Why did Sen. Vinehout go to Illinois with the Wisconsin 14 during the budget debate?
The Governor now likes to portray his budget bill as a reasonable proposal that was going to be debated in the normal way, and the Wisconsin 14 left the state because we were not getting our way.
That is not the way it was, however. The Governor himself described the cabinet meeting before introducing his budget as “the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb.” He and his legislative leaders weren’t looking to start a debate. They were planning a massive, sneak attack. The 144 page bill was introduced on Monday and the vote for final passage in the Senate was scheduled the same Thursday. The Governor wanted to change long-standing Wisconsin traditions before anyone knew, or had a chance to find out, all that was in the bomb. They wanted to do their deed with extraordinary speed and secrecy.
The 14 had no choice but to take extraordinary action,- and using a provision in the Wisconsin Constitution- we slowed down the process and gave people time to understand what was happening. We showed people what was in the bill, not only the crushing of workers’ rights, but the selling off of state assets in ‘no bid’ contracts, the chipping away of the civil service system put in place by Governor Bob La Follette in 1905, the centralization of power in the Governor’s office and page after page of changes in the state’s health programs giving an un-elected political appointee the power to make massive changes in programs vital to Wisconsin’s families.
We didn’t want to leave. It was an inconvenient, uncomfortable and extremely busy time. When I was in Illinois, almost 27,000 people wanted first to be informed and then to express their concerns. When they found out, 75% did not like what was in the bomb. They asked me in no uncertain terms to ‘kill the bill’. If I had not left, I would not have been doing my job.