Wisconsin’s soul hurts under Gov. Scott Walker
“The Soul of Wisconsin is a sacred thing” are the words of poet Marijane Curry. The “Soul of Wisconsin” has a proud heritage of working together for the good of all citizens.
The “Soul of Wisconsin” is bruised and battered by a “divide and conquer” governor, as he told billionaire Diane Hendricks, who donated $500,000 to Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, according to Mother Jones. The strategy was to pit good, hardworking families, friends and neighbors against each other. Walker bragged about “dropping the bomb,” according to the Capital Times.
Let’s look at the results in 2014.
Jobs lost: About 200 in January; 9,500 in February, only North Carolina reported more job losses; 500 in May; 1,200 in June, according to the Capital Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Cuts to public education: Wisconsin and Alabama lead the U.S. in cuts to public schools. Wisconsin’s spending is down $1,038 from 2008 (15.3 percent less), $1.6 billion was cut in the 2011-2013 budget.
Local school districts are forced to cut services, raise taxes, or both. These cuts are having a profound impact especially on rural schools.
By 2014-2015, Wisconsin taxpayers have spent an estimated $1.8 billion sending students to private or religious schools, according to the Badger Herald and Capital Times. The total could be much higher. All parents, regardless of income, who send children to taxpayer subsidized private schools receive tax deductions for each child — estimated cost, $30 million in 2014-2015.
Closing public schools: The Department of Public Instruction would have to issue a grade of “F” to at least five percent of the state’s schools, about 100, each year under a proposal in the legislature in 2014. Public schools would close, or reopen as private charter schools with no local control. This proposal will be revisited in 2015. Read the report by Gordon Lafer: “Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower Quality Education than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin’s increasing debt: Walker issued new debt of $558 million to make payments for 2011-2012. This debt increases the amount of interest taxpayers will pay.
The percentage of general tax dollars for 2013-2014 to make current debt payments is the highest since 1970 — 5.26 percent of general fund revenue. About $738 million in general fund dollars are being used for debt payments, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
An additional $2.05 billion in borrowing was authorized in the 2013-2015 budget.
No wonder the “Soul of Wisconsin” — yours and mine — is hurting. We deserve better.