims

1. Fifty-nine percent of districts reported class size increases, which mean the majority of districts experienced worse class sizes.  Moreover, unlike prior years, districts had federal stimulus monies to use and imposed significant pay cuts on staff.  Even still, a significant gap between funding and costs remained, and the majority of districts were forced to increase class sizes.

2. Earlier statements by the Governor on education jobs were proven incorrect by survey data and ranked false by PolitiFact.  He now repeats that misinformation.  The recent DPI survey asked about layoffs, retirees and non-renewals to determine a total loss in staff; Walker only talks about layoffs.

3. The revenue control survey never asked about property taxes, so this comment is just political posturing masquerading as research.

4. No data are presented in the governor’s press release to support his final claim. When one cuts more classes for children, there are fewer opportunities, not more.  The idea that more students have opportunities today because fewer classes were cut this year than last year is a logical fallacy and a misstatement of fact.  

For example, if there were 5 cuts last year and 3 this year, students experienced 3 additional cuts for a total of 8 and are not better off today than they were before.  In just this school year:

  • 46% of districts made cuts or increased class size in core academic subjects
  • 20% cut sections outright in technical education
  • 19% cut sections outright in art
  • 18% cut sections outright in business
  • 17% cut sections outright in music  

(source:  DPI survey)

For more history on the Governor’s misstatements on education, go here.

On Equal Pay for Women

Governor Walker signed into law legislation overturning the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, a statute that allowed employees to collect punitive damages from employers for sexual, age and other forms of discrimination on the job.

Women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make nationally. In Wisconsin, it’s 75 cents, according to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health (WAWH), which also estimates that families in the state “lose more than $4,000 per year due to unequal pay.”

Democratic Chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on CNN about Walker signing the legislation just before Easter break: “He tried to quietly repeal the Equal Pay Act. Women aren’t going to stand for that. . . . The focus of the Republican Party on turning back the clock for women really is something that’s unacceptable.”

Regarding Republican legislative actions affecting women, and this act in particular, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus dismissed attacks by Democrats, comparing their concerns to a “war on caterpillars”—suggesting, perhaps, he believes the issue is of little significance.

On Taxes

Property owners saw a decrease in their bills, and schools’ portion of the property tax levy was down 1% across the state.

This is really a discussion about priorities.

Consider the consequences when you cut public education – kids and classrooms are hurt.

Instead of cutting our schools for tax relief, corporations and the wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes so Wisconsin can keep our schools strong and taxes low.

We also need to acknowledge the fact that

Wisconsin’s school funding system is outdated – and we need a better way to fund our schools.

Scott Walker claims he is looking out for Wisconsin taxpayers.

Governor Walker enacted a number of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy totaling $2.1 billion this decade.  Many of his personal campaign supporters benefitted while Wisconsin was deprived of resources it needs to thrive.   

Health care, education and other vital programs are being cut.

At the same time, Governor Walker turned tax fairness on its head by enacting tax increases on low-income working families and homeowners by tens of millions of dollars, making it more difficult for seniors and others to stay in their homes.

(Source: Wisconsin State Journal).

On Jobs

Scott Walker claims Wisconsin is adding jobs.

Wisconsin leads the nation in total job losses.  The Federal Reserve reports that in the three month period August-October 2011, Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state.

  • Wisconsin lost more public sector jobs than any other state last year, experiencing a 10% loss of 8,000 jobs (MJS).
  • Wisconsin lost 14,600 jobs in November, the largest single month drop in the nation and the fifth month in a row of job losses (CT).
  • The Institute for Wisconsin’s Future documents how cuts and reduced spending can lead to the loss of 18,000 full-time private sector jobs (IWF).
  • In fact, numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics January 23, 2012 show that Wisconsin is the only state in the country to have lost jobs for the past six months straight, (WSJ).

PolitiFact rates as a “Pants on Fire” lie Scott Walker’s assertion that the CAPCO program – which spent $247,000 on each job it created – was approved by former Gov. Jim Doyle. PoltiFact concludes: “”In the wake of a story about poor jobs results of a state-sponsored program, Walker sought to pin the blame on his predecessor, Jim Doyle. But he was off by five years, two governors — Thompson and successor Scott McCallum — and one political party. As governor, Doyle didn’t have anything to do with approving the CAPCO bill. But as an Assembly member, Scott Walker did. Pants on Fire.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

State posts largest percentage job loss in U.S. over the last year

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Under Scott Walker, Wisconsin has lost more jobs than any other state

WEAC.org:

State loses another 4,500 jobs in March under Walker

On the Wisconsin Retirement System

The state should study changes to the WRS, including an “opt-out” option for employees and converting the system to a 401(k) style plan.

The WRS is one of the most secure, best run and fully funded retirements systems in the nation.  There is absolutely no need to reform it.

The motives of Governor Walker and allies are questionable – especially when it comes to public pensions. They favor 401(k) plans that provide less security for working men and women, but give big financial service companies control of billions in worker’s pensions.   

  • The WRS serves 572,000 participants statewide. 
  • 90% of annuitants remain in the state.
  • More than $3billion annually is contributed to local communities.
  • The investment board invests hundreds of millions in Wisconsin companies.

