Sunday, February 20, 2011

Australia: Wisconsin in the news

The Sydney Morning Herald

US faces budget showdowns from Wisconsin to Washington

WASHINGTON: Wisconsin's bitter public scrap over a proposed clamp on the salaries and collective bargaining rights of state employees brought 70,000 people on to the streets of the capital, Madison, for a fifth consecutive day of protests. In Washington, a budget stand-off between Republicans and Democrats threatens a government shutdown in March.

Teachers, firefighters and other public workers rallied against a plan by the new Republican governor, Scott Walker, to remove their bargaining rights while doubling workers' health insurance contributions and forcing them to put 5.8 per cent of their salary towards their pensions.

Chanting ''this is what democracy looks like'' and waving placards, some of which drew inspiration from the recent Egyptian uprising, the protesters circled the state assembly, where legislators have been unable to vote on the proposals because of a walkout by elected Democrats.
Advertisement: Story continues below

The demonstration also included supporters of the plan, with an estimated 5000 Tea Party-backed protesters joining the throng and carrying signs reading ''Your Gravy Train Is Over … Welcome to the Recession'' and ''Sorry we're late Scott. We work for a living.''

The battle is proving a flashpoint for a national struggle over efforts by near-bankrupt states to repair stricken budgets.

Their predicament mirrors a similar struggle nationally in which Republicans and Democrats are at odds on how best to rein in the yawning deficit.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a measure in Saturday's pre-dawn hours that cuts $US61 billion from President Barack Obama's proposed budget. The move was immediately rejected by Senate Democrats and Mr Obama.

The President's blueprint to trim spending by more than $US1 trillion over the next decade is not enough for fiscally conservative Republicans.

The government is now funded through a stopgap spending measure that expires on March 4, a result of congressional disagreement last year.

A shutdown could delay Social Security payments, tax refunds and payments for veterans, Democrats claim.

A similar standoff in 1995 forced a government shutdown widely viewed as having backfired on the Republicans who controlled Congress.

Mr Obama has bought into the Wisconsin controversy, saying Mr Walker's move to eliminate collective bargaining rights ''seems like more of an assault on unions''.

Wisconsin faces a $US1.81 billion shortfall next year, equal to about 13 per cent of its budget, but it is by no means the worst-affected state. Nevada's deficit tops 45 per cent of its budget.

So far, 14 state Democrats have stymied Wisconsin's plan by denying the assembly a quorum, holing up in a hotel across the border in Illinois. They have been urged by Mr Walker to end their ''theatrics'' and return to allow a vote on his plan which, he says, is non-negotiable.

No comments:

Post a Comment