Unionized state workers held a rain-soaked rally on the Capitol steps Thursday to protest corporate tax loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthy.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Locals 68 and 171, who hosted the “Save our Services Rally,” are composed of state employees from the Department of Transportation, Department of Revenue and the University of Wisconsin.
Jeremy Beloungy, a cook at Memorial Union and executive board member of AFSCME Local 171, said the unions were protesting because the state is cutting funding for various im-portant programs in order to balance budgets.
“The state is making the citizens of Wisconsin choose between funding the schools, funding the public safety or funding public infrastructure,” Beloungy said.
Beloungy added no legislators are talking about tax fairness and said working-class people need to contact their representatives and senators to voice their concerns. He added this is a long-term fight, so AFSCME will continue to meet and protest.
Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira outlined the struggles of schools and communities due to funding cuts.
“I am tired of hearing that public education has been protected by the state of Wisconsin when the Madison Metropolitan School District has had to cut tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of positions since the inception of revenue caps in 1993,” Silveira said.
Silveira added the 2009-11 biennium budget devastated MMSD because it cut state funding by about $12 million per year for the next two years.
John Hendrick, first vice chair for the Dane County Board of Supervisors, said the current economic climate has been one of the toughest the county and state has had to face. He added the new biennium budget cut $4 billion in funding from Dane County.
Teaching Assistant Association President Pe-ter Rickman and South Central Federation of Labor President Jim Cavanaugh also spoke at the event.
Heidi Freymiller, com-munications director for the Working Class Student Union, said WSCU agrees there should be uniform tax justice across all income levels.
“A lot of people don’t consider themselves to be working class, but economists have determined it to be well over 50 percent of the population,” Freymiller said.
Committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs member Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said he did not agree with the assertions of AFSCME.
“In the last budget, we raised the tax on the wealthy and statistics show Wisconsin is causing the wealthy to leave the state and people on welfare to come into the state,” Grothman said. “In the long-run, that is not a recipe for an enjoyable state to live in.”
Grothman also said “closing corporate loop-holes” is a new way to say tax businesses, and since Wisconsin was ranked 48th in the country for business climate in Forbes magazine, more business taxes would not make sense.
“Somebody should tell AFSCME not everyone can work for the government,” Grothman said.