Archive for the ‘Governor Scott Walker’ Category

Photo via Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

Hundreds of tents have been pitched on the capitol square in Wisconsin and they appear to be here for the long haul.  We Are Wisconsin, a coalition of labor groups, activists and others has organized this tent city in protest to Governor Walker’s budget, and it is quite the site to behold.  Families, young people, firefighters, police officers, teachers and the working poor- they’re all here in force, united against the Walker administration.

From the Wisconsin State AFL- CIO Blog:

At 7:00 pm on Saturday, June 4, the first tents of Walkerville were erected. Hundreds of Wisconsinites are protesting Scott Walker’s poor budget choices by forming a tent city around the Capitol.  Students, workers, and concerned citizens brought sleeping bags, pillows, tents and good spirits to kick off a continuous protest until the budget is passed.

Community members of Wisconsin are raising their voice to protect education, public services and communities in Wisconsin. 

Walkerville began with a welcome meeting. Peter RickmanUW-Madison Law Student and Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) member, outlined the rules and regulations of the community so that citizens of Walkerville can continue to hold their elected officials accountable safely.

DSC02973

Rickman also encouraged protestors to visit local business while protesting.

“They are who we are fighting for,” explainedRickman.  “We are fighting for working families, small businesses and better communities in Wisconsin.”

The night continued with live music from local artist Owen Mays.

Helena White, a speech and language clinician at East High School in Madison came to Walkerville with her two sons.  A member of the Madison Teachers Inc. White explained that she came to Walkerville because the budget negatively impacts every member of her family.

We are here to raise our voice against this budget and tell Scott Walker that the people do not support his policies. This budget will affect my teaching environment by increasing my case load to a point where each child is not getting the best education possible.  As a union member, I stand to lose my rights and my voice on the job.  Both my sons attend public schools in Madison and their education is on the line. 

DSC02898

Sara Lam, a TAA member in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at UW-Madison expressed that Walker’s cuts will negatively affect the quality of the program. The Department, which is one of the best in its field, may lose some of its best faculty due to Walker’s policies.

Lam, who is also 30 weeks pregnant, explained that people were surprised that she still came out:

“To me it was not even a question.  This budget is going to negatively impact the health and wellness of thousands of Wisconsinites.  One night outside was not an issue.”

DSC02979

Walkerville will continue until the budget is passed.  There will be a pre-set program atnoon and 7:00 pm each day.
For pictures of Walkerville click here.

For more information on Walkerville click here and continue to check back to the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Blog.

Advertisements

Bye Bye Senate Majority

Madison, WI. Showing signs of sheer desperation, three GOP senators up for recall elections on July 12 have now resorted to asking the courts to stop the election citing dubious alleged “irregularities” in the filing of recall petitions. Never mind the wholesale recall petition fraud perpetrated by the Wisconsin Republican Party; substantiated with scores of affidavits and reports of dead people signing their names, felons stealing items while circulating papers, and the involvement of a shady out of state group that helped organize the republican efforts against democrats.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

State Sens. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse; Luther Olsen, R-Ripon; and Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, all want judges to block the state Government Accountability Board from calling elections based on the recall petitions filed in April by groups seeking to recall the GOP senators.

Clearly, they know they are in trouble.  Two of these senators, adherents of the GOP “family values” mantra,  are essentially the crippled sheep in the Republican herd. Easy pickings if you will.  The third is simply guilty of supporting union busting. Let’s take a look.

Hopper and his mistress, Valerie Cass

Sen. Randy Hopper, R- Fon du Lac -Fortunate Son shacks up with young mistress, lives in Madison. 

