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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

 5:44 PM 

Assembly session begins

The Assembly debate has begun on state employee contracts.

Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbottsford, said it was unfortunate that Democrats are pushing through public sector contracts at a time when 235,000 workers statewide are out of work.

"It's too bad we're here today to only vote on contracts for public employees," he said.

"Where's the extraordinary session for the private folks out there who are struggling to get by?"

He said the contracts were moving too quickly, before the public, or lawmakers, know what exactly they contain.

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said Dems pushed through 50 economic development initiatives in this session.

"Every day was a special day to try to deal with people who lost jobs," he said.

Responding to Suder, he said lawmakers have a duty to vote on state worker contracts.

"We don't approve contracts for (private sector) people," he said. "This is our job."

Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said Dems would likely make national news for the lengths they went to in order to get the votes to pass the contracts, a reference to Rep. Jeff Wood, I-Chippewa Falls, who is serving jail time with Huber privileges for a drunk driving conviction but is here for the vote.

Fitzgerald said votes like this are why voters are fed up with Dems and why they were tossed out in favor of Republicans in the November elections.

Rep. Marlin Schneider, the Wisconsin Rapids Dem who was defeated in November after 40 years in the Assembly, called Republicans hypocritical because they are public employees who enjoy taxpayer-paid health care and retirement benefits and draw a paycheck from state government.

"Unions negotiated those benefits that you now enjoy," he said.

Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, said he takes issue with how public employees have been treated in this process. He said the contract proposals include $100 million in health care savings for the state, but the fact is lost as the debate has been taken over by "hyperbole and demagoguery."

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said union workers in the private sector have agreed to concessions much larger than those laid on state employees in these contracts. He said Republicans are trying to "create more equity between public employees and the private sector."


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