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Partisanship rears its head in Wisconsin

Andrew Campnell, News Writer
February 13, 2013
Filed under News

When both parties in a two-party system reach a common ground through compromises, it’s called bipartisanship. But in recent months, Wisconsin’s government has been having a tough time finding it.

This is most true in the job creation debacle occurring now.

According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Wisconsin Democrats unveiled their plan for job creation, among other things, and hope to get the Republican majority in Wisconsin to get behind it.

Democratic leaders discussed this with Governor Scott Walker and are hopeful he will support them, according to the Press Gazette.

“He’s continuing to be open to work in a bipartisan way,” Democratic senate minority leader Chris Larson said to the Press- Gazette.

Despite their hopes, there is always a disagreement on the other side. This, however, isn’t too surprising, said David Helpap, assistant professor of public and environmental affairs.

“When you have a legislature and governor’s office that’s controlled by the same party and that party wants to get things done, those are often not things the other party would put very high on their priority list,” Helpap said.

One issue testing the Wisconsin government’s bipartisanship is the state voucher program. According to the La Crosse Tribune, this program gives parents of private school students a state-funded voucher to cover costs of their tuition.

“To some degree, there is some partisanship to that issue already,” Helpap said. “When you’re bringing it into an environment that’s already fairly divisive, it gets exacerbated a little bit.”

The state mining bill and health care reform are no different from the voucher program, in terms of exacerbation as well as disagreements in and between both parties.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Republicans amended the mining bill so it makes fewer changes affecting environmental laws, but Democrats argued the bill didn’t go far enough.

Democrats also said the modifications made by the Republicans, as well as rejecting Democratic amendments, has kept this bill flawed, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Certain issues cause these types of problems for parties,” Helpap said. “With the way parties are structured in this country, it’s not very easy to keep people in line.”

Like any politician, Gov. Walker’s place in this bipartisanship disruption is up for debate on both sides.

“Given the challenges the state faced a number of years ago, there is going to be a natural inclination for debate and a nonpartisan environment,” Helpap said.

Helpap sees this rift and lack of bipartisanship between the parties as similar to what’s happening in the national government right now.

The lack of bipartisanship in Wisconsin government is also catching the attention of students. UWGB senior music major Bobby Buffington is uncertain Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans will come to an agreement soon.

“With the trend in media, everything’s getting more divisive,” Buffington said, “There’s a lot more quarreling, fighting and playing the 10-year-old game of who can win rather than trying to work together so everyone can win.”

Despite all the arguing, the job creation has become an important task for Walker.

Regardless of what job creation bill gets passed, Helpap said it has potential, but is unsure one bill will help.

“It’s politics,” Help said. “One side or another is always going to say, ‘Well, we got this but it needs to be this way.”

While there’s some uncertainty over how to fix this bipartisanship problem, Buffington said priorities of the politicians have changed and are more concerned with keeping their job and party in control.

“It stopped being about what’s best and actually working together,” Buffington said, “The second you try to show some support for the other side, everyone on your side basically disowns you.”