Sen. Randy Hopper began his political career by winning his race in a 163 vote “landslide.” A member of the northern Wisconsin gentry, Hopper is the owner of Mountain Dog Media, a radio station and broadcasting company that owns Fon du Lac’s two major radio stations, KFIZ (1450) and WFON (107.1)  In addition, Mountain Dog owns WCLB (950) in Sheboygan and Chilton‘s WMBE (1530). It is more than likely that Mr. Hopper was the recipient of generous seed capital from his wealthy father, William Hopper, whose grandfather had founded Hopper Papers,  a company eventually sold to Koch Brothers-owned paper giant Georgia Pacific.  After selling the company and staying on a few years, Randy’s dad bought a majority stake in a small bank in Taylorville, IL and grew his interests to $150 million. The bank then merged with another banking firm in Springfield, Ill. When that combined company grew to $2 billion in assets, it merged once again with another bank, and that’s when Hopper sold out. He also owns/owned a 50% stake in a string of Illinois car dealerships.  My point is that young Randy is no self-made man.  He was born of privilege and grew up in Taylorville, IL while summering on a lake estate in Arbor Vitae, WI- the same lake that is home to Standard Oil’s lavish former retreat, Red Crown Lodge.  Sen. Hopper has little in common with the average Wisconsinite he pretends to represent.

In March of this year, recall volunteers accidentally knocked on his door and encountered Hopper’s estranged wife who was more than happy to announce that “Randy doesn’t live here anymore.  He’s living in Madison with his 26 year old mistress Valerie Cass”. She then wrote a letter to Milwaukee radio station WTMJ confirming her statement. Imagine the shock! According to Mrs. Hopper,  Randy began having an affair with the then 25 year old Cass who at the time was employed as an aide to  Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield). After Senator Kanavas decided against another run,  Ms. Cass became employed by the aptly named political consulting firm “Persuasion Partners, Inc.”  Incidentally, Persuasion Partners counts as one of its clients the Koch brothers-funded front Americans For Prosperity. Yet another Koch connection to a Wisconsin legislator. To make matters worse, it appears that Sen. Hopper may have used his political connections to secure a sweetheart deal of a job for his mistress in the Walker Administration, circumventing the civil service process.  Regardless of your political persuasion, is this the type of man that would be inclined to represent you? Or would he be more comfortable championing the cause of corporations?

Sen. Dan Kapanke

Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse – Ethically Challenged and Paid no Taxes. 

In August of 2010, Wisconsin State Senator Dan Kapanke admitted to “unintentionally” violating the state ethics code by using his lobbyist funded charity as a personal slush fund to pay for improvements to the LaCrosse Logger’s Baseball Park. He and his wife own the LaCrosse Loggers, a summer collegiate baseball team.. The payments from the LaCrosse Logger’s Foundation to the City of LaCrosse totaled about $32,000 against a  $225,000 loan.

In 2009, Government Accountability Board representative Jonathan Becker said  Sen. Kapanke should not have used campaign funds for two “Economic Forums”. This was after the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit asserting that his staff improperly coordinated the forums. The board declined to take action against Kapanke, but fined his aid who worked at the second campaign-sponsored event.  Kapanke took responsibility for the actions of his aid and agreed that he shouldn’t have used campaign funds for those activities. The party twice requested records about the event and each time was told they did not exist.  During testimony as part of the Democratic party suit, a top Kapanke aide admitted that she routinely used personal email for state work. The state’s Technology Services Bureau recovered information from a backup that confirmed that Kapanke had been sending work related emails to a yahoo email address. Rose Smyrski, Kapanke’s chief of staff and capitol employee since 2000,  incredulously stated that she never received open records training and that she didn’t check her personal email in response to the Democratic Party open records request.

Once again, Kapanke maintained that this was an “honest mistake”.  He seems to make lots of “honest mistakes” involving campaign-related financial issues and obscuring information. In Sept, 2009 the taxpayers of Wisconsin paid $38,000 to settle his legal fees as a result of the suit. It should be noted that taxes to average Wisconsin citizens increased under his watch while he himself paid nothing in 2008. Full information about Kapanke ethics issues and the source article is here.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R- Ripon

Sen. Luther Olsen, R- Ripon. 

