LETTER: Poitical banter dominates
With the all recall rhetoric settling into the usual left vs. right war of words, it's worth reviewing the events that actually sparked this historic election.
In a recent interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reflecting on this year's budget process and the protests that followed, Governor Scott Walker said "What I should have done from a political standpoint is build that case sooner," he said. "I focused on getting it done."
That's the problem.
Once upon a time in Wisconsin, we had a process for that: when leaders would "build that case" prior to "getting it done." Back then, we used a deliberate, open legislative process. It wasn't always tidy, convenient or expeditious. But it was very democratic.
The governor knows this. Candidate Scott Walker campaigned specifically against loading the budget with non-fiscal policy changes that might not pass on their own. Yet that's how he chose to get it done.
And long before Walker campaigned for governor, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf explained why this way of getting it done is wrong for Wisconsin. In a 2009 speech before the state senate, she said.
"You know, it's often said that the reason non-fiscal policy is put into the budget is because it doesn't have the support to pass through a standing committee and through both houses. We have the responsibility to make sure that the public has input, and provides the scrutiny so that we're doing the right thing."
Two years ago, her high regard for the role of the legislature was commendable. Today, it seems virtually non-existent. Last February, Governor Scott Walker introduced a budget repair bill loaded with enormous policy changes that were non-fiscal. The bill gave him authority to sell state property on a no-bid basis without legislative oversight. It turned three dozen civil service positions in fifteen state agencies into his political appointments--positions responsible for open records requests from the public. It gave him power to revamp Medicaid without legislative oversight or public input. And--the big attention-getter--it rolled back fifty years of state labor law. Each of these issues should have stood alone under the scrutiny Sen. Harsdorf used to respect and uphold.
I know many reasonable people who agree with the governor's agenda and philosophy, but all of us need to worry about the way in which he and Sen. Harsdorf "got it done."
They have drastically lowered the bar on how we make laws in Wisconsin. We should worry further about the flow of authority from the 132-member legislature into the hands of one executive.
Even Republicans should be concerned about the new rules that Walker and Harsdorf are writing. This is not a "red state," nor is it a "blue state." In my lifetime, the governor's party has changed eight times; the legislative majority has changed at least that many. When the next Democratic governor and legislature move into Madison, suppose they follow the Walker/Harsdorf's model? Imagine the next group of Democrat leaders passing a budget that contains a repeal of "conceal and carry," a repeal of "voter i.d." and a fresh law on bargaining for public employees. Just "getting it done."
The outrage to follow would be justified. But, according to Walker, all they'd have to do, once they thought the dust had settled, is say, "Oops. Maybe we should have built a case first."
Senator Harsdorf's fingerprints are all over this perversion of our political traditions in Wisconsin. She needs to be held accountable.