Harsdorf coping with threats, intimidationIt’s not easy being a Republican senator in Wisconsin these days, and 10th District State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, said forces from outside the state are leading the charge to “maintain the status quo.”
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
It’s not easy being a Republican senator in Wisconsin these days, and 10th District State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, said forces from outside the state are leading the charge to “maintain the status quo.”
Harsdorf, like other senators from around the state, is now the target of a recall effort and subject to death threats.
“This is clearly driven by union interests from outside the state,” Harsdorf said. “This is not the Wisconsin way of doing things.”
She said the outside interests are “willing to do anything” to stop the process.
“Opponents are using all sorts of tactics to stop us from achieving a balanced budget,” Harsdorf said. “They want to stop the reforms necessary to make things affordable for taxpayers. First the Democrat senators leave the state and now the outside interests have resorted to recall efforts, intimidation and threats.”
Harsdorf was referring to a death threat received by all Republican senators Wednesday night (March 9). The threat was very graphic and made statements like “Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed… We have all planned to assault you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head…”
She acknowledged that the budget issue and Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill has divided people and brought out a lot of passion, but said there is a difference between picketing/protesting and intimidation.
As evidence of outside influence, Harsdorf told a story about meeting a group of people in the lobby of a Madison hotel.
The group did not know they were talking to Harsdorf and she asked what they were doing in Madison; the response, “protesting.” When asked where they were from, the group said “Los Angeles.” Harsdorf then asked them if they paid their own way to come to Madison. The response was “no, there are 161 of us from 40 different unions – they (union) chartered a jet.”
Unions have also threatened to boycott various businesses if they did not oppose Walker’s bill. A coalition of teachers, police officers and firefighters in eastern Wisconsin threatened boycotts of Kwik Trip Inc. and M&I Bank as of last Friday.
“On the other hand, I have also heard from a lot of people who say these changes are long overdue,” Harsdorf said. “We have to remember that the people spoke in the November (2010) election.
“They made it clear that they wanted spending cuts and a balanced budget – somebody has to make the tough decisions. That’s what we are doing.
“The outside interests don’t really care about Wisconsin – our concern is about protecting the taxpayers.”
Harsdorf said she has never seen anything close to what has been going on in Madison the past few week. She said security is very tight. She also said protestors have come to her home in Pierce County, but said the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department handled the situation.
She cautioned people to investigate some of the claims being made by opponents.
“There is a lot of misinformation going out,” Harsdorf said. “I’ve seen emails that are flat-out lies about what is going to be cut in the budget.”
About the Budget Repair Bill itself, Harsdorf said the Republicans followed the rules regarding public notice of the meeting.
She also said that Gov. Walker did offer some compromises to the Democrat senators holing up in Illinois.
“They totally rejected those ideas and it soon became clear that they were not coming back,” Harsdorf said. “They were in Illinois for three weeks and we kept getting signals that they were coming back, but it never happened.
“We had a job to do – senators have a constitutional duty to show up and conduct business,” Harsdorf said. “Not showing up is not how democracy operates.”
She called the bill “the first serious attempt” to balance the state budget.
“More borrowing, raising taxes and raiding funds are no longer options. These are tough times and require tough choices.”
Walker’s proposed two-year budget includes substantial cuts to local government units and school districts. However, the controversial budget repair bill gives these local governments the tools and flexibility to manage the cuts and make up the difference without raising local taxes, according to Harsdorf.
In regards to collective bargaining, Harsdorf said the bill was amended to ensure worker protections for public employees.
“In response to concerns raised, I worked to make sure that local government employees have the same civil service protections that state government workers have,” Harsdorf said.
She said collective bargaining does have a cost.
Harsdorf noted a couple of examples:
“In one Wisconsin county, inmates from a correctional facility cut the grass along the highways,” Harsdorf said. “The unions said ‘no.’ The county had to hire union employees to do the work.”
In another community, she said a senior citizen acted as a volunteer crossing guard.
“Again, the union said ‘no’ and the school district had to hire a union crossing guard,” Harsdorf said. “These are a couple of simple examples, but collective bargaining does impact taxpayers.”
The Senate is scheduled to meet again beginning April 5 — next up: The two-year budget bill!