Sen. Luther Olsen has long been considered one of the more moderate republicans in the legislature. In the early stages of the Wisconsin Uprising, Sen Olsen was one of the very few republicans who expressed reservations about removing the collective bargaining rights of unions. “The concept is pretty radical,” he said.  “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.  That spark of independence died when he voted lock-step with the Walker machine ultimately setting himself up for recall.

GOP Recall Organizers Call for Chief Election Referee to Resign

Finally, in another blatant act of desperation, the Wisconsin Republican Party recall organizers are calling for Kevin Kennedy, the Executive Director of the Government Accountability Board, to resign. The GAB is tasked with overseeing elections in Wisconsin and has been given the monumental task of certifying 9 simultaneous recall elections. This is unprecedented. Wisconsin republicans are crying foul because all recall elections against the GOP have been certified, while serious questions remain about the validity of the signatures collected by out of state firms against the democrats. In at least several cases it appears that signatures were forged from information contained within phone books. Most notably, the signature of the long deceased father of Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan appeared on one set of papers turned in by republican operatives.

The recall elections were scheduled for July 12th.

Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi

In what is seen as a win for public labor Unions, Governor Scott Walker’s controversial Anti-Collective Bargaining law was struck down. 

Thursday Morning, Dane County Judge MaryAnn Sumi issued a permanent injunction against the bill, effectively killing it until the Supreme Court is able to act. Sumi’s 33 page decision said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Republicans who control the Legislature violated the state’s open meetings laws. This referred to GOP actions at March 9th committee meeting where the measure was passed without providing proper notice to the public.  Also at that time, the Capitol building was locked down tightly keeping many members of the public away.

“This case is the exemplar of values protected by the Open Meetings Law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government, and respect for the rule of law,” Sumi wrote. “It is not the court’s business to determine whether 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 is good public policy or bad public policy; that is the business of the Legislature. It is this court’s responsibility, however, to apply the rule of law to the facts before it.”

“This is what we were looking for” said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat who sued to block the law after Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) filed a complaint saying that Republicans had not given proper notice in convening a conference committee of lawmakers from both houses to approve Gov. Walker’s budget-repair bill.

In a press release, Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association said  “Wisconsin public school employees applaud the ruling today that strikes down this backward legislation. The motives behind the collective bargaining bill were clearly political. Governor Scott Walker has already admitted the bill was never intended to be about ‘budget repair’ but instead a way to bust public employee unions.”

“Scott Walker and the Republicans broke the law that night,” explained Stephanie Bloomingdale, Wisconsin State AFL‐CIO. “This is a democracy, not a dictatorship, and Judge Sumi’s decision today makes it final that the union busting bill was passed illegally and will not stand.”

Reaction to the budget repair bill that seeks to eliminate all collective bargaining rights from public unions- except police and firefighters- has included over 100 days of mass protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol and around the state. At times, over 150 thousand people have massed outside and inside the building in opposition to this measure.

Unions Make Us Strong

The most recent mass protest was May 14th.

It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear arguments on June 6th to decide whether it will take up the case. GOP leaders have always had the option of noticing a hearing properly, and voting on the legislation again.  Many democrats, activists and union supporters believe that the lock-step political will that existed at the time of the measure’s original passing no longer exists.  This is why Republicans continue to spend thousands of dollars litigating the law, rather than calling for a re-vote.

Republican leaders and the Governor’s office have yet to comment on this decision.

District 48 Assembly Candidate Andy Heidt

Full Press Release from the Andy Heidt Campaign:

Andy Heidt, candidate for State Assembly in the 48th District, today called on members of the Joint Committee on Finance to reject Gov. Walker’s proposal to use the biennial budget to decimate Wisconsin’s medical assistance programs, including the immensely popular and successful BadgerCare Plus program.

“Real progressives understand that the only permanent fix for our country’s broken health care system is universal, single-payer insurance,” Heidt said. “While we work to overcome the political obstacles, many Wisconsin residents can rely on a pretty good stopgap system that includes BadgerCare and other Medicaid-funded programs.  It’s crucial that we protect those programs during this fragile economic recovery.”

