As protesters continue to flood the city of Madison, Wis., University of Minnesota students are voicing their opinions on the budget bill that made it through the Wisconsin Assembly on Friday.
Campus groupsâÄô reactions mirror their larger counterparts in state and national politics.
The bill has roiled controversy with its proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for certain public sector employees, including teachers, to help cut down the stateâÄôs debt.
âÄúI donâÄôt think itâÄôs being handled appropriately at all,âÄù said Thomas Trehus, vice president of the UniversityâÄôs College Democrats. âÄúI think [the bill] is a political ploy used for fiscal reasons, and ending the bargaining rights wouldnâÄôt save the state money.âÄù
Trehus proposed Wisconsin follow an alternative budget-balancing plan like one Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton laid out for Minnesota earlier this month.
âÄúIâÄôd like to see the people who can afford it pay a little more, and not so much [from those] who canâÄôt really afford it âÄî the students.âÄù
Marketing senior Mallory Darst said she supports cutting teachersâÄô benefits instead of raising taxes as the alternative for solving a state deficit.
âÄúThe bill is a step that needs to be taken hopefully sooner than later so you donâÄôt have people in the private sector paying for other peopleâÄôs benefits,âÄù Darst said. âÄú[Benefits are] an area that can be cut before taking more money away from people during a bad economy.âÄù
University College Republicans Chairman Phil Troy said in an e-mail that the protests are distracting the public from the real issue.
âÄúThe idea that this is about âÄòimprovingâÄô or âÄòslashingâÄô the futures of children is ludicrous,âÄù Troy said. âÄú[Wisconsin Gov.] Scott Walker should be commended for doing the right thing, which in this case is also the unthinkable thing for a Democrat regarding the budget.âÄù
Troy also chastised the senators who left Wisconsin to prevent the Senate vote. âÄúWell, apparently, for a group of senators from Wisconsin it reads, âÄòIf you canâÄôt beat âÄôem, leave the state,âÄôâÄù he said.
For many students, concern over the bill is a personal issue.
Chemistry junior Blake Rowedder said he opposes the proposal because his mom, an elementary school teacher in Wisconsin, would lose a significant amount of her pension if the bill passes.
âÄúSome of the teachers at my momâÄôs school have been teaching for 30 years or more, and suddenly all of their expectations for retirement benefits are up in the air,âÄù he said.
RowedderâÄôs mom is one of thousands who have been protesting outside the statehouse in Madison. Rowedder said he supports the protesting and hopes it will catch peopleâÄôs attention.
Other students fear how the bill will affect them after graduation.
Wisconsin native and recent University graduate Jenny Riegel said sheâÄôs worried how the bill could change her career benefits as a teacher.
âÄúPublic servants donâÄôt have a lot of room to move up as far as money you can make âÄî making teachers take more out of their salary and benefits is ridiculous,âÄù Riegel said.
She graduated from the University last year and plans to teach elementary school after she finishes up a two-year program with Teach For America.
If the bill passes, however, she said sheâÄôll think twice before returning to her home state to teach.
âÄúIt certainly makes me rethink the values that Wisconsin is placing on education right now.âÄù
Most students who spoke for this story acknowledge the budget repair bill is less than ideal but think the issue is one Wisconsin must take up this year.
âÄúWalker is having the hard discussions we need to be having that other politicians are scared to have,âÄù Darst said. âÄúHopefully people can appreciate that.âÄù