Sheboygan’s Emil Mazey Hall was packed Thursday night. Every seat was filled. Folks lined the walls and sat on the floor.
They were there to talk about one thing: recalling Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
The recall drive does not begin until Nov. 15, but teachers and Teamsters, nurses and firefighters, small-business owners and small farmers could not wait. The talk was of staying up until midnight on the 14th so that they could sign the recall petitions at 12:01 a.m. on the 15th.
Despite the silly spin of the governor and his dwindling circle of defenders, enthusiasm for the removal of Walker and Kleefisch is not running high just in Dane County and Milwaukee. It’s a statewide phenomenon, and it is growing.
Why? It’s not just that the governor attacked labor rights, public education and public services with his “budget repair bill” and budget bill.
The anger with Walker is fueled by the mess he has made of Wisconsin’s economy. Since his policies began to take hold, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has spiked. While the jobless rate nationally has remained relatively steady, Wisconsin’s rate is up from 7.3 percent earlier this year to 7.8 percent now. The September job figures were dismal. According to the state Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin had a net loss — yes, an actual loss — of 900 private-sector jobs. A total of 11,500 government jobs were lost.
Faced with those figures, Walker should be using his “Back to Work” special session of the Legislature to get serious about the jobs crisis.
Instead, he has let it degenerate into a bizarre session that seems to be emphasizing everything but job creation.
Last week the “Back to Work” session saw Republican legislators focusing on:
1. Changing rules and regulations for sex education classes.
2. Reducing access to women’s health programs.
3. Changing rules for hunting antlerless deer.
4. Creating new regulations for displaying fertilizer in farm stores.
5. Increasing class sizes so that teaching and learning will become harder in our public schools.
The final item is the ugly one. The Legislature is using this session to implement radical shifts in education policy designed to make things tougher for teachers and unions. In particular, they are moving to loosen the requirements on school districts participating in the SAGE program, which provides schools added state funds for low-income students if the schools provide smaller class sizes in certain grades. The legislation that was moving through the Legislature last week would allow a school board to skip the class size limits.
Making it harder for teachers to teach and for students to learn is not a job-creation plan. Enlightened employers look at a state that is making moves like this and they decide to locate elsewhere.
Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch are promoting a job-killing agenda. That’s why so many Wisconsinites — from Spring Green to Superior, from Stoughton to Sheboygan — are so excited to recall them.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org