Monday, February 14, 2011

Reading Between the Lines

Governor's budget adjustment bill sparks controversy

Governor Scott Walker unveiled his “budget adjustment bill” last Friday, targeting concessions by public employees and touching off what was already predicted to be a contentious legislative session focused on crafting the 2011-2013 biennial budget while dealing with budget shortfalls.

The legislature was not originally scheduled to be in session this week, but is likely to take up the governor’s proposal on Thursday after it is discussed on Tuesday by members of the Joint Finance Committee at 10 AM and the Joint Retirement Systems Committee at 2 PM. Committee votes will take place on Wednesday, setting the stage for action in both legislative houses on Thursday.

Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Robin Vos (R- Rochester) have invited public participation at the 10 AM meeting on Tuesday, with speakers limited to 2 minutes.

Labor unions representing public employees and other groups opposed to the measure are planning protest rallies on the Capitol Square at noon on Tuesday and Wednesday. Requests to flood legislative offices with calls, emails and letters were circulated statewide over the weekend.

All of which is going to make it more challenging for those attending and supporting Library Legislative Day on February 22 – coincidentally the same day the governor’s 2011-2013 budget proposal will be released – to be heard over the cacophony.

Libraries are neither Republican nor Democratic. Nobody is required to declare their politics at the door and librarians routinely leave their personal political orientation outside. As hard as it may be, we must as public employees also leave our personal reactions to the budget adjustment bill proposal outside as well.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop advocating for our libraries, our communities and the state funding that makes many of our services possible. A variety of helpful tools and briefing papers are found linked to the Wisconsin Library Association’s Legislation and Advocacy page.

Our mission is to identify and direct citizen library supporters through the battlefield under a banner of truce telling the library story in a way that both legislators and their staff members will notice because it is positive, reinforcing, and memorably personalized. The words “thank you” should appear in the subject line of an email or written on the outside of each envelope.

Stay informed! Links to the latest reports, press releases and news articles on all sides of the controversy may be found at the Wheeler Report website.

Not sure which legislators represent your service area?  Enter voting addresses here to find out, as well as access contact information.

Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute briefing paper entitled “Are Wisconsin Public Employees Overcompensated?” makes interesting reading.

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