There are plenty of adjectives you could use to describe Wisconsin’s political climate in 2011. Perhaps passionate or volatile.
The state is known for being evenly-split politically – purple - with independents often determining elections. But partisans have been zealous, even among family and friends, according to Jeri Bonavia, executive director of WAVE - the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort.
“These days, bring up the wrong topic whether it’s unions or whether it’s carrying guns in public, and suddenly the conversation becomes heated in a way that we haven’t seen in the past,” Bonavia says.
In today’s installment of Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval, WUWM’s Marge Pitrof reports on challenges to civility.
While WUWM is spending the week exploring Wisconsin’s political climate in our series, Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval, the state elections chief came to town. Government Accountability Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy spoke to reporters Wednesday at the Milwaukee Press Club. WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson had an opportunity to question him about this unprecedented year of recalls and new voting rules.
We now continue Project Milwaukee: State of Upheaval. All week, we’re exploring the impact of Wisconsin’s divisive political climate this year, mixed with a tough economy. Tuesday, we reported on some winners of the new Republican majority’s agenda, including business interests and social conservatives.
Today, we focus on entities that lost ground, the biggest – public workers. Gov. Walker’s budget required them to pay more for their health insurance and pensions, in order to ease the state deficit. The GOP went one step further in 2011, by stripping most public unions of all rights except to bargain for limited wage increases. As WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson reports, angered public workers are now part of a massive effort to recall the governor.
It was nearly a year ago that Gov. Walker proclaimed - Wisconsin is open for business. In order to re-enforce that message, his administration successfully advanced a number of tax breaks to encourage businesses to hire and even relocate to the state. There was some bipartisan support for the incentives, although Democrats labeled them marginal and later blasted the governor and Republican lawmakers for slashing money from things such as education. Still, Walker maintains Wisconsin is in a much better place with a balanced budget and improved business climate. Is that the case? WUWM’s LaToya Dennis posed the question to Abdur Chowdhury. He’s chair of Marquette University’s Department of Economics.