Heidt noted that Walker’s proposed budget would slash state Medicaid spending by half a billion dollars over the next biennium, at a time when families are just beginning to get back on their feet in the aftermath of the “great” recession. “There’s probably no clearer testament to the warped priorities of the Walker administration than a budget containing massive handouts to tax-dodging corporations while telling sick parents and people with disabilities that they’re out of luck. Their health, in Walker’s twisted view, is less important than a bunch of new highways,” Heidt said.

Heidt also pointed out that because Medicaid spending draws millions of federal dollars into the state, these massive cuts in health care spending will also hurt Wisconsin’s economy. “Federal Medicaid dollars that come into Wisconsin spread around the state economy, stimulating spending in a bunch of related industries and creating and preserving thousands of jobs,” said Heidt. “If jobs were really the top priority rather than just a buzzword, we would be shoring up our health care system, not taking a sledgehammer to it.  Health care coverage, BadgerCare Medicaid Coverage is economic development.”

Heidt also objected to provisions in the budget repair bill currently hung up in the courts that would shift control over Medicaid policy from the legislature to the administrative branch, giving Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith, a key Walker ally, the power to rewrite state Medicaid laws with little legislative oversight and minimal opportunity for public input. Changes they are likely to seek include increased premiums and copays, more restrictions on services covered, tougher eligibility requirements, and more red tape for joining and staying in programs like BadgerCare. This sweeping power grab—unprecedented in Wisconsin history and, according to the very lawyer who wrote the actual language in the bill, probably a violation of the State Constitution—could affect as many as 1.2 million state residents currently enrolled in the state’s Medicaid programs, including over three-quarters of a million in BadgerCare. “And they won’t even be able to hold their legislators accountable for these changes because all the decisions will be made behind closed doors by unelected bureaucrats. Why do legislators want to abrogate their constitutional duty in regards to the separation of powers?  What are they afraid of?” Heidt said. 

In addition, Heidt blasted the proposed privatization of income maintenance program administration, which would affect Medicaid and a host of other supports for low-income households. “Privatizing these kinds of programs has been a catastrophe everywhere it’s been tried. Are we that desperate to follow the ‘small government’ mantra to its extremes that we don’t even care how much it will harm the most vulnerable members of our communities?” said Heidt, who has spent 13 years helping people navigate the often complex web of assistance programs in his capacity as ombudsman in the Dane County Department of Human Services .

“The budget proposals related to Medicaid being discussed today in Joint Finance are a disaster in every respect—economically, legally, and morally. We need more voices in the Legislature prepared to speak out forcefully against these sorts of greed-fuelled, anti-people assaults.”

WI GOP Legislative Aid Under Investigation for Voter Fraud

Madison, WI. Citing rampant and mostly-nonexistant voter fraud, The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Senate passed one of the most restrictive Voter ID measures in the entire country yesterday. Republican Senator Frank Lassee implied that democrats benefit from voter fraud. “Who benefits from the abuse? I think those are good questions to ask,” he said. “One fraudulent vote cancels out a single legal vote. The other side doesn’t seem to care about that at all”. Meanwhile,  in a rather ironic development, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that a legislative GOP staffer is under investigation for alleged voter fraud.

On April 28th, Dispatches from Fitzwalkerstan initially reported on this story.  Because the original article involved an acquaintance of mine I struggled with the moral dilemma of reporting on it. In November when the subject of the investigation, a Madison resident, first boasted about voting in a community over 100 miles from home, she was called on it.  She asserted she was living in Onalaska while running the assembly campaign of republican Dennis Clinard. Based on a facebook post that clearly advertised her intent to return to the city of Madison the very next day, which she did, she appears to have violated  State election law.  When this author subsequently discussed the matter with Ms. Malszycki in person several days later her response included the following statement “Why would I want to vote for Mark Pocan?”  (reference to the assembly democrat that represents her home district).

Why indeed.

Because you live here.  Because legislation that effects your community occurs here. Because you care about the community you live in.  Because regardless of political ideology, you are invested in your city and want it to remain/become a great place to live.  And if you are a republican, you at least care about your property taxes.

