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Budget Repair Bill a Hot Topic at Sensenbrenner Town Hall Meeting

Despite some fireworks, Sensenbrenner forced to control cheers rather than jeers for much of his meeting on Sunday.

A packed Village Hall welcomed U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner back home to Menomonee Falls for a town hall meeting Sunday afternoon.

And while the congressman largely banged his gavel to subdue cheers rather than jeers, emotions were on edge at times when Wisconsin's budget repair bill was discussed.

State Rep. Dan Knodl (R‑Germantown) and Rep. Donald Pridemore (R-Hartford) joined Sensenbrenner Sunday. State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), whose district  includes Menomonee Falls, wasn’t present, and Sensenbrenner explained she had a prior engagement.

A small contingent of petitioners was outside Village Hall after the meeting collecting signatures to recall Darling and holding up signs.

As a member of Congress, Sensenbrenner has nothing to do with the budget repair bill signed into law on Friday that severely restricts collective bargaining for many public employees. But, as was the case at a similar meeting in  Wauwatosa last week, several of those in attendance aired their views on the controversial measure. This time, however, Sensenbrenner did not end the meeting abruptly.

Jim Trost, a special education teacher in the Horicon School District, was the most vocal in his opposition. He was concerned that cuts to education were removing resources and silencing the voice of children with special needs.

Before Trost spoke, Sensenbrenner had given him two warnings for speaking out during the meeting.

“For you to sit up there and say this isn’t going to affect jobs is ridiculous,” Trost said. “You’re going to take $900 million from education. What about those students?”

Trost continued to speak while Pridemore tried to answer his question. Sensenbrenner repeatedly banged his gavel and demanded that Trost allow Pridemore to speak.

“First of all, you are making predictions based upon little or no information or facts,” Pridemore said. “What we’re are asking teachers to do is take 5 or 10 percent of their paycheck and pay for part of their pension and health care. If this is Draconian, please state that.”

Trost demanded to know if he would be teaching 20 students without funding, and have his caseload double. After a heated exchange, Trost walked out of the meeting visibly frustrated.

“Nobody has the answers for it. They’re just going to cut and nobody has any answers,” Trost said forcefully.

Kevin Fullerton of Menomonee Falls also challenged Knodl and Pridemore to defend the budget repair bill, which he said uses public employees as a scapegoat to address budget woes. He questioned why it was necessary to disenfranchise people’s right to collectively bargain.

Knodl and Pridemore said unions have abused collective bargaining over the past 50 years. They reaffirmed the position held throughout the debate that the bill gives local governments more flexibility to address their deficits.

“There’s no joy in passing a law that leads to people taking home less pay," Knodl said. “The private sector has gone through and made those concessions.”

Federal issues on the front burner

While the state’s budget repair bill sparked a heated exchange, most people in attendance applauded Sensenbrenner’s positions on federal issues like the deficit, health care reform and energy.

In fact, Sensenbrenner repeatedly pounded his gavel after a majority of the crowd cheered in approval as he answered their questions regarding the federal issues.

Sensenbrenner said the House would refuse to fund portions of President Barack Obama’s health care reform, and has passed legislation to repeal the reform. Sensenbrenner also said the measure is unconstitutional.

“Supporters of this legislation, in my opinion, stretched the Commerce Clause by forcing people to buy a product from a private entity whether they wanted to or not,” Sensenbrenner said.

The federal government must also address a deep deficit of $14 trillion, and Sensenbrenner the country is teetering on a financial crisis, with the deficit at 100 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

“Greece’s economy completely fell apart when it hit 115 percent of their GDP and they had to be bailed out by Germany,” Sensenbrenner said. “Well, nobody is going to bail us out, so that means we have to put a brake on spending.”

Sensenbrenner said he will support U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s version of the budget. He said he opposes raising taxes during a recession describing it as a “prescription to disaster.”

Sensenbrenner said he also will work to tighten up enforcement of immigration laws.

“In terms of dealing with immigration, we don’t need a lot of new laws," he said. "We need a lot of new enforcement.”

Sensenbrenner wants to crack down on consequences for employers that hire illegal immigrants, make the E-Verify system for checking Social Security a requirement, step up patrols on the borders and force states to adopt Real ID driver’s license programs.

Energy also was a hot topic at the meeting, and Sensenbrenner said the House needs to pass an “all of the above” energy bill that includes expanded offshore drilling, uncapping wells, speeding up the process of building refineries and nuclear power plants, and a balanced portfolio of conservation and renewable energy.

