Wisconsin Senate and Assembly Bill 11, known as the Budget Repair Bill, has been the source of demonstrations and debate since its introduction on Feb. 11. Fourteen Democratic senators left the state preventing the bill from being passed by the Republican majority in the Senate. These senators remain in neighboring Illinois and the bill is on hold. It passed the Republican controlled Assembly on a voice vote.
The most controversial item in the bill is the repeal of collective bargaining for all state and municipal employees, with the exception of police and firefighters. The bill also eliminates all boards and agencies which were established to negotiate with these workers. The bill increases the contribution employees make toward their health insurance and pensions. There are other provisions of the bill which do not deal with workers’ salary or benefits
The bill proposed by Gov. Walker gives authority to the Dept. of Administration to sell or lease state owned power plants and utilities without the approval of the Public Service Commission. Specifically, the language states these plants can be sold or leased without public bids or oversight from the state’s independent utility regulator or the legislature.
The bill gives emergency powers to the governor’s appointed health secretary to redefine the state’s Medicaid and Badger Care programs. These programs provide health care to the low income seniors and disabled residents of the state. The emergency powers will allow the secretary to establish new income limits for eligibility up to 133 percent of income, if federal waivers cannot be attained. Benefit changes, premium charges, and reimbursement schedules can also be established by the health secretary. Under the emergency rule authority, changes would be immediate.
The bill converts the job status of 37 unnamed state employees from civil servants to appointees of the governor. The bill further gives the governor the right to declare a state of emergency. During this time, a state employee can be discharged for not showing up for work for three consecutive days due to a work protest.
The bill restructures the payment of GO Bonds, saving $165 million and deferring the debt to be paid in the future. There are several shifting of funds specified in the bill using surplus money in one area and applying it to other areas which were underfunded. This bill has passed the assembly but the senate could still amend it before it passes that body.