Or not.

It is important to remember that Ms. Malszyki works for a republican assembly representative that co-sponsored a bill seeking to prevent the very activity she engaged in on election day. When reviewing the drafts of the bill, as she must have at some point given her position, did she recognize her own behavior cited in examples? This Voter ID bill has long been planned by Wisconsin republicans with the assistance of the good folks at ALEC. No matter how you spin the story, it is inconceivable that a long-time GOP legislative staffer would be unaware that her nomadic voting activity would be in conflict with state law.

When this was brought to her attention, a few options were at her disposal:

  1. Contact the Onalaska City Clerk and admit that she voted illegally based upon her intent to return to her home district where she lives 20 out of 24 months.  If it was a mistake, admit it, and move on.
  2. Use her legislative position to correct the problem and educate poll workers if in fact it was their misinformation that contributed to her voting illegally.
  3. Say “I didn’t do anything wrong! I just didn’t want to vote for liberals!” and start blaming the author of the original story for her predicament.

She chose number 3.

On May 11th, while sitting in my yard with friends, Ms. Malcyszki came to my home and immediately engaged in a stream of foul language directed at me, in front of my pregnant wife,  three-year-old child, and friend. I asked her to stop. My wife asked her to stop. She refused.  I reminded her that my child was present.  She responded  with”I don’t care! The police went to my  mothers house because of you, so I don’t care about your family”.

Family values.

Ultimately, and I’m not proud, I responded in kind. After all, I’m just one of those “Union Thugs that trashed the capitol”.  Ms. Malszycki inexplicably started yelling about my first marriage that ended in divorce; information she clearly gleaned from the state court system website.  She inarticulately attempted to assert that “It was bad to get divorced, how about I blog about that, huh! Huh!”

Professionalism.

Clearly, she had been drinking as evidenced by the half empty 12 pack of miller lite she was toting around with her. Finally, in a moment straight out of COPS-including barking dogs, a screaming drunk person and precariously perched alcoholic beverages, she was led away by others. She continued to poke her head around the corner and yell things like “Hey big man, why don’t you come over here and have it out with me right now!” This went on until I retrieved my video camera.  When she realized I was taping, the direct assault finally ceased.

Responsibility.

There isn’t any.  Perhaps I’m naive because I truly hoped that writing about her nomadic voting history wouldn’t be perceived as personal and that common sense, and at least a veneer of social courtesy,  would be maintained.  I was wrong.

Why does any of this matter? Because it is indicative of the outraged indignation exhibited by the GOP whenever they themeselves are caught engaging in behavior that they so adamantly attribute to the other side.  While they willfully and aggressively dismantle Wisconsin’s progressive traditions through actions such as removing collective bargaining rights, disregarding open meeting laws, ignoring court orders, restricting public access to the state capitol and publicly ridiculing a sitting circuit court judge, they themselves expect to remain above the law. After all, Governor Walker himself refuses to respond to inquiries from Madison’s own police chief. 

I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple of hours now, debating on whether to publish it or not.  Especially because it was my intention that this incident involving alleged voter fraud not become personal.

Well, today I’m not a “liberal political blogger”.  Today I’m just a dad who is sad because a 30 year old GOP staffer who should know better made my kid cry. On purpose. Even the Mafia tries to separate “business” from the “personal.”

Why would anyone make this kid cry?

Pat mAcdonald of Purgatory Hill with cigar box guitar

Madison, WI. The sky was gray, the temperature below 50, and the wind brisk.  Perfect Wisconsin protesting weather.  Nearly 20,000 people came out to the capitol Saturday to protest the Walker Administrations’ war on the middle class.   You’d never know that the Wisconsin Uprising continues if you get your news from the mainstream media. The rally opened with music by PurgAtory Hill, an intense and otherworldly Sturgeon Bay duo consisting of grammy-nominated Pat mAcdonald, and his partner MelanieJane. Pat dedicated the song “Reset” to resetting Wisconsin government. Essentially, PurgAtory Hill has taken delta blues, amped it up to 11, added some serious low end rumble and injected some bad-ass rock and roll to create a sound that manages to be both working-class and anti-class. As the band played, the crowd continued to grow in size. At the end of their 45 minute set, Pat encouraged the drum circle folks to give him a beat, which resulted in a spontaneous jam that included the massed crowd singing “re-call Wal-ker”.  Shortly after their set, MelanieJane confessed “I’ve never really been part of a rally like this. When I saw the union members marching in from all sides, I started to tear up a little”. Video Here.

