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AFT-Wisconsin release: JFC budget a disaster

Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-17 budget for the state of Wisconsin, introduced earlier this year, was jam-packed with shameful attacks on working Wisconsinites. Since then, Republican majorities on the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) have been finding ways to make a bad budget even worse. Now that the JFC has wrapped up budget deliberations, its budget proposal will be taken up by the state Senate and Assembly, then head to Governor Walker’s desk for his signature.  Here's what AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas had to say:

JFC BUDGET A DISASTER FOR WISCONSIN

Madison, WI: Responding to the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee’s budget proposal, AFT-Wisconsin President Kim Kohlhaas, a teacher in the Superior School District, called on the Senate and Assembly to roll back major provisions of the proposal that would severely damage public education and public services in the state.  “Many of us thought that things couldn’t get much worse than Scott Walker’s budget proposal earlier this year,” said Kohlhaas.  “Unfortunately, JFC Republicans have shown that when it comes to dismantling public education and public services in Wisconsin, they saw the Walker budget as merely a starting point.  What they have proposed is nothing less than a war on Wisconsin’s public school students, from 4-K kids in McFarland learning how to read up to graduate students in the University of Wisconsin System performing cutting-edge research that will benefit us all.  And they’re gutting Wisconsin’s open records law in a desperate attempt to shield themselves from accountability from the citizens they supposedly serve.”

Kohlhaas pointed to provisions targeting state public schools, the UW System, and the Wisconsin Technical College System as evidence.  “When you look at the proposal to take an unlimited amount of money away from the education of our public school students and funnel it to shadowy, unaccountable private school operators who happen to be major Republican donors, you get suspicious.  Add on a refusal to fund crucial technical college programs such as need-based scholarships, entrepreneurship, and veterans’ services, and it looks worse.  But then consider what they plan to do to students in the UW System—cut a quarter of a billion dollars from our campuses, and remove the laws that protect faculty and researchers from losing their jobs due to political interference—and tell me that this isn’t a war on public education.”

Kohlhaas also noted an assault on environmental services and environmental education in the Walker and JFC budgets.  “Scott Walker and his Republican allies on the JFC seem to fear an educated Wisconsin,” she said, “particularly when it comes to the environment.  Republicans are eliminating funding for cutting-edge renewable energy and environmental research in the UW System.  They’re attacking community recycling services.  And they’re firing staff at the Department of Natural Resources who focus on science and environmental research and education.  There’s a clear pattern of attacks in this budget on those who work to make our state a healthier, cleaner place to hunt, fish, swim, camp, and hike—not to mention eat, drink, and breathe.”

Kohlhaas charged the Legislature to stand up for Wisconsin students and citizens by reversing the worst excesses of the JFC budget.  “This used to be a state where Republicans and Democrats could work together for the good of all Wisconsinites.  There’s a better way to do things than we’ve seen from Scott Walker and the Republican members of the JFC.  Let’s come together for common sense solutions that will benefit everyone in our state, rather than continuing down the path of divisive attacks and giveaways to special interests.”