State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, is among the eight Republicans and six Democrats who face recall campaigns in Wisconsin.
Efforts are under way to collect the 14,733 signatures in the 14th Senate District needed to hold a recall election. Websites have been launched and petitions are being circulated throughout the district to recall Olsen.
Under state law, Wisconsin officials cannot be recalled until they have served a full year of the term for which they were most recently elected.
First elected to the Senate in 2004, Olsen was unopposed when he ran for re-election in 2008.
A recall is similar to an election in that names of candidates will appear on a ballot. Anyone seeking to replace Olsen must file as a candidate for the 14th Senate District office. The incumbent’s name will automatically appear on the ballot.
The deadline for recall petitions is May 1. Then the Government Accountability Board will have 30 days to verify the signatures.
If GAB determines there are enough signatures, then a recall election will be held on a Tuesday six weeks later.
Olsen said he was not surprised by the angry backlash against Gov. Scott Walker’s bill that would effectively end collective bargaining for public sector unions.
“The minute the governor walked out of the room, I told the other members of our caucus that this would be huge and that there would be repercussions,” Olsen said, recalling Walker’s announcement of his budget repair bill to Senate Republicans.
Olsen said his office has been receiving an average of 89 e-mails an hour for the past several weeks.
“My voice mail fills up faster than my staff can listen to the messages,” Olsen said.
He said the state of Wisconsin is in a tough economic situation that requires action. He noted that spending has grown faster than revenues over the past 10 years and there are no more one-time funding sources left to top.
Olsen pointed to the state using its tobacco settlement money, then transferring money from the transportation fund to the general fund, then using federal stimulus money to balance its budget.
“We can’t keep passing our budget problems down the road and on to our children,” Olsen said.
When asked about the governor’s plan to cut state aid to schools and municipalities, while at the same time limiting their ability to rise local taxes to compensate, Olsen said, “If people in Wisconsin don’t have the money to send to Madison in income taxes and sales taxes, then they don’t have the money to pay property taxes. If you don’t have any money in your left pocket, you probably don’t have any in your right pocket.”
Olsen also said it was time for both sides to compromise so that the Legislature could get back to work.
“This has dragged on way too long and is now way out of hand,” Olsen said. “I talked to the governor on some ideas that he could propose to the Democrats to see if we could come to a resolution on this situation.”
On the other hand, Olsen recognizes the difficulty in negotiating a compromise in a volatile political environment.
“People’s passions are high on both sides of the issues,” Olsen said. “In politics today, compromise has become a dirty word. But in the real world, compromise is how we get things done.”
Olsen said it was a sad day for democracy when the Democrats left the state in order to avoid a quorum in the Senate. He also does not look forward to a possible recall election.
“I have tried to be a statesman my whole career,” Olsen said. “Now, it comes to this point in my career where I face a recall for a vote I might take.”