As collective bargaining rights for public employees seem on the verge of getting severely curtailed in Wisconsin, contract extensions for public unions seem in vogue. The La Crosse city council gave unanimous approval of an extension for its largest union Thursday night. A two year extension with modest one percent per year annual raises and higher employee contributions to health and pension benefits. The contract extensions also include elimination of no-layoff provisions. Under the conditions, says union head Rich Smith, it was the best deal available.
The Reverand Jesse Jackson will encourage UW-La Crosse students to get out to vote and speak about voter registration issues during a bus tour to college campuses across Wisconsin early next week. Jackson, an American civil rights leader who ran for president in 1984 and 1988, will speak at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 29th, at Valhalla Cartwright Center-Gunning Addition at UW-L. Jackson starts his tour Monday at UW-Oshkosh. He’ll speak at four other campuses, ending at UW-Madison. Jackson plans to tackle issues such as the rising cost of tuition and proposed changes to same day voter registration and voter identification and how these changes affect students. The UW-L Student Senate wrote a letter to Gov. Scott Walker earlier in the semester expressing concern about changes to same day voter registration and the voter ID bill.
High school seniors who signed the Wisconsin Covenant Pledge need to realize the program is not a victim of state budget cuts. Jamin Whitman, UW-La Crosse’s new Wisconsin Covenant Coordinator, says the program is full steam ahead for the initial class who signed the covenant as eighth graders and entering college this fall.
She says it’s important for high school seniors who signed the pledge four years ago to realize they must take action by April 1st. To be recognized as a Covenant Scholar and to receive grant money, students must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a Wisconsin Covenant Confirmation Form by April 1st. Approved scholars will receive at least $250 for each of the next four years, with potential for more depending on financial need.
While the program is set to expire under the governor’s current budget proposal, Whitman says current eighth graders are still eligible, but they must sign the pledge by September 30th.
Whitman says along with providing financial aid, the Wisconsin Covenant program at UW-La Crosse will provide other assistance when the scholars arrive on campus. The services include:
• Referrals to appropriate campus resources
In Wisconsin, you won't find long lists of people who have run for office with the intention of getting rid of that office. But that's what Kurt Schuller promised as he campaigned for the office of State Treasurer. And that's what he intends to do. Schuller's drafted a constitutional amendment that will cut his office and that of the Secretary of State. The constitutional amendment process will require two consecutive legislatures to agree before it heads to a statewide ballot. Schuller's confident the measure will pass because the time has passed since either office has duties that justify having constitutional officer status. Current Secretary of State Doug LaFollette is not as enthused about the proposal as Schuller.
There may be some argument about some of the cuts or spending priorities in governor Walker's two year budget plan. But there's little argument that the state will be in better fiscal shape if his spending proposal is adopted. That's the analysis from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. The group doesn't endorse the budget but does say that spending cuts will decrease the amount of growth in the state's official deficit significantly. The amount of red ink on the state's financials will still be above three billion dollars but that's only slightly more than it is now. And that's also after the deficit more than tripled from ten years ago.