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former mayor Dave Cieslewicz opened the program with a joke.  “Hi I’m Dave,  I used to be Mayor of Madison, but when I was, they never let me speak. So today I arranged it so I could.” he went on to describe how we’ve created a true, national progressive movement that won’t stop at simply fighting for union rights.  “First, we’re going to recall those republican senators.  Then we’re going to recall Walker and take our state back”.  Thousands roared in agreement.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach and Son

State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D- Middleton) took the stage next, accompanied by his son. He encouraged those attending the rally to focus on helping the democrats running in the recall elections. “This is the last time I want to see you in Madison,” he said to the massed protestors. “You can go vacation in Minocqua and help out Jim Holperin, or La Crosse, which is beautiful right now, and help out Jen Shilling.”

Ben Manski

Up next is Ben Mansksi, former national co-chair of the green party and assembly candidate. He stated that Walker’s budget was designed in back rooms by lobbyists and special interest groups in order to “tax the poor and feed the rich”.  He encouraged continued resistance and then led the protestors in a passionate chant; “We reject your budget!”

Mahlon Mitchell, President of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters.

Mahlon Mitchell, the charismatic president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, said “We have touched lives of Americans all over the United States, and they’re watching”. He recalled a recent trip to Oregon where he heard a new chant that certainly applies to the uprising in Wisconsin. He then led the crowd with “Banks got bailed out, and people got sold out”. He followed that with a question. “What is the role of the union? Well I’m gonna tell you.  The American Dream. He added “The role of the union is to make the American dream an opportunity to live with dignity, and to enjoy the fruits of your labor”.

rally

Several other speakers addressed the protestors including Mary Bell, the President of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “We are still here, and we are waiting to be heard”. Bell said,  “They thought you would give up. That you’d go home and watch Dancing with the Stars and you’d forget about the largest power-grab in the history of the state of Wisconsin! Well, that didn’t happen”. Bell added,  “They thought you’d forget about cuts to seniors, to poor children and to schools in this state. Well that didn’t happen either.”
90 days after the first protest against Governor Scott Walker’s draconian budget repair bill in February, we’re still taking to the streets.  We are unbowed.  Wisconsin citizens have  initiated 6 historic recall elections against republican state senators.  Scores of new activists and leaders are involved in making a difference. We’ve shut down banks that financed the Walker Campaign, occupied the State capitol for weeks, held up the egregious collective bargaining bill in the courts, and much more.  Dave Cieslewicz was correct; this is not just about Wisconsin, this is the birth of a new national progressive movement.  Do we stand by in our communities while a mean-spritied majority consolidates power? Or do we fight?  In Wisconsin we fight with a ferocity that made the “Mamma Grizzly” herself appear more like a frightened screeching weasel as she lied about “violent rent a mobs” and “vandalized businesses”.  While the national media came out in force to report on a tea party event that saw barely 1000 people show up, they ignored the 10’s of thousands that massed at the capitol this past Saturday. Well, we’re still here.

The UAW arrives.

State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton)

Nice sign.

Crowd is getting larger...

As always, your comments are welcome!

Excellent article by Bill Lueders from Isthmus regarding the over-inflated and inexplicable original vs. actual cost estimate for so-called “damages” to the Wisconsin State Capitol. It should come as no surprise that the $7.5 million original estimate was completely fabricated.  The correct number? $269,550. The bulk of which is for re-seeding/sodding the Capitol lawn. This number pales in comparison to the nearly $7.8 million in increased and completely unnecessary security costs incurred by the Walker Administration through March 13th.  Fabricating numbers is turning out to be something of a specialty by Scott Walker’s people.  From woefully inaccurate crowd estimates, budget numbers that are open to interpretation and the announcement that $600 million has been “found”, there should be no surprise that so many people distrust these folks.

