Thousands of workers, students and union supporters rallied at the capitol of Wisconsin Saturday to protest against Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s cynical ploy to use the state’s budget woes as an excuse to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Like many governors across the nation Gov. Walker is faced with a budget crisis due to the recession, rising health and pension costs and the upcoming cuts in state aid. Many governors will oppose raising taxes and instead propose mass layoffs and drastic cuts in social services to close gaping budget deficits in their states.

However, Walker is using the fiscal crisis to push a conservative agenda.

If the governor’s proposal was based on simply trying to close the state’s $137 million shortfall, why did he and the Republican-controlled legislature just last month give away $117 million in tax breaks to businesses?

In addition to cutting workers pay and benefits, Gov. Walker is using the budget crisis to propose legislation to advance a politically-motivated attack on unions. He is not alone. Similar legislation is being considered in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

In an interview with a Wisconsin TV station, President Obama said, “Some of what I heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions.” He said it was wrong to “vilify” these workers “or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous also weighed in, saying, “The NAACP, our 1,200 branches and youth and college chapters stand with the teachers, workers, public employees and thousands of Wisconsin residents in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s short-sighted budget.”

“As this nation pulls itself out of the Great Recession, balancing state budgets should not be done on the backs of the workers that provide vital services to our communities,” said Jealous.

In the coming days many politicians and pundits will portray the protesters in Wisconsin as unreasonable and unwilling to commit to shared sacrifices during a time of fiscal crisis.

However Mary Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin state Employees union, the state’s largest public employee union, said Wisconsin public employees are prepared to discuss financial concessions.

The governor has refused to negotiate with union leaders and rebuffed a request to meet with opposing Senate Democrats to seek a compromise.

Governor makes right ­decision in clinic case

Governor Tom Corbett was right to fire several state employees and overhaul two state agencies in the wake of allegations that a Philadelphia doctor performed illegal abortions that killed a patient and viable infants.

The governor said that the state’s abortion clinics would be subjected to stricter oversight as a result of the investigation into the Women Medical Society, an abortion clinic in West Philadelphia.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, who ran the clinic, was indicted by a grand jury last month on eight counts of murder.

The 300-page grand jury report said state regulators ignored complaints about him and the clinic which was described by District Attorney Seth Williams as a “house of horrors.”

Corbett announced last Tuesday that four attorneys and two supervisors at the departments of Health and State were either fired or resigned Feb. 11 and that eight other employers involved in the internal investigation remain on the state payroll. Others had previously resigned, he said.

“This doesn’t even rise to the level of government run amok.” Corbett said in a statement. “It was government not running at all. To call this unacceptable doesn’t say enough. It’s despicable.”

The governor is right to fire state employees who were grossly negligent in their duties to provide oversight and to overhaul the agencies involved.

The state failed the victims of the alleged abortion mill. Prosecutors say most of the victims were poor women.

The grand jury report said the state Health Department and medical regulators had numerous opportunities to shut the clinic down over the years but ignored several complaints about the filthy conditions and illegal operations.

Gosnell is being held without bail. Arraignment is set for March 2.

A jury will decide his guilt or innocence.

Meanwhile it is necessary that the state acts now to prevent women from being the future victims other abortion mills or “house of horrors.”

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)

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