State Senator Howard Marklein and Assemblyman Ed Brooks held a listening session in Mauston February 6. They got an earful.
I did not count the number of people who attended, but I would estimate it at 12 to 15. Everyone had at least one complaint with Gov. Walker’s proposed budget. With one or two exceptions, all who spoke were opposed to spending public money on private education via the school voucher program. Several were opposed to cutting the University of Wisconsin budget by 13 percent. Walker’s proposal to eliminate support for public radio was criticized several times.
Other attendees objected to eliminating the Bureau of Science Services from the Department of Natural Resources, and to Gov. Walker’s attempt to usurp the authority of the Natural Resources Board.
Several people raised the more general issue of lack of transparency and the increase in dirty politics under Gov. Walker. One specific example was the Republicans' current attempt to manipulate the State Supreme Court. Republicans are trying to dethrone Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson before the court reviews Gov. Walker’s possible criminal campaign violations this coming summer.
Abrahamson became chief under the court’s policy of granting that position to the longest serving justice. The Republicans want to change that 126 year old constitutional policy, and let the Supreme Court elect its chief. Oh by the way, Republicans happen to have a majority of justices on the Supreme Court, thanks to the influx of millions of dollars in campaign money by the very out-of-state groups that are facing criminal liability in the Walker probe.
Electing the chief justice might be a good idea. Normally, that would be done when Abrahamson’s term expires in 2019. But the Republicans are in a hurry to get her out of the way before Walker’s case comes up. They have already passed the legislation to change the state’s constitution, which will be voted on by the general public on April 7, when voter turnout is expected to be very low, and unpopular legislation can be slipped through. It is revealing that the current legislature chose to deal with this issue ahead of more pressing budget problems facing the state.
Senator Marklein and Assemblyman Brooks did not do their credibility any good when they suggested that the conservative majority on the court might elect a liberal chief justice. Not 20 minutes before, several people had admonished them for the lack of honesty in state government, but as Ronald Reagan famously said, “There you go again.” When asked what the urgency was to deal with this issue, Marklein replied, “That’s just the way it worked out.”
A day or two before this listening session, Gov. Walker had been caught red handed trying to slip a provision into his 900 page budget that would delete the phrase “search for truth” from the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement, and at first denying it. That was reported in the New York Times. Look for Gov. Walker’s presidential ambitions to go up in flames in the near future.
Remember to vote on April 7.