Excerpts from the article at Isthmus:

At a press conference this morning at which these numbers were released, DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch sought to provide damage control regarding the original damage estimate. He said the $7.5 million amount had been “a purely preliminary figure” based on what information was available at the time.

Included in the materials distributed to the press was a March 4 memo (PDF) to Huebsch explaining that this higher estimate was “based on the experience of” a single manager with the DOA’s Division of State Facilities. Also included was a copy of Huebsch’s subsequent letter (PDF) to a Dane County judge, explaining why he used the erroneous $7.5 million figure in testimony to the court.

So come on out to Saturday’s rally on the Capitol Square and express your thoughts on the continued inaccuracies, half-truths and outright lies that continue to originate in Governor Walker’s office.

Protestors at the Capitol- NOT damaging the building.

Walker's Train Funds Denied

During his gubernatorial campaign, Governor Scott Walker consistently labeled the $800 million Wisconsin received in federal high speed rail funds as a waste of tax payer dollars, an Obama Administration boondoggle, and completely unnecessary.  Shortly after winning his election, he got his wish; US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood happily took back the money allotted to Wisconsin and redistributed it to other states who actually desired to enter the 21st century, provide transportation alternatives and create jobs.  Governor Walker then touted the loss of the money as a huge win for his administration, and the taxpayer.

Fast forward a couple of months when our inept governor realized that the Milwaukee to Chicago Hiawatha line actually needs improvements, new train sets and 8 locomotives that would have been provided for with the original $810 million rail grant. So what does he do? He applies for $150 million in federal funds to, well, buy new train sets, replace locomotives, and upgrade the tracks. You can’t make this stuff up.

In a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation,  Secretary Ray LaHood said:

“President Obama and Vice President Biden’s vision for a national rail system will help ensure America is equipped to win the future with the fastest, safest and most efficient transportation network in the world,” said Secretary LaHood. “The investments we’re making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities.”

In a conference call, LaHood avoided answering a question about whether Monday’s decision was related to Walker’s rejection of the original $810 million grant, which negated two decades of planning by previous administrations. But Secretary LaHood repeatedly used the word “reliable” in describing the leadership of states selected for rail funding.

Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison.

State Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, quickly showered the Walker Administration with well-deserved praise:

“This announcement shows all our neighbors get federal train help but Wisconsin,” he says. “Gov Walker’s war on transportation choices pays off for our neighbors while our outdated train lines don’t get the upgrades they need.”

It appears that Rep. Hulsey is talking about  Talgo, a Spanish high-speed train manufacturer that announced it would likely close and move its manufacturing facility, and the jobs that go with it, to Illinois shortly after completing the trains already ordered.

Wisconsin taxpayers will now foot the bill to upgrade the Hiwatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago. This is the busiest inter-city passenger rail corridor in the midwest and well-used by both business and leisure travelers. In fact, Ridership on the Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha rail line has doubled in the past eight years, hitting a record 792,848 in 2010. The $150 million in upgrades the state will now need to self-finance would have paid for maintenance costs on the proposed high-speed rail line for nearly 20 years.  Even the cost associated with the completely unjustified increased security measures at the Wisconsin State Capitol has now reached nearly $7 million in a matter of a few months. Yet Governor Walker derailed the train because it “might” have cost that much in subsidies annually.  More accurately, the federal government would have covered some, if not all, of the maintenance costs in contrast with Walker simply flushing money away to finance his personal palace guard. Sadly, while the rest of the midwest builds out high speed rail infrastructure with an eye toward the future, Wisconsin stays firmly planted in the 1950’s.  Thanks Scott.

Recall Scott Walker

As always, comments are welcome!