Assembly Democrats had planned to propose more than 200 amendments to the biennial budget that the chamber voted on Wednesday. But in a surprise move, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, simply announced that his caucus was ready to vote.
The Wisconsin progressive tradition tends more toward a fight-it-to-the-bitter-end approach, especially when a budget is as fundamentally flawed as this one.
But it is easy to understand the frustration of Assembly Democrats, whose efforts to work with the Republican majority were so frequently thwarted during the budget-writing process.
There are certainly plenty of partisans who think it is appropriate for the party that has achieved majority status to eschew meaningful collaboration with representatives of the minority party. Indeed, when the majority party has a clear mandate, that’s to be expected.
But Assembly Republicans don’t have a clear mandate.
Remember that, in 2011, Assembly district lines were gerrymandered by Republican leaders to favor their party’s candidates. The strategy worked, giving the GOP overwhelming 60-39 control of the chamber after the 2012 election.
But that wasn’t what the voters of Wisconsin wanted.
In 2012, Democrats won 53 percent of the 2.7 million votes cast statewide for Assembly seats across Wisconsin, compared with just 46 percent for Republicans.
According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis, Democrats had a 174,000 vote advantage in races for Assembly seats.
If Wisconsin had representative democracy that reflected the will of the people – via proportional representation – the state would have a very different Assembly. And a very different budget.
As it is, the Assembly that was elected with a minority of the vote has enacted a budget that fails the majority of Wisconsinites.
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