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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Even if you hate unions, why you should be against what is happening in Wisconsin

From the Faithful

Even if you hate unions, there are many reasons that you should oppose the radical budget plans of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker--which appears to be a test case for the national GOP agenda. Out-of-state billionaires, including the infamous Koch Brothers, are whispering in Walker's ear from the close access tens of thousands of dollars in contributions has bought them. These folks have no stake in the future of this state, and appear intent on destroying unions as a counter-balancing national political force. But what will their agenda do to quality of life in this state? What does their agenda do to the future of our economy?

1.) Wisconsin public schools rank high on many important measures, including the rate of graduating kids and preparing them for college. That has long been at the heart of our economic success.

We wrote here about Walkers' planned cutbacks to school aids. There is no doubt that these enormous cuts will lead to lay-offs and and a decline in public education in Wisconsin. The cuts are too big to be absorbed by even the drastic decline in teacher benefits contemplated in Walker's bill. Further, poor school districts will take by far the biggest hits--leading to the wider gaps between the rich and poor that seem to be the driving force and goal of all Republican economic policies.

From the MSJO article: Butler pointed out that teachers in the Sparta School District pay 20% of their health premiums, limiting the district's ability to achieve savings through health insurance benefit reductions. In addition, the effect of the budget will be felt differently based on how much a school district's budget relies on aid from the state, an equation affected by property wealth. In that respect, MPS has more to lose than a district such as Fox Point. In 2008-'09, $7,237 of MPS' per pupil revenue of $14,211 came from the state. In Fox Point, per pupil revenue of $14,240 included just $747 from the state.

2.) Wisconsin currently ranks very high in the percentage of state residents who have health insurance, with 91.5% of residents having Health Insurance coverage. This contributes to keeping health insurance costs down for all. Oh, and it just happens to save some lives, as we wrote here.

"BadgerCare is Wisconsin’s award-winning Medicaid program that provides health care coverage for more than 750,000 men and women—and their children—from across the state. Established in 1997 as a bipartisan effort to encourage work and improve health care in Wisconsin, BadgerCare has proven to be a highly effective—and cost-effective—program, successful in both rural and urban communities, in good economies and bad."

At Saturday's Madison protest, we spoke to this young man who was protesting Walker's proposed cuts and sweeping power grab in the operation of Badger Care. Five years ago, he was given a 30 percent chance of living five years from a diagnosis of bone cancer--if he could afford promising treatments. The Badger Care program stepped up to get him the state-of-the art treatment, and he is now doing very well.

Walker's bill will likely gut both Badger Care and Medicaid programs in Wisconsin. (See: Save Badger Care coalition.)

3.) Unlike other states, Wisconsin's state pension system, which includes many local workers as well, is fully funded and contributes billions of dollars to the state economy. Will local municipalities continue to fully fund pension obligations as they face Gov. Walkers' massive reduction of local aid?

Wisconsin's state pension fund was recently ranked at the Top of the pension class by both a Minneapolis Federal Reserve publication and two national studies. As Pew Center Report writes: In 2000, just over half the states had fully funded pension systems. By 2006, that number had shrunk to six states. By 2008, only four—Florida, New York, Washington and Wisconsin—could make that claim.

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