Wisconsin Wave

Uniting Wisconsinites for democracy and shared prosperity

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Tuesday was far from a typical day at the Capitol.

Public hearings don't usually lead to blocked access to lawmakers' offices, or to restricted stairwells that are only accessible to lawmakers and the media.

Four big-screen TVs have never before been set up so members of the public who can't fit inside the hearing room can watch the proceedings, while thousands of people chant "Kill this bill, kill this bill," a cheer that has become the slogan of a movement.

By noon, the sounds inside the Capitol resembled those of cheering fans at a college basketball game, as 10,000 people stretched from the Capitol steps down State Street with roughly 3,000 filing inside, stomping, shouting and carrying signs that read "Midwest Mussolini," "Welcome to Cairo," and "I am not replaceable. I am professional."

But the voices of those who have converged on the Capitol may be too late. If anything, the man who protesters wanted to hear them was touring the state to promote the same bill the crowds had gathered to oppose.

Before a 10 a.m. Joint Finance Committee meeting was under way, it was reported that Gov. Scott Walker, despite his absence, had enough votes in the GOP-controlled Legislature to pass his budget repair bill.

You'd think the news would deflate the protestors spilling into the Capitol.

Instead, some, like state employees Neal Gleason and Tamra Oman, both from the Fox Valley, said it is time for a few Republicans to separate themselves from the mantra of their party.

"It's time for some Republican senator to have the courage to stand up against this," said Gleason, a teacher for the state for 34 years.

Ruth Ann Summers, who drove two hours from her home in southwestern Wisconsin to support the rights of union employees, said although lawmakers say they have the votes to pass Walker's budget repair bill, lawmakers should still pay attention to the voices of the people.

The bill would strip all collective bargaining rights except wage negotiations from state union workers, discontinue providing health and retirement benefits to the state's qualified limited term employees, and, among other things, drastically overhaul funding and Legislative oversight for Medicaid.

"Hopefully, some of the more moderate Republicans will really look at what is going on and what is being proposed," said Summers, whose husband is a retired teacher. "I don't think all of this is for naught."

Oman added that she feels embarrassed for the state of Wisconsin.

"I don't want to believe that it's true, that they have already made up their minds (on how they will vote)," she said. "It's almost easier to believe they just don't understand what they are doing."

By most accounts, the bill is moving, with Walker expected to sign it into law by the time he gives his budget address next Tuesday.

Walker maintains that the budget repair bill is necessary to compensate for a $137 million shortfall in the current budget that ends June 30.

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