(Source:  Employee Trust Funds)

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) created model legislation that calls for “replacing” secure retirement programs like WRS, which is what this study is preparing to do.   ALEC is funded by many of the same right-wing groups that support Governor Walker

(Source: mediamattersaction.org).

La Crosse Tribune commentary: Two former Wisconsin retirement officials say the state retirement plan is a model for the private sector

On Health Care and Collective Bargaining

Scott Walker claims that collective bargaining agreements made it impossible for districts to save money and switch health insurance carriers.

He alleges that changes he made mean school districts can now take competitive bids. 

School districts have ALWAYS been able to get competitive bids and negotiate changes in insurance through the collective bargaining process—that is what bargaining is all about. See Examples.

Educators have long made changes to their health care plans to save money. For instance:

  • 99% percent of educators moved to 3-tiered drug cards, which increased out-of-pocket expenditures, and
  • 81% of educators changed plans to more cost effective coverage – even before Act 10 was imposed.
  • Many more significant changes were enacted prior to Act 10.

Attacks like these are just another example of what Governor Walker is doing to pit Wisconsinites against each other rather than move forward for the betterment of everyone. That’s why we need to reclaim Wisconsin.      

On Health Care: Family Care

Governor Walker claims he had to cut this program because the state is broke.

At the same time, Walker enacted $2.3 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years for corporations, and increased spending on new highway construction by $420 million.

The Walker Administration froze enrollment in the Family Care program, which keeps the disabled and frail elderly in their homes by providing medical assistance.  Without it, many would be forced to live in more costly nursing facilities.  The program serves about 40,000 statewide in 53 counties.  Walker’s enrollment cap kept 6,700 disabled and elderly on the waiting list through February 2012.

In December, Walker suggested he was removing the cap out of the goodness of his heart, but it later came out that the federal government ordered him to make the change because it violated regulations.  Family Care receives about 60 percent of its funding from the federal government

Since that time, the administration proposed new restrictions and cuts to the program totaling $73 million.  In reaction, Milwaukee county supervisors testified that the changes are “making it so hard” that “people don’t qualify anymore.”  They also suggested the proposed changes were a stretch “both morally and legally.”

On Health Care: Women’s Health Care

Governor Walker claims he had to cut this program because the state is broke.

At the same time, Walker enacted $2.3 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years for corporations, and increased spending on new highway construction by $420 million.

Governor Walker proposed eliminating all funding  for family planning, potentially undermining a provider network of 52 health care centers around the state.  Although the legislature restored 90 percent of the funding, state aid to women’s healthcare centers affiliated with Planned Parenthood was eliminated.   

According to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, more than 30,000 mostly uninsured women in small communities across the state receive preventive health care from these centers, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, patient education, pregnancy help, and counseling.  

Governor Walker also terminated the state’s 16-year contract to run the Wisconsin Well Woman Program, affecting Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Outagamie and Sheboygan counties.  Today, as a result of cuts in a combination of programs, eight counties have lost funding for primary providers of health services for moderate income women.

In related actions, Walker enacted into law his proposal to ban men from obtaining family planning coverage, and he also recommended eliminating the requirement that health insurance policies provide coverage for contraceptives prescribed by a health care provider or outpatient medical services.  This last proposal was reversed in the budget.    

On Health Care: Badger Care (Medicaid)

Governor Walker claims he had to cut this program because the state is broke.

At the same time, Walker enacted $2.3 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years for corporations, and increased spending on new highway construction by $420 million

Some 780,000 Wisconsinites rely on Badger Care for their health coverage.  Nearly two-thirds of the Medicaid budget covers health care for the elderly and disabled, with the balance serving low income families unable to find coverage elsewhere. 

The Republican legislature gave Walker sweeping authority to cut approximately $554 million from these programs with no opportunity for public input.  By ceding its power to a political appointee, the legislature not only thwarted the democratic process, it washed its hands of the proposed cuts. 

  • Proposed cut to drop 29,000 children from Badger Care Plus
  • Proposed cuts of $72 million for Family Care, that helps the elderly and disabled
  • Reduced coverage for 200,000 people who will be shifted to a higher cost plan with fewer benefits.

An analysis by the nonpartisan state Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports that 65, 000 people – nearly half of them children – would lose coverage if the savings plan is approved as currently written. 

Changes are currently pending (2/29/12).    

On Workers’ Rights

Scott Walker asserts that changes in the bargaining law were an economic necessity forcing him to cut the budget.

Both statements are incorrect.   

And we cannot lose sight of the obvious here: Walker’s extreme, uncompromising approach ignored our democratic process and tradition of open government and left the state deeply divided and unable to move forward.

Through all of this, public employees have been unfairly blamed for the state’s budget problems.

When he says changes to the bargaining law were an economic necessity, that’s simply not true. The right to bargain is unrelated to balancing the state budget. In fact, all Wisconsin governors have had to balance the budget—it’s in the constitution.