“Every drop of oil we don’t import means it’s that much less we need to send to OPEC countries,” Sensenbrenner said. “Getting to energy independence means that people with strong opinions on both sides will need to compromise and modify their views.”

Robert Pape March 14, 2011 at 07:23 PM
Molly, do you see how they get down to degrading, lableing and other demeaning comments? These guys speak for themselves.. It isn't worth the keystrokes to respond really. Spend your time where it counts.. recalling Alberta Darling.
C T March 14, 2011 at 07:24 PM
If you are now going to comment about the BILLIONS, Molly, I am referring to "OVER TIME", not just one calendar year. I have an education...I know "reading, riting & rithmetic"...
David Keeling March 14, 2011 at 07:26 PM
The prank phone call only proved one thing! The Governor really did not know Mr. Koch very well if he did not recognize his voice or that of the prankster. When I heard his comment about the idea about bringing in thugs, I thought he said it in a tongue in cheek manner. No one in their right mind would think that he actually meant it. The Governor and the Republicans are trying to do what they think is right for the State of Wisconsin. If you don't agree, then run or campaign against them in the next elections. The recalls of the Republican senators are a bad precedent to set. Recalls should not be based on one vote but agregious or criminal acts such as being caught for shop lifting and solicting prostitution while in office (like the two democrat senators). I personally think that the AWOL 14 should be recalled, censured or something for dilection of duty. 60 hours of debate in the assembly (which was mostly a rehashing of the same points over and over) was more than reasonable. The previous administration and majority leaders did not afford that to the Republicans when they passed over 1 billion in new taxes and fees within 24 hours, two years ago. Where was the outcry about "trampling of Democracy back then? Oh, that'sokay when it about raising taxes but not when it is about limiting or decreasing taxes. Did the Republicans stage a tandrum or go AWOL then? No they stayed to debate another day and plan for the next elections which they did successly to their credit.
David Keeling March 14, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Well said!
molly brown March 14, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Haha C T. I have never ever belonged to a union and no one in my family does. But thanks to the unions we all have better working conditions, an 8 hour day, 40 hour work week and no child labor. Unions have improved the lives of all Americans and you should be thanking them. Speaking of plant though I think you probably work for the Koch brothers or someone involved with them. The Koch brothers are probably rolling over in their piles of dough laughing while they watch the middle class attack each other instead of blaming the rich on Wall Street for creating this economic mess we are in. You should watch the academy award winning movie about the Wall street Inside Job. Why has no one been held accountable for what they did?
molly brown March 14, 2011 at 07:46 PM
I think the fact that Scott Walker is the first governor of Wisconsin in 64 years to not have a college degree is something everyone should be concerned about since it says something about a person's character. Also, Jeff Stone, a Republican assemblyman, is now running for Milwaukee County Executive and he has said publicly that the county was mismanaged for years. And guess who was running the county before him? Scott Walker. Furthermore, Walker never ever disclosed what his intentions were during the election campaign thereby deceiving the public by making material omissions as to how he would govern. If had said then what he is doing now he NEVER would have been elected. Poll after poll done by numerous polling firms, including conservative ones, have shown that the vast majority of Wisconsin voters now disapprove of Walker and his actions and would not vote for him again.
molly brown March 14, 2011 at 07:49 PM
haha again CT. You can't accept the fact that thousands of Wisconsin voters are upset with Walker and the Republicans. I am Not a teacher and I don't live in Illinois. I am in fact a small business owner living in Wisconsin. Poll after poll shows the majority of Wisconsin voters do not approve of Walker and will not vote for him again so stop the name calling because you are insulting the majority of Wisconsinites.
molly brown March 14, 2011 at 07:51 PM
You are so correct Robert Pape.
C T March 14, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Geoge Soros is rolling in his "dough". Michael Moore is rolling over in his "piles of dough" too, Molly. They have a political agenda, see? I said I was a teacher, NOT working for AMERICAN moguls that put tens of thousands, if not millions of Americans to work and GOD BLESS THEM for it. Unions have done some good, I never said they didn't. But that was THEN, not now. Now, the money is political and has an agenda. Do you know that Wisconsin has excellent "rights" for workers and that Walker didn't change any of the laws to take them away? The TRUTH and FREEDOM have NO agenda. My grandfather, father and brother all worked for unions...hated them. Hated "strike" lines, hated government "cheese" and picket lines. They (and most of the guys they worked with) wanted to WORK. Ever notice how many "fat-cats" are Democrats? Notice that many of the mortgage firms that led us into this financial mess are "friends" with the likes of Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi? THEY are PROGRESSIVES. Trickle down? How 'bout WORK FOR WHAT YOU GET and GIVE FREELY, not FORCIBLY?
