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Walker nixes border meeting with AWOL Democrats

AFTERNOON EDITION

For a minute there, Wisconsin’s GOP governor and AWOL Democrats were going to meet face to face, “somewhere near the border.” You know, like maybe over a card table and some folding chairs just off to the side of I-90 down south of the beautiful Janesville oasis? But then even that fell apart. Now the AP is saying: “Gov. Scott Walker says a request from the leader of Senate Democrats to meet along the Illinois-Wisconsin border is ridiculous. … Walker says he doesn’t know who is in charge of the 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois to block a vote on the measure.”

Kevin G. Hall of the McClatchy papers (remember them?) has a good piece explaining the bogus-ness of claims that public union pensions are bankrupting state governments. Says Hall: “Pension contributions from state and local employers aren’t blowing up budgets. They amount to just 2.9 percent of state spending, on average, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the figure a bit higher at 3.8 percent. … Ironically, in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trying to weaken public-sector unions and reduce pension benefits, he’s exempted police and firefighters, who are among the most unionized public employees. And Wisconsin’s public-sector pension plan still has enough assets today to cover more than 18 years of benefits.”

Blogger Russ King has had it with Walker, judging by his (mostly) corroborated list of “20 lies (and counting) by Governor Walker.” Sample:
Walker: says he campaigned on his budget repair plan, including curtailing collective bargaining.
‘We introduced a measure last week, a measure I ran on during the campaign, a measure I talked about in November during the transition, a measure I talked about in December when we fought off the employee contracts, an idea I talked about in the inauguration, an idea I talked about in the state of the state. If anyone doesn’t know what’s coming, they’ve been asleep for the past two years.’
The truth: Walker, who offered many specific proposals during the campaign, did not go public with even the sketchiest outline of his far-reaching  plans to kill collective bargaining rights. He could not point to any statements where he did. In fact, he was caught on tape boasting to what he thought was his billionaire backer that he had ‘dropped the bomb.’
Walker: Public employees are more richly compensated than their public sector counterparts.
The truth: According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector employees with comparable earnings determinants such as education and work experience. State workers typically are under-compensated by 8.2% in Wisconsin.”

Walker does have a friend in prominent conservative blogger Fred Malek, who writes on “Red State”: “The Republican Governors Association has wisely decided to support Scott. For years, the RGA has been a hot bed of ideas and action for practical, conservative governance.  While it has showcased some of the great laboratories of our American democracy, its main function was to get Republican governors elected — and it’s done that quite well over the years. In an unprecedented step, after seeing millions of union dollars and thousands of outsiders pour into Wisconsin to fight Governor Walker’s good governance, The Republican Governors Association decided that is was time to show the country and the union bosses that we have Scott Walker’s back by launching an advertising campaign in support of his efforts on TV and online. This is one of the most important fights of our time and it will impact the lives for generations of Wisconsinites and American to come.” That “great laboratory of democracy” has two very generous benefactors in the now well-known Koch brothers.

Need an update on the never-ending battle in North Dakota over The Fighting Sioux nickname? The AP story today says: “Supporters of a bill that requires the University of North Dakota to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname say most members of North Dakota’s Sioux tribes take pride in the name. … UND is preparing to retire the nickname and a logo depicting an American Indian warrior. The NCAA considers them hostile and offensive. UND could have kept the name under the terms of a lawsuit settlement if North Dakota’s two largest Sioux tribes agreed. The Spirit Lake tribe voted to keep the name, but the Standing Rock Sioux tribal council hasn’t ordered a vote.”

Almost any way you cut it — unless you’re on Wall Street — a bonus equal to 19 percent of your base pay is pretty good. Polaris industries, the snowmobile and ATV people, announced profit-sharing for … employees. Paul Walsh’s Strib story says: “The maker of snowmobiles, off-road vehicles and Victory motorcycles said more than $13.6 million of its profits from 2010 will be split among its 2,250 hourly Polaris employees in a cash payment. For all of 2010, sales for Polaris of Medina totaled just shy of $2 billion. On average, the employees will receive nearly 19 percent of their annual pay base. Polaris said it also will distribute profit-sharing payments to all of its full-time salaried employees. Additionally, the company said, all Polaris employees will participate in the distribution of $8.1 million worth of Polaris stock that is contributed to their retirement plan.” Now see, that is just crazy. Don’t they know how giveaways like that affect shareholder value?

It’s war! And for a change Minnesota and Wisconsin are united. The enemy … the gypsy moth. John Meyers of the Duluth News-Tribune says: “With more gypsy moths found in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin last year, including in Duluth, state agriculture experts in both states are expanding aerial spraying this year to keep the tree-destroying bugs in check. In June, the planes will spray a natural soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, or Btk, which kills moth caterpillars but is harmless to other critters. Only areas with larger populations will be sprayed with Btk. In July, broader efforts will see synthetic hormone flakes dropped from airplanes to confuse male moths so they can’t mate and expand the population.” You know what’s odd? There are already a lot of confused males up there. Flaky, too.

Apparently there’s a good business in bullying, or at least in talking about it. Kelly Smith of the Strib reports on the first-ever bullying summit: “Organizers expected that it would draw 200 people from the ranks of teachers, principals, social workers and law enforcement. When 400 people signed up, organizers relocated the event to a bigger site at a Minneapolis hotel. ‘I wish we had a bigger venue, because I bet we’d have 500, 600 people’, said P. Fred Storti of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association. ‘This is such an important issue in schools today.’ “

Snow last night … snow Wednesday … more snow possible on the 19th … Paul Douglas’s blog says: “Snowy Treadmill. Although no mega-storms are in sight (until possibly the weekend of March 19-20) we will see a series of snow events this week: an inch or two today, the ‘main event’ Wednesday as a storm tracks from Texas to Illinois, brushing MSP with 2-5″ of additional snow. Another (clipper-like) system arrives Friday night with another burst of an inch, possibly two in some towns. By the end of this week there’s a good chance we will have picked up an additional 4-6″ snow in the metro area.”  Everyone’s seen “The Shining,” right?

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