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7/5/2011 7:34:00 AM
National union hails Holperin, Senate Democrats as 'heroes'
Missing disclosure information on Simac letter causes flap; Holperin wants debates on budget
Sen. Jim Holperin
Sen. Jim Holperin

Richard Moore
Investigative Reporter

The National Education Association met this past weekend in Chicago and one of the items on its agenda was to honor those they believe are heroes in the field of education.

Count Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover) among that number. And count among that number as well his 13 Democratic colleagues in the state Senate, heroes all, says the NEA, for leaving the state earlier this year and attempting to shut down the state Senate.

The 14 Democrats left the state for three weeks in mid-February to prevent the Senate from voting on a bill to limit collective bargaining for public employees. Their departure denied the Republican majority a quorum by one vote.

A quorum is needed for any fiscal measure. The collective bargaining provisions themselves were not technically fiscal but were part of a broader budget repair bill that was.

The senators' gambit ultimately failed when the GOP majority stripped the collective bargaining provisions from the budget repair bill and passed them separately.

Nonetheless, it's the thought that counts, the national teachers' union said this week, declaring the senators on the run heroes and bestowing upon them one of the organization's highest honors, NEA's Friend of Education award, for making what the union said was "the bold and unprecedented decision to leave the state of Wisconsin earlier this year, rather than vote for a controversial bill that would weaken and possibly eliminate collective bargaining for Wisconsin public employees."

It was the first time the award was given to a group rather than to one person. Along with Holperin, the NEA honored Democrats Mark Miller, Tim Carpenter, Spencer Coggs, Tim Cullen, Jon Erpenbach, Dave Hansen, Robert Jauch, Chris Larson, Julie Lassa, Fred Risser, Lena Taylor, Kathleen Vinehout, and Robert Wirch.

"The senators are considered heroes of the continuing struggle - not just in Wisconsin, but across America - to protect public employees and working families," the NEA said in a statement.

Contest heats up

Meanwhile the Senate recall contest for Holperin's seat heated up a bit this week.

Kim Simac of Eagle River, the organizer of the recall campaign and founder of the Northwoods Patriots, and Robert Lussow of Tomahawk, the Lincoln County board chairman, will square off in a July 19 GOP primary. The winner of that contest will challenge Holperin in an Aug. 16 general election.

While the airwaves have been filled with ads in recent weeks hailing Holperin's work as a senator, Holperin himself blasted the state budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker last week, saying it shifted resources from northern Wisconsin to southern Wisconsin and from small businesses to corporations.

Holperin joined other Democrats in voting against the measure, which balanced the budget without tax increases and eliminated the state's structural deficit for the first time since the mid 1990s.

But Holperin says the budget shortchanges towns.

In a letter to town supervisors around the 12th Senate District, Holperin gave the officials a nudge to organize candidate forums, a move he said would allow the towns' issues and the budget to be debated.

"Town government took it on the chin in many respects with the recent state budget," Holperin said. "Town road aid is frozen for at least the next two years, while other transportation spending soars...especially on expensive freeway projects in southeastern Wisconsin."

Holperin said almost every northern Wisconsin town would lose state shared revenue during the next two years while town boards' ability to levy for special projects or improvements would be severely restricted.

Indeed, as Walker himself said in signing the budget, the state has enacted the strongest levy limits in Wisconsin's history by limiting levy increases to no more than the growth in equalized value due to net new construction, or no increase at all if there is no net new construction.

The budget also clamps a levy limit on technical colleges. Those levies can only increase by the changes in property values unless approved by voters in the district.

Citing the levy limits and shared revenue reductions, Holperin referred to a letter to town officials sent by Simac that he said "glossed over the sacrifices towns are being forced to make, and that's why Town officials need to hear from the candidates directly."

Holperin's call for debates comes after he debated Lussow in a Tomahawk forum that Simac did not attend. Some criticized Simac, saying she avoided the forum, but on her Facebook page Simac said the criticism was duplicitous.

"Regarding the Tomahawk forum: I had declined on the first invite," she wrote in her post. "I suggested moving the date to a later time. I am running my horse camp and could not commit to any further events during this 2 week period. It is disingenuous for the promoters or candidates to suggest I avoided the forum."

In his statement, Holperin noted that Simac's letter to town board members also failed to include information about the sponsor of the mailing. He called that "a clear violation of state law."

The state Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board.

"Kim Simac has talked a lot about what she won't do, but hasn't said anything about what she will do ...and that should concern not only Town officials, but voters throughout the 12th Senate District," Holperin said.

The Simac campaign acknowledged the misstep, and communications' director Matt Capristo took responsibility for the omission.

"As the staff member responsible for drafting and seeing that the mailings go out, I take responsibility for the oversight of not having a full disclaimer attached to this mailing," Capristo said. "While the method of communication clearly identified the campaign committee and treasurer it did not say, 'Paid for by.'"

Capristo said such things sometimes "slipped through the crack" in the heat of a campaign, and he pointed out that the same thing happened to Holperin in 2008, when a campaign ad failed to have a disclaimer.

"We will be working with the Government Accountability Board on recourse for this action and continue to move forward with the campaign to recall Jim Holperin," Capristo said"

Richard Moore may be reached at rmmoore1@frontier.com.

Related Stories:
• Big labor pours money into recalls, support for Holperin
• In an extraordinary age, Holperin becomes The Invisible Man
• Members chipped in $23.4 million to WEAC in 2008 union dues

Related Links:
• National Education Association website
• Wisconsin State Legislature
• Who Are My Legislators? - Wisconsin State Legislature

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Article comment by: Lisa MaKarrall

Wow, I wonder what this paper would have done if Jim Holperin used the bogus excuse Kim Simac used for missing the debate. She couldn't spare two or three hours from her "horse camp"??? With all those kids and grandkids she parades out on her commercials, no one could fill in for her? Bogus.

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