Correspondence from State Rep. Tom Tiffany that will appear in the Feb. 22 Tomahawk Leader:
Last week the state legislature, including the assembly, began review of Governor Walker's Budget Repair Bill. The Joint Finance Committee after making modifications to the proposal, passed the Budget Repair Bill, 12-4, sending it on to each house of the legislature.
The state senate was prepared to begin debate on the Budget Repair Bill Thursday, February 17th. However, 14 senators chose to leave the state, effectively closing off the senate's ability to debate the issue. The issue of the 14 missing senators is unresoved as of this writing.
On Friday the 18th, the state assembly was scheduled to begin debate on the Budget Repair Bill. The scheduled floor debate was halted due to the assembly minority asking for more time to review the bill and security concerns at the capitol. The state assembly will reconvene on Tuesday February 22nd to review all amendments to the Budget Repair Bill. I expect the process to be tedious, but if no further delays occur, we should be able to have a final bill prepared for a vote by the end of the week. I believe the assembly leadership made the correct decision to allow the minority party an additional four days to review the bill.
At the heart of the Budget Repair Bill is a proposal asking public employees to make concessions on their health and pension benefits. Currently most state employees pay about 6% of their health insurance and nothing towards their pensions. The Budget Repair Bill requires state employees to pay 12% of their health insurance and 5.8%, or half, of their pension contribution. If enacted, the proposal will save Wisconsin's budget $300 million. The savings amount to approximately 10% of the total savings required to fill the projected shortfall of $3.6 BILLION for the next biennial budget. If the Budget Repair Bill is not enacted, we could see layoffs of 6,000 state employees and 8-10,000 teachers in the next biennium.
One of the major concerns opponents of the Budget Repair Bill cite, is the loss of collective bargaining privileges. Some local public employees are concerned their employment can be terminated without just cause. As a result of those concerns, the legislature amended Governor Walker's original proposal to include civil service protections for local public employees. Local public employees will have the same civil service protections that state employees have had for the past 100 years. The Budget Repair Bill does NOT affect private sector unions.
In it's current form, I support the Budget Repair Bill. For too long politicians of both parties have been spending beyond the taxpayers means. The Budget Repair Bill is the first step in meeting our constitutional responsibility of passing a genuinely balanced budget.
Make no mistake, there will be sacrifice for virtually every Wisconsinite in the coming budget. However, if we make the tough decisions, now, future budgets--two, four and six years from now will be much more manageable.
Rep. Tom Tiffany
Town of Little Rice