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Why must politics pit corporations vs. teachers?

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Sen. Judy Robson
September 23, 2008

It does seem strange: corporations vs. teachers.


Why would corporations regard teachers as their nemesis?


For years the two most prominent lobbying groups in Wisconsin have been the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Education Association Council.


Plenty of other organizations spend money to influence public policy. But these two are among the biggest and most influential voices in Madison.


In one corner is WMC, promoting policies that benefit corporations and candidates that support its agenda, mostly Republicans.


In the other corner is WEAC, promoting strong schools and candidates that support this agenda, mostly Democrats.


It shouldn’t be this way. The health of our economy is intimately related to the health of our schools. An educated, skilled and creative workforce is essential to a strong economy. And that is exactly what strong schools produce, from grade school on up to our university system.


The economy is nonpartisan. People across the political spectrum make our economy tick. Yet WMC throws around millions of dollars to smear Democratic candidates and promote its anointed candidates, including two Supreme Court justices and the attorney general.


WMC’s tactics have gotten so out of hand that one of Wisconsin’s rising corporate stars, Epic Systems of Verona, has had enough. The medical software company announced in June that it would no longer do business with companies that support WMC’s current leadership.


At the same time, David Cullen, president and CEO of J.P. Cullen & Sons in Janesville, resigned from the WMC Board of Directors and withdrew his membership in WMC. J.P. Cullen is the contractor for a major expansion of the Epic Systems headquarters in Verona.


If WMC’s mission really were to create a healthy business climate and encourage business growth in Wisconsin, it is a mission we could all rally around.


But WMC’s tactics are more destructive than constructive. Instead of telling the world what a great place Wisconsin is to do business, they badmouth our state as a “tax hell.” This, despite the fact that numerous Wisconsin corporations pay zero corporate income taxes here, including 12 corporations whose executives sit on the WMC Board of Directors.


As he left his post at UW-Madison, Chancellor John D. Wiley wrote a scathing critique of the political extremists on WMC’s staff who push an ideological agenda rather than an agenda that advances Wisconsin’s economy.


Wiley noted that higher education and the business community should be natural allies in economic development, not enemies.


Yet WMC’s zealous drive for reduced taxes, reduced wages and reduced protections for our workers, air and water ignores the realities of what makes an economy thrive.


In the last legislative session, I scored a 15 percent on WMC’s “legislative scorecard,” meaning I voted according to its agenda only 15 percent of the time. With the extremist agenda that WMC pushes, is it any wonder?


I am proud of my legislative voting record. I am not proud of WMC’s record.


Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, represents most of Rock County and the Whitewater area in the state Senate. Contact her at 1-800-334-1468, (608) 266-2253 or sen.robson@legis.Wisconsin.gov.

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