Gary Lonzo, Council 24 field representative in Northeast Wisconsin, said the protest was also about Gard's portrayal of state workers to the media. Lonzo
represents about 3,000 state employees, including maintenance, security and food service workers at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
, local representatives of state departments and their clerical staffs, game wardens, and employees at the Green Bay Correctional Institution, among others.
"It was a protest about John Gard and the Senate
and Legislature bashing state employees," Lonzo
said another reason he
was unhappy is that the union is nearing the end of contract negotiations with the state Department of Employee Relations.Union workers have been without a contract since July 1, 2001.
"We're not making any noise about the bargaining process, we're doing what we and the department are supposed to do," Lonzo
said."We're fairly close, but unfortunately other people are now sticking their noses in." He
also said contrary to popular belief, many state employees do pay monthly premiums for health coverage.
"There's different levels of HMOs, different plans," Lonzo
said."The best plan, the Prevea plan, is now $160 a month for families.
"If you take the least expensive plan, yeah, it's free.But then you're changing doctors every year, it's not as comprehensive.We could pay for health insurance, but it's something we should be bargaining."
Beil and Lonzo
both said they felt some variation of the idea floated by the Wisconsin Counties Association
, which would reduce the state sales tax to 3.5 percent while removing many exemptions, deserves more investigation by the state as a way to repair the budget.
"There are ways to save money," Lonzo
said."But we all know that after the election, whoever wins, Republican or Democrat, is going to raise taxes.There's no other way to do it, but the exemptions will affect everyone."