C T March 14, 2011 at 08:08 PM
I name call no one. I never said I was a Republican, either. By saying I am, are you not name calling yourself, Molly? By the way, polls don't mean a whole heck of a lot. When you ask 200, 400, 600 people a question, and there are millions of residents, nothing is definitive. The way a question is asked can also skew an answer. A poll taken by CNN, MSNBC, FOX or any other organization will have completely different numbers, even if the same question is asked. I think the VOTING BOOTHS are a true reflection. The people spoke in November and we will have that chance again in the not too distant future. It is AWESOME that Walker, Christie, Bachman, Vitter and others are trying to fix their states and our country. Each and every dollar saved is one less that we have to borrow from China. Wisconsin is, was and will always be a GREAT state. As Governor Walker would say, "Let's get Wisconsin Working Again!"
David Keeling March 14, 2011 at 08:11 PM
I think Walker ran on the promise that he would fix Wisconsin structural deficit which has been ignored by previous admins. The limiting of collective bargaining prilveges of public employees allows the local units of governments to get a handle on their fiscal situations in the short and long term. The advances in worker safety and working conditions were achieved and continued to be achieved by unions in the private sectors where they belong. Municipal, County and State level units of Government do not go out of business and their constituents cannot take their " business" elsewhere if they do not like the service or price. There is no limit to the "demands" of public employee unions as there is in the private sector (the company is non-competitive and goes out of business).
David Keeling March 14, 2011 at 08:12 PM
and Moore didn't use union crews on most of his movies, Great example for the union crowd!
mike pearl March 14, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Obama refuses to release any of his school trascripts from any of the schools he claims he went to. Could this be because the genius had worse grades than the idiot Al Gore?
mike pearl March 14, 2011 at 10:11 PM
The only thing having a degree says about your character is that you are prone to being a sphincter muscle.
mike pearl March 14, 2011 at 10:14 PM
What would ever make you think lefties are in their right mind?
molly brown March 14, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Mike Pearl too bad it sounds like you couldn't make it in college. Maybe you need to read the US Census Bureau report titled: " "The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings" (.pdf) reveals that over an adult's working life, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor's degree, $2.1 million; and people with a master's degree, $2.5 million.
Jerry March 14, 2011 at 10:41 PM
Molly, I've been rooting for you on this thread of argument, but......... Those census numbers are probably something someone pulled out of their butt. I wouldn't put much stock in them. If someone with an advanced degree was helping with their production (read, an academic), they probably have a conflict of interest. Just saying........
molly brown March 14, 2011 at 10:44 PM
mike pearl I guess you never learned how to do research. Obama graduated from Columbia University in 1983 with a degree in political science. He specialized in international relations. His grades were obviously high enough to get into Harvard where he graduated magna cum laude from the Law School (the second highest honor available) in 1991. He also was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, a very prestigious honor. I highly doubt that you could even get into Columbia let alone Harvard. Al Gore is also a graduate of Harvard and a winner of numerous prestigious awards including the Nobel peace prize, a Grammy and an Emmy and was the subject of an Academy award winning movie. Al Gore is probably a genius. And what ivy league schools have you atteneded? And what awards have you gotten?
molly brown March 14, 2011 at 10:56 PM
Well I think it is safe to say that college graduates do earn more than high school graduates. Just look at the starting salaries being offered to college graduates. Also the US Dept of Labor has extensive records on salaries, education etc. They have collected tons of data on this and their results say the same thing. In fact their website is very useful and full of information.
Jeff Christensen March 15, 2011 at 01:22 AM
I find great comedy in the post by Keith Best, a member of the executive committee of the Waukesha GOP. He is fortunately wrong, as this is a movement being organized by & staffed by Wisconsinites. These are hard-working people who are tired of phony politicians who run on a platform of moderation, then legislate like an extreme right-winger. The Scott Walkers & Alberta Darlings are the best organizers the Democratic Party or the Labor Movement in this state have seen in a long, long time.
molly brown March 15, 2011 at 01:54 AM
And there is an interesting development with regard to another Republican Senator who is part of the recall group. This is State Senator Randy Hopper who represents Fond du Lac. Apparently some protesters were out in front of his house this weekend when his wife came out and said that he no longer lives there but with his 25 year old mistress in Madison! She also reportedly said that she is going to sign the recall petition too!
