Scott Walker, the Governor of Wisconsin, is trying to distinguish himself from the crowded field of candidates by taking the most extreme positions in opposition to working people and the middle class (he long ago blew off the poor). Over the weekend, he lobbied a few more grenades at working people and the poor. As has recently become customary among governors who don’t like debate, he tried to stuff some ugly provisions into the state budget at the last minute. Having won election and then beat back a recall, he has to answer only to the people funding his campaign.
Only one hurdle stands between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his upcoming bid for the White House: passing a budget to keep his state chugging for the next two years.
After months of uproar over provisions to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from state universities and strip the values of “truth” and “service” from their mission, lawmakers in Madison missed their July 1 deadline to pass the budget.
In the ensuing scramble, Governor Walker and his allies in the statehouse used the 4th of July holiday weekend to insert several more controversial provisions into the massive document, which local press called “a grab bag of pet projects.” Walker and Republican lawmakers have already been forced to retreat on one of them: a gutting of the state’s open records law that would have barred reporters and the public from accessing the documents that reveal how laws are written, including drafts and e-mails between state lawmakers.
But the other additions remain, including provisions that censor information about police shootings, scrap factory workers’ right to one day off per week, and completely eliminate the state’s 100-year-old definition of a “living wage,” which now says workers deserve pay that provides “minimum comfort, decency, physical and moral well-being.” This major change, which has received far less attention than the open records law rewrite, would strip the state’s Department of Workforce Development of the power to to investigate complaints that an employee is not being paid a living wage, and would replace “living wage” with “minimum wage” throughout Wisconsin’s laws.
The change to the wage law comes just as low-income workers in the state are suing Governor Walker for refusing to consider their complaint that the current state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is not a living wage.