Governor Walker’s true intent wasn’t to cut spending, and it sure wasn’t to work together as a state to balance the budget. By shunning compromise, he exposed his true intent which is to limit the economic rights of men and women everywhere. And the result has divided the people of this state like never before

Cuts to University of Wisconsin System

Governor Walker claims he had to cut this program because the state is broke.

At the same time, Walker enacted $2.3 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years for corporations, and increased spending on new highway construction by $420 million.

Badgers have long embraced the Wisconsin Idea—that education should serve all quarters of the state. From agricultural extension programs, to the nation’s first business school, to the establishment of one of the world’s top research universities, Wisconsin has a proud tradition in higher education.

Governor Walker threatens this tradition when he cut funding not once but twice for the famed UW.

In the budget, state aid to the University of Wisconsin System was reduced by $250 million, resulting in a tuition increase of 5.5 percent in each of the next two years.  The UW system also suffered from a recent budget “lapse” of $46 million, the result of renewed budget shortfalls, bringing total cuts to nearly $300 million. 

The UW was affected more by Walker’s recent budget lapse than any other state program.  Due to course reductions, it will now be harder for some students to graduate on time, increasing the financial burden on families trying to secure a good education for their children.    

Limiting Access to Higher Education

Governor Walker claims he had to cut this program because the state is broke.

At the same time, Walker enacted $2.3 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years for corporations, and increased spending on new highway construction by $420 million.

Wisconsin Covenant Program, which helped successful, moderate-income students get to college.  Walker also froze Higher Education Grants, preventing students from getting needs-based grants to attend technical colleges and higher education.  Finally, he denied the children of immigrants, who meet specific conditions including Wisconsin residency, in-state tuition to attend the UW System or a technical college.  The program cost taxpayers virtually nothing.    

All told, Governor Walker enacted three changes that deny children access to higher education and technical college training.  Students from middle class families are being squeezed out of higher education. 

Education is one of the best tools we have to spur long-term economic growth and development.  Governor Walker is moving the state in the wrong direction, hurting the ability of families to help their children get ahead.  

Cuts to Technical College System

Governor Walker claims he had to cut this program because the state is broke.

At the same time, Walker enacted $2.3 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years for corporations, and increased spending on new highway construction by $420 million.

With the economic downturn, Wisconsin’s technical colleges are experiencing historic levels of demand for training and education. 

The 2011-13 state budget cut $71.6 million from technical colleges, a deep 30 percent reduction in funding that harms this vital and respected system, now serving 375,000 Wisconsinites.  The economy gets a boost from highly skilled workers, and that job-seeking individuals also are helped with such training. 

Governor Walker cut state funding, and froze local funding, for these essential colleges that help people on an individual basis while spurring overall economic development.       

On Voter ID

Prohibitive Voter ID restrictions

Voter fraud is non-existent in Wisconsin.  A major study by the Brennan Center for Justice found virtually no evidence of fraud.   Instead, the new voted ID law, called one of the strictest in the nation, is intended to restrict the rights of certain individuals to vote.  

A study by UW-Milwaukee found that “177,399 Wisconsin residents 65 and older do not have a driver’s license or state photo ID — 23 percent of that population.”  Additionally, “another 98,247 residents ages 35 through 64 lack IDs . . .  [a lack] especially pronounced among racial minorities.”

Those without a valid picture ID are forced to pay a de facto poll tax to acquire documentation required to get a voter ID.  Poll taxes are illegal and Wisconsin’s law is being challenged

Students, low-income residents, legal immigrants, and the elderly  are groups most adversely affected by the new law.

Voter ID legislation, proposed by the conservative group ALEC, has been enacted in more than 30 states to varying degrees.   Critics suggest ALEC is attempting to restrict votes in an effort to sway national presidential elections as well as state results.

On Child Labor

Expanding hours of child labor

Wisconsin had some of the strongest child labor laws in the nation, protecting the health of children and their ability to study and do well in school.  By limiting the number of hours a child can work, more opportunities also become available for adults seeking entry positions into the workforce.

The state budget (p.  828) repealed these protections.  The budget struck most protective limits on the hours of work per day, days of work per week, and time of day protections for minors 16 years of age, except when they are in school. 

Essentially minors 16 years of age or older are now treated as adults, and work hours for children younger than 16 were expanded as well.  

On Sick Leave

Denying employees sick leave

About 44 million Americans receive no sick leave from their employers.  Most affected are those in service industries, like restaurants. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world not mandating some paid time off for workers.

Nationally, a movement sprang up to pass local ordinances mandating sick leave for employees.  Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington D.C, and Milwaukee all passed such ordinances.  Milwaukee’s ordinance, initiated by the women’s business group 9 to 5, passed with 69 percent of the popular vote.

Research shows that sick leave promotes employee retention, and of course the health of patrons benefits as well.  

The Walker-dominated legislature passed a senate bill overturning Milwaukee’s ordinance and prevented all municipalities in the state from enacting local ordinances to protect workers.

According to Think Progress, Wisconsin’s legislation mirrored legislation drafted by the conservative legislative group ALEC, at the behest of major fast food industries that oppose such measures.  Whatever the origin, the new law overturned a popularly supported, common sense protection for working men and women