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Wisconsin Legislative Report August 18, 2010

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on August 18, 2010

Budget Cuts and Broken Promises” Forums Aim to Protect Long-Term Care Services and Caregiver Jobs

On Wednesday, August 25, AFSCME is sponsoring the first of a series of town hall meetings entitled “Budget Cuts and Broken Promises”, to call attention to how the chronic under-funding of Medicaid and the threat of more cuts will affect the elderly and disabled as well as direct care workers.  The meeting will be held in Madison at the Alliant Energy Center from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The town hall meeting will begin with several presenters testifying on cuts that have already been made to Medicaid funding and more cuts that may be on the horizon.  The speakers also will discuss the financial and programmatic difficulties that exist in long-term care programs today (e.g., Family Care) and, discuss their concerns with what cuts to Medicaid mean in terms of workforce implications, quality of care and quality of life issues for people who rely on Medicaid and Medicaid Waiver programs.

The meetings will be held structured as public hearings with a moderator. Candidates for state office will be invited to listen to the testimony provided. The goal of the forums is to encourage the next Legislature and the next Governor to make it a priority to provide adequate dollars for Medicaid, which is the main source of funding for long-term care services and the caregiver jobs.  The next state budget deliberations (starting in February of 2011) are expected to be difficult, involving possibly even more cuts to Medicaid-funded services to the elderly and disabled and their caregivers.

Caregivers, people with disabilities, family members and concerned community members who want to protect services and jobs are invited. AFSCME encourages members to attend this meeting in Madison, as well as the next meeting in LaCrosse on October 4 at the Boot Hill Pub.  Upcoming forums will be held in Green Bay, Eau Claire, Milwaukee, and possibly Beloit and Kenosha.

AFSCME represents some 7,000 caregivers employed in nursing homes, adult family homes and in the state centers for the developmentally disabled, so our union has a keen interest in working to secure more dollars for Medicaid.

All three AFSCME Councils in Wisconsin are sponsoring the forums.  Other sponsors include: the Wisconsin Long Term Care Workforce Alliance, Access to Independence, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, Community Alliance of Providers of Wisconsin, Community Living Alliance, Lori Knapp Companies, Mental Health Center of Dane County, Rehabilitation of Wisconsin, Residential Services Association of Wisconsin, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, Wisconsin Assisted Living Association, Wisconsin Direct Caregiver Alliance, Wisconsin Health Care Association, Wisconsin Personal Services Association, Wisconsin Quality Home Care Commission.

For more information, go to or contact Susan McMurray at the AFSCME area office at 608-836-6666.

Auditors to Investigate State’s Record of Ensuring Health and Safety Standards for Public Sector Workers

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and State Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) announced last week that they have directed the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau to review the Wisconsin Department of Commerce’s record of ensuring the safety of public sector employees while they are on the job.  Vinehout and Barca serve as co-chairs of the Joint

Legislative Audit Committee and have powers to order audits of state agency practices and law enforcement efforts.

The legislators asked the Legislative Audit Bureau to:

  • assess the scope of the Department’s responsibility for ensuring public sector employee safety in the workplace;
  • review staffing and expenditures;
  • analyze the number of inspections conducted and consultative services provided annually; and
  • determine the volume and disposition of any formal complaints received by the Department of Commerce.

The audit review was prompted by a situation in which union officers complained about shoddy conditions involving asbestos removal projects on the UW-Stout campus. The complaint resulted in a Department of Commerce report citing the university for 51 occupational safety and health violations. The university pushed the Department to rescind the report, which the agency did on Nov. 5, 2009.

AFSCME Council 24 strongly protested the Department’s decision, and contacted Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Barca to have the Legislative Audit Bureau investigate and report on the Department of Commerce’s record of enforcing public sector worker health and safety.  This is a big victory for all public sector workers.  AFSCME appreciates the leadership shown by Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Barca and looks forward to reviewing the findings of the Audit Bureau.

No decision –yet- on the future of Wisconsin’s male juvenile correctional institutions

Nearly two months after a select committee issued an inconclusive report on the future of the state’s two male juvenile correctional institutions, the Doyle Administration has made no decision with regard to the future of the Ethan Allen or the Lincoln Hills Schools for Boys.  With the November elections just months away, some speculate that no decision will be made, leaving the matter of resolving the deficit in juvenile corrections to be addressed by Wisconsin’s next governor.

AFSCME has stressed to Governor Doyle, Corrections Secretary Rick Raemisch and interested legislators that the deficit in the juvenile corrections budget represents an opportunity to fix the out-of-date and dysfunctional manner of funding services to teens sent to the juvenile facilities.  For too long, counties have been the sole payer of housing kid felons in the institutions, which few citizens realize have been recognized by the federal and state governments as schools.

As such, AFSCME has argued that this is an ideal time to press state officials to make a commitment to support services to teen felons and engage in a serious, concerted effort to provide state school aids and state breakfast and lunch program dollars, and to tap into funds to help pay for the health care and mental health care treatment costs of the youth.  The juvenile schools have been under the threat of closure for several years, jeopardizing services to the teens housed there as well as wreaking havoc in the lives of those who work in Ethan Allen or Lincoln Hills.

For more information, contact AFSCME at 608-836-6666 or visit


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