Freshman State Rep. Michelle Litjens (WI) is the mother of three children and was motivated to seek office because deficit spending was a huge problem for the school system. 2011 was the most exciting year of her life.
Almost immediately the Democratic members of the State Senate went AWOL because of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) collective bargaining reforms. The Senators said it would be a disaster for schools with “severe teacher cutbacks” and the end of extracurricular activities.
Protesters camped out in the capitol building for weeks and Wisconsin was the center of national attention. Litjens, 38, was a solid Walker ally and received death threats. She needed police protection to enter and exit the Capitol which was surrounded by demonstrators. Litjens admitted she was “shaking” because of all the people screaming at her.
Liberals tried to scare her into opposing Governor Walker. They had no impact and she voted for Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. On the floor of the legislature, her Oshkosh colleague, State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D), yelled at her: “You are f***king dead!” She ignored him, but many lawmakers heard the exchange and it received national publicity.
Litjens describes the night the Assembly passed the collective bargaining bill. “After that vote, I put on a sweatshirt and a baseball cap and ran out of the capitol. I was afraid for my personal safety. I needed a police officer to escort me to the bathroom often during the heat of the protests. You couldn’t walk anywhere without protesters just screaming at you,” she said.
The Walker reforms were finally enacted and business regulations were repealed. The critics were wrong and there were no teacher cutbacks. Instead of last year’s $1.8 billion deficit, the state now has a $300 million surplus.
If the Democratic “reform” plan had been passed there would have been a $1.4 billion deficit.
In the past, schools were required to purchase health insurance from the WEA Trust, a company created by the teachers union. When they lost their monopoly, the WEA Trust significantly lowered prices because for the first time they have to compete with other vendors.
Now they are matching the lowest bids and huge savings means it is not necessary to fire any teachers. The result of Walker’s regulatory reforms has been almost immediate. By the end of June, half of the net new jobs added in the United States have come from Wisconsin.
The manufacturing sector in the state is growing three times stronger than the national average.
Despite this spectacular record, six GOP State Senators have been targeted by labor unions and they now face recall elections.
Litjens realizes that many people are greedy, but the conduct of the labor unions has continued to amaze her. She believes their positions defy logic. For example, AFSCME is the largest union in the state and it just protested a Special Olympics ceremony at the capitol, and now they are discouraging employers from hiring the handicapped.
Litjens is remarkable because she is having an impact as a freshman. Similar to other states, Wisconsin depends on federal aid to run a host of programs ranging from Medicaid and food stamps to highway repairs and unemployment benefits.
She is the chief author AB-194, which is likely to pass the legislature. It is a bill requiring state agencies to have a contingency plan should they see a sharp decrease in federal funding. 30% of Wisconsin’s state budget is federal dollars.
She says her real job is at home and told Fox Business News “I have to learn to speak like a politician, but I so desperately don’t want to become one. How fortunate I am to be asked.”
You can read more about the contest rules and background at: The 45 Most Admired Republican Women Under 45