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Protesters, lawmakers need to take a breath

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday at the state Capitol in Madison. (AP Photo)

On a positive note, the new Hilldale Target opens Wednesday.

Aside from that, it’s hard to find a pleasant topic to discuss with anyone.

Madison folks are angry. About everything. They’re angry about Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, his proposed budget and the chili dinner he ate with his wife Tuesday.

In the hours following Walker’s budget address, I heard people rant that Walker was balancing Wisconsin’s budget on the backs of the state’s public workers, its poorest citizens and its children, depending on who was talking.

People are angry that regular folks can’t get into the Capitol building, but that Walker supporters apparently can.

There are valid reasons for anger. The state Legislature is paralyzed. And regardless of how you divide the blame, state government is failing the people of Wisconsin just four months after folks went to the polls in good faith to elect representatives who would lead.

Leadership has come in short supply so far during this legislative session. If state lawmakers worked in the nonunion climate many of them want to create in Wisconsin, many jobs would be in jeopardy.

Instead, though, despite rabid talks of recall efforts, Walker and Legislature will be running the state for a long time. They would do well to learn to work together (perhaps Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, helping Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, avoid angry protesters was a step in the right direction?)

And, for people who’ve been sleeping at the Capitol and steadily cranking up the rage during the last two weeks, it’s time to disengage for a while, even if only to get a good night’s sleep. The toxic animosity swirling through Madison isn’t healthy for anyone.

Walker’s budget, which he introduced Tuesday, hasn’t done anything yet. It’s little more than a press release with a lot of numbers in it. It is meaningless until the Legislature gets to work debating its policies and intricacies.

The sky hasn’t fallen.

But there’s much compromise to be reached – like bringing the state’s 14 Democratic senators home from Illinois – before the budget debate can even begin. Lawmakers must grow up and show a willingness to resolve the collective bargaining issue that has choked all other legislative business to a halt.

For their part, protesters should remain spirited while toning down the venom toward Walker and his administration. It’s only encouraging each side to dig their heels in.

Perhaps it would do everyone some good to relax for a few hours and visit the new Target.

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