04th Mar 2011

Response from Rep. Bernier to my Email to the Cowards

Here is the response I got from Wisconsin Assembly Representative Bernier referring to the Democratic Senators as “cowards” for leaving the state rather than voting on the budget bill. He, along with other Wisconsin Assembly Members, got a copy of the letter sent to Sen. Vinehout. At least Ms. Bernier put some thought into her response.

Michael,

Thank you for contacting my office regarding the budget repair bill. I appreciate the time you took to share your views on this issue. I’ve heard from many constituents as well as from residents across our state and country.

 

I apologize if it has taken me an extended time to respond to your message. While my staff, which consists of a single legislative aide, has worked as quickly as possible to read e-mails, answer the phone and keep on top of what has been going on there has been a delay in how quickly we’ve been able to respond.

 

There can be no doubt that our state is in a severe financial crisis. We are facing a $137 million deficit in the current fiscal year and a $3.6 billion shortfall is looming over us in the next biennium. Action must be taken, and Wisconsin residents simply cannot afford to pay higher taxes to pay for this deficit.

 

This bill has passed the Assembly, and I voted in favor of the legislation. This was not an easy decision and it was not one I made without a great deal of thought and prayer. This will affect many residents in the district and across the state, myself included.  I understand that the pension and healthcare contributions will be difficult for many. Those of you who know me know I come from humble means, and after this they will be even more humble. I am not asking anyone to do something I am not willing to do myself, and will be paying the same portion of my healthcare and an even larger pension contribution than required for public employees.

 

I believe the passage of this legislation was essential to avoid serious consequences in our state. As many as 1,500 state workers could be laid off by June and another 6,000 by the end of the biennium. Nearly 200,000 children could lose their medical coverage. These are not acceptable alternatives. This is about putting our state on track to actually dealing with our budget crisis instead of pushing it ahead for future generations.

 

Public employees will be asked to contribute 5.8% of their pay to their pensions and 12.6% of the cost of their health insurance premiums and will still be able to form unions and collectively bargain for wages. This bill does not dismantle public unions, but does amend what kinds of bargaining can be done.

 

The cuts to shared revenue in the biennial budget bill will be deep. Local governments needs to have the flexibility to address these cuts and not be hampered by restrictive contracts bargained with public employee unions. This bill provides that flexibility while still allowing for the formation of public unions.

 

 

Public employees in Wisconsin will still enjoy one of the strongest civil service systems in the country. Among these protections are the accrual of leave benefits, civil service hiring practices, disciplinary processes and the assurance of a discrimination free workplace.

 

I did have some issues with the initial bill, which I addressed with the Assembly leadership. Among these concerns were the provisions regarding not providing LTEs (limited term employees) with benefits, and including a grievance process. I also suggested doing a graduated implementation of the healthcare and pension contributions. These first two concerns were addressed before final passage of the bill in the State Assembly, and while I still supported implementing the contributions more slowly in the end I had to vote either in support or against the bill as a whole.

 

This legislation was taken up in a transparent manner with a great deal of input from the public. 17 hours of testimony from Wisconsin residents was heard where nearly 1,000 Wisconsin residents shared their views. The State Assembly floor session in which the budget repair bill was addressed lasted over 60 hours. According to the Legislative Reference Bureau they have no record of a longer session in the history of our state. Finally, my office has met with, talked to and read e-mails from a great many constituents on both sides of the issue and I took into consideration all of these views before making my final decision.

 

Sincerely,

 

Kathy Bernier
State Representative
68th Assembly District

Comments are closed.

/* Start of Twitter Feed */ /* End of Twitter Feed */
  • View Michael Krebsbach's profile on LinkedIn
  • Add to Technorati Favorites