C Couch March 15, 2011 at 01:58 AM
I think Sensebrenner needs to back off on the Real ID Act. Driver licenses are a state issue and should not be micromanaged by the federal government. One item in it is very dangerous was the Driver License Agreement - sharing data not only within the US but also with Canada and Mexico as a start. I don't want cops in Mexico and even in some states here in the US to lookup my personal information like SS# for example ! We are broke and Congress needs to focus on balancing the budget and until that happens, other items like the Real ID Act needs to be on the back burner or better yet, repealed !
Andy Smith March 15, 2011 at 02:18 AM
To C Couch: Part of the reason we're broke is the money we have to spend on people who break our laws, disrespect our nation, and arrive and stay here illegally. The driver's license is a perfectly legitimate form of government photo ID that does not need to be reinvented. Use them. They allow people to drive on state and federal highways and are universal forms of ID. To Molly Brown: You seem to truly enjoy throwing mud. You seem to truly enjoy undermining if not destroying personal reputations of people whom you disagree with. Every post from you is a bitter, angry, miserable, demeaning rant. Man, that is really sad. Those of us who read your never-ending bile and vitriol feel for you and hope you'll find some inner peace and self-forgiveness.
Chad Black March 15, 2011 at 02:43 AM
I'm more concerned that if Mr. Best is indeed a Republican leader that he's advocating that college isn't necessary. This just says to me that he's helping to lead the charge to us becoming Wississippi and that our kids should be ill educated at best.
Keith Best March 15, 2011 at 04:19 AM
Jeff-- I get email blasts sent to me from OFA and MoveOn.org. Call it what you want, but I know the drill. I read Saul Alinsky's book too. Governor Walker is doing exactly what we voted for him to do.
Keith Best March 15, 2011 at 04:22 AM
Chad-- I am advocating that we can't spend more money than we have.
Jeff Christensen March 15, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Keith- You should know as well as anyone that national organizations on both sides leverage the news cycle to fundraise. I would appreciate it if you would stop asserting you somehow know the mechanics of this movement when you clearly don't. I'll give you credit though: You do know how to follow your talking points. You did work "Saul Alinsky", "Moveon.org", "Organizing for America" and "Chicago Thugs" into one thread.
M C March 17, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Real change is hard to make, and anyone who attempts it in government is bound to be the scapegoat of any variety of opposition special interest groups. Throughout the Madison debacle I tired of hearing protestors rant that Gov. Walker was not listening to the people. It seems to me that, following on the heels of a general election, listening to the people is just what he was doing. Can there really be any question that the citizens of Wisconsin elected Walker to change the direction of the state govt.? I don't think so. We have serious fiscal problems, and addressing them requires serious actions. The number of public union employees, relative to the WI population, is quite small. They are not being stripped of all rights, but only are being asked to make sacrifices similar to what most private sector folks have already made. Just because unions were key in several social changes over the past 80 years like the forty hour workweek, etc., does not mean that in the contemporary context they are still of the same value or addressing the same basic issues of justice and fairness and worker protection that they once did. We live in a very very different climate from the one out of which the unions grew. The rights of workers are well-protected by law. Some would argue that some worker rights are even over-protected such that some workers cannot even be held accountable for their work any more. Unions now function just like many other special interest groups.
M C March 17, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Unions do not have the same importance they once did for most workers, and they have a dark side as well, with more than their fair share of corruption. We can all nitpick at Walker or the Democratic 14 senators, or whoever. In politics there are always little stuff that special interests on each side use against the other. This seems to me a disservice to the broader political and social discussion. It distracts from the main issues by substituting frivolous ones. Do we really need to have an extended debate over Scott Walker's collegiate experience, or Obama's birth certificate, or all the other petty issues that are thrown back and forth? The real issue here is how to fix a largely broken government fiscal policy. It seems to me that we have tried one approach for several years. It seems fair that we could at least give Walker's approach a chance. There are uncertainties in every policy decision, but this could work out for the good of Wisconsin, all of Wisconsin. It would be nice to cool the rhetoric and give this some time to work.
David Keeling March 17, 2011 at 02:11 PM
MC: I totally agree with your comments above. Thanks for trying to be level headed.

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