Lost in the crowds are 'silent' supporters of Gov. Walker's plan

from the Wisconsin State Journal:
Steven Verburg
Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jeff Waksman is a Ph.D. candidate who works as a UW-Madison research assistant, and he stands to see his paycheck dwindle if Gov. Scott Walker succeeds in making state workers pay more for health and retirement benefits, but that’s OK with him.

“It’s going to cost us a little beer money,” Waksman said Friday as he and other Walker supporters prepared for a rally Saturday intended to answer a week of anti-Walker protests at the Capitol.

The conservative Americans for Prosperity and other groups have launched websites to support Walker and are pledging to bring activists to the rally.

Even though tens of thousands have voiced their outrage this week over Walker’s proposals to strip public employee unions of bargaining rights, Nathan Friedl, a member of the Rock River Patriots, a tea party group in Jefferson County, said a “silent majority” wants to see union power checked.

“Unions have really turned to a socialist agenda,” said Friedl, a Fort Atkinson resident who works as a manager for a private company. “They want to take from the rich and give to the poor.”

While there has been a strong showing of public employees in the protests, not all of them oppose Walker, said Courtland Martens, a Cottage Grove resident who works as a lieutenant in the Shorewood Hills police department. Martens said he and his wife, a state employee, both face higher deductions from their paychecks under Walker’s plan, but he doesn’t mind.

Martens said he feels fortunate to have a job at all, and is willing to sacrifice in order to prevent layoffs of state workers and to improve the business climate by keeping taxes down.

“I just get frustrated with the ‘give me, give me’ attitude,” Martens said, emphasizing he was stating his personal view and not that of his employer. “I don’t rely on the government for everything I do. I have my own investments for retirement.”

Martens’ mother, Kathleen Martens of Fitchburg, said her household will take a hit too, because her husband is a state worker, but she still thinks a worse alternative would be layoffs of state employees.

“It’s going to be very tight for us,” she said. “But we realize that these sacrifices are made in essence so that people won’t lose their jobs.”


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