As union members protest, Republican state senators await the opportunity to vote, and Democrats hang on to a glimmer of hope induced by the fleeing of their 14 senators.
The state’s capitol is home to a variety of competing viewpoints.
But as the controversy surrounding Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill continues to accumulate just down the road from a well-known university, one question may have been ironically forgotten. That is, what do students have to say?
Chris Holland and Brennan Lunzer, freshmen at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, participated in the rallies, and said their professor led them from class to protest last Thursday.
“He had a scheduled ‘walk-out time’ where he just stood up and marched out of the classroom,” Holland said. “Obviously not every teacher did this, but ours walked down here and started protesting alongside us.”
Although the bill doesn’t target students, both Holland and Lunzer said they fear the implications it could have on their school. There has been talk of UW-Madison separating itself from the University of Wisconsin System.
“If we separate from the system, it could possibly affect the quality of teachers we have, and what research the school can do,” Lunzer said. “Not only would tuition increase, but the value of our degree could possibly go down.”
However, UW-Madison students were not the only ones with opinions. The rallies attracted college kids from across the state.
Jenna Pope, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, chanted her views while wearing a Batman costume. She said the costume signified justice and doing the right thing.
“When people hear the word ‘protest,’ they expect a bunch of angry human beings,” Pope said. “But all of us have been singing and dancing. Honestly, we’re just having a good time for a good cause.”
Many opponents of the bill agree the protesting is exciting, but also recognize the importance of stopping the bill.
Anne Taylor, a senior in Marquette’s College of Arts & Sciences and president of the College Democrats, said Walker proposed a “union-busting bill.” She said unions know it is necessary to concede to paying more on health care and pensions, but taking away most of their bargaining rights is a partisan action.
“Wisconsin has fought for the rights of the working class for decades,” Taylor said in an e-mail. “People across the country have looked to our state for the way forward in worker safety and compensation, among other rights. … Some people might not understand the impact of this, but it will severely impact our political process.”
Taylor also said she expects there to be a recall of the governor next January if the bill passes, and that she will continue to protest and help ensure Democratic senators remain in office.
For other Marquette students, though, it has been as much of a fight to defend the bill as it has been to oppose it.
Ethan Hollenberger, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration and president of the College Republicans, believes Walker’s bill is essential in reducing the state’s budget deficit.
“Walker is using the legislative process,” he said. “There are about 75 legislators who agree with the governor on this matter.”
The public may be siding with the governor as well. According to a Rasmussen poll released Monday, nearly 50 percent of the state agrees with the governor, and roughly one third agree with the fleeing Democrats.
However, a USA Today/Gallup Poll this week shows 61 percent of Americans would oppose a similar proposal to limit bargaining rights in their state, while 33 percent would favor such a measure.
In regards to the 14 Democrats that fled the state last week, Hollenberger believes they need to return immediately. He said checks and balances force the governor to pass bills through the legislature, which is democracy.
“If you look at what the Assembly Dems. are doing, they are introducing about 100 amendments and stalling the bill,” he said. “Why couldn’t the Senate Dems. do that? They are cowards refusing to debate the bill, and are embarrassing the state.”
Tony Rusch, a sophomore in the College of Communication, agreed the bill is necessary to fix the state’s budget. He said the budget was a cornerstone of Walker’s campaign and he was transparent in his promises.
“This issue, however, is convoluted,” he said. “Most protesters picketing outside the capital are seemingly unconcerned about their health and pension benefits. … They are disgruntled about Walker’s intent to oust collective bargaining, rendering their unions virtually powerless.”