MADISON, Wis. - The executive board president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association has issued a statement on the organization's website expressing regret for the endorsement of Gov. Scott Walker in the governor's race.
In a post dated Feb. 16, Tracy Fuller writes, "I am going to make an effort to speak for myself, and every member of the Wisconsin State Patrol when I say this ? I specifically regret the endorsement of the Wisconsin Trooper's Association for Gov. Scott Walker. I regret the governor's decision to 'endorse' the troopers and inspectors of the Wisconsin State Patrol. I regret being the recipient of any of the perceived benefits provided by the governor's anointing. I think everyone's job and career is just as significant as the others. Everyone's family is just as valuable as mine or any other persons, especially mine. Everyone's needs are just as valuable. We are all great people!!" The full statement can be found at www.wlea.org.
The statement was posted during a week in which tens of thousands of people descended on the Capitol building to protest Walker's budget bill that would curtail union rights for most public employees.
Walker's bill would strip state and local government employees, including teachers, custodians and game wardens, of their ability to collectively bargain everything except their wages.
But the measure carves out a special exemption for local police officers, firefighters and the Wisconsin State Patrol.
Critics said the move amounts to political payback for unions that support Walker and could create a schism between government workers.
During his campaign for governor, Walker was endorsed by the Wisconsin State Troopers, as well as the Milwaukee Police and Firefighters associations and the West Allis Professional Police.
In all, five public employee unions endorsed Walker, and four of the five are completely unharmed by Walker's budget repair bill, WISC-TV reported. Walker has denied that the unions are getting political payback.
Some police would lose union rights under the bill, including Capitol and University of Wisconsin police. Walker said their work can be covered in the event of a slowdown, while local protection can't.
When asked why union rights should be any different for police, fire and state inspectors, Walker said that overall there is a different expectation.
"Currently, we've had a long tradition and when it comes to fire and police service in the state of Wisconsin. Statutes are very different when it comes to whole series of rights and responsibilities," Walker said.
Walker's proposal for unions has spawned massive protests in Madison. Sunday is the sixth consecutive day that protests have been held at the Wisconsin Capitol against Walker's bill.
Police said nearly 70,000 people converged on the Wisconsin Capitol on Saturday to join in protests over the Republican bill.
According to the Madison Police Department, 60,000 people gathered outside the building with another 8,000 inside on Saturday -- easily the largest crowd yet as the protest stretched through its fifth day. The demonstration was far more intense on Saturday, though, as hundreds of tea party supporters staged a counter rally outside the Capitol.
Police spokesman Joel DeSpain said there were no arrests. He refused to say how large the tea party contingent was, but union supporters clearly outnumbered them.
The governor said that the moves are necessary to better contend with the state's fiscal problems and he can't negotiate with the unions since the state has nothing to offer. The bill's supporters said public workers must make sacrifices to help balance the state's budget. The state has a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
However, the measure's opponents said that they believe the bill is an attack on middle-class families.
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