March 16, 2012
Time to Focus on Jobs and Restore Wisconsin Values
Now that the extremely contentious 2011-2012 legislative session is drawing to a close, I hope that the next time the Wisconsin Legislature convenes we will be able to focus on creating good paying jobs and restoring Wisconsin values of good government that have been so badly tarnished over of the last 15 months.
Republicans took control of the Governor’s office and were swept into overwhelming majorities in the Legislature after the 2010 elections by voters who wanted our state government to focus on job creation. Unfortunately, job creation bills have not been a high priority this legislative session. Instead of more jobs, the people of Wisconsin have been subjected to attacks on workers’ rights, education, environmental protections, women’s health, the right to vote and good government. While Governor Walker and legislative Republicans were focusing on these other issues, Wisconsin led the nation in private-sector job loss in 2011. These failed policies have led to unprecedented recall elections of the Governor and many state senators.
Wisconsin was once seen as a national leader that combined a strong tradition of clean and open government with evidence-based policy development that found innovative solutions to the state’s biggest political challenges. This is part of the concept known as the “Wisconsin Idea,” which dictates that lawmakers should aim to create well thought out legislation that benefits the greatest number of people possible. The Legislature needs to recommit to this concept in order to regain the public’s trust after the events of the last 15 months.
In addition to the lack of focus on jobs, Wisconsin’s century-long reputation as model for clean and open government has been tremendously damaged during this legislative session. Legislative Republicans signed secrecy oaths to shield the public from the details of their partisan redistricting plans, violated open meetings laws and even undermined the independence of the Government Accountability Board, which is supposed to serve as the public’s watchdog over our political process. Even our state Supreme Court was tarnished by a sitting justice ruling in cases where he had a significant conflict of interest.
Wisconsin built its reputation for good, responsive government over the course of a century. Wisconsinites rightly expect lawmakers to act in accordance with this tradition. It took a little more than a year to undermine this tradition in alarming ways. It is my hope that when the legislature returns in 2013 that we can begin to focus on solutions that will help ensure that all Wisconsinites have the opportunity to find good paying jobs and have a political culture that they are proud of.