By Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — While protesters greeted Gov. Scott Walker this week as he spoke in Springfield, Ill., a new poll bolstered Walker's campaign as he heads toward a June 5 recall election.
Partisans, meanwhile, are bickering over what a new school staffing report indicates, and voter ID lawsuits won’t be skipping any steps, the state Supreme Court said.
Thumbs up and down for Walker
Walker spoke to a crowd of about 300 lobbyists, lawmakers and members of the business community at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield, Ill. Walker's speech was part of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business lobby day in the state's capital city.
Walker used the half-hour speech to highlight his fight against “a handful of big union bosses,” while emphasizing budgeting that allowed Wisconsin to dig itself out of a $3.6 billion deficit without increasing taxes.
“There’s always been this false choice, between either raising taxes or cutting core services,” he said. “Who amongst you in business would say, 'You know what, times are tough so I’m going to double the price of my product?’”
Hundreds of union members protested Walker’s arrival, largely due to the changes he pushed through in Wisconsin last year that limited collective bargaining for most public union workers.
“This is Illinois," said Mack Julion, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers with 46 locals in Illinois. "This is a blue state. This is a worker state. We don’t need those kinds of policies here in Illinois. We sit down at the table. We negotiate. We bargain.”
Walker is gearing up for what may be the ultimate test of the popularity of his governorship — his June 5 recall election.
According to a new poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, Walker leads all of his likely Democratic foes, who will face each other in a primary May 8.
The poll, conducted April 13 through 15 for the liberal Daily Kos blogger site, had a margin of error of 2.9 percent.
PPP's poll also shows Democrats lagging behind in recalls of four GOP senators.
- Kristen Dexter trails Terry Moulton 41 percent to 51 percent, with 8 percent undecided
- Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, trails Rep. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, (the GOP’s replacement for Sen. Pam Galloway, who resigned), 37 percent to 51 percent, with 12 percent undecided.
- Lori Compas trails Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, 40 percent to 54 percent, with 6 percent undecided.
The margin of error ranged from 3.5 percent to 3.9 percent, depending on the question.
Democrats need to pick up one seat to take a 17-16 majority in the state Senate.
Supreme Court sidesteps voter ID ruling
The new law requiring voters to submit a photo ID in order to be given a ballot remains blocked, at least for the time being.
The state Supreme Court on Monday declined requests from two Courts of Appeals asking the high court to rule directly on the legality of the voter ID law.
The Supreme Court didn’t explain its decision, which leaves the lawsuits in the hands of the lower courts just weeks before the recall elections involving Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four state senators.
Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan has placed a temporary injunction on the law, blocking it from taking effect.
But Flanagan heard arguments in that case, filed by the NAACP and immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, this week in Madison.
On Thursday, the judge set a briefing schedule for the case that ensures the issue will not be resolved before the upcoming recall elections.
In the other case the high court declined to immediately consider, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess has ordered a permanent injunction of the voter ID law in a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters.
Jobs decline stumps recovery
After a robust hiring start to the year, Wisconsin's private sector trimmed 4,300 jobs in March, according to the latest preliminary employment figures from the Department of Workforce Development.
The public sector shed another 200 positions, bringing March's total number of nonfarm employment declines to 4,500 jobs.Total nonfarm jobs decreased by 23,900 compared to March
2011, according to the department.
The employment downturn follows a gain of more than 15,000 private-sector jobs in the first two months of the year. Such job growth seemed to denote a turnaround after six months of employment contraction.
Unemployment, however, edged down, to 6.8 percent, from 6.9 percent in February.
The U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.2 percent, down slightly from 8.3 percent in February.
Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said there are encouraging signs for sustained recovery.
“Wisconsin had 83,000 entrants to its labor force in March, including 63,300 re-entrants, signaling greater optimism by job seekers,” he said in a statement.
Walker, Dems debate significance of school staff cuts
Wisconsin school districts cut 2,312 positions for this school year, a 50 percent jump in staff losses from the previous year, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.
Of those, 60 percent — 1,446 positions — were teachers.
“Losses in school staff erode our public education system,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said in a statement. “We want our students to graduate college and career ready and must make a bipartisan investment in public education instead of continually forcing cuts on school districts.”
Barrett's campaign blasted the staff cuts and blamed Republicans for cutting $749 million in general school aid from the 2011-13 biennial budget.
“The consequences of gutting education are clear: larger class sizes, reductions in academic and extra-curricular offerings, and an overall decline in the quality of education in Wisconsin,” Barrett said in a statement.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said in a statement that “Governor Walker’s reforms led to the least number of school districts increasing class sizes in the past decade, the smallest reduction in extracurricular activities in the last decade and less student fee increases than any other year in the last decade.”