Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, already a national GOP hero for his attempt to strip public sector unions of most bargaining rights, is going to unveil his full budget plan Tuesday afternoon. What’s he going to say?
Well, he hasn’t released full details. But along with his previously-announced trims to state worker benefits, which amount to a 6 to 8 percent cut in their pay on average, Governor Walker is expected to outline cuts in state spending on education and aid to local communities, among other reductions. His goal: close a projected two-year $3.6 billion shortfall in Wisconsin’s budget.
“Like nearly every other state across the country, we’re going to have to cut more than $1 billion from our schools and local governments,” said Walker in a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The education cuts alone could reach some $900 million, or about 9 percent of state aid, Walker has confirmed. Across Wisconsin school district administrators are bracing for the news and notifying teachers of possible layoffs.
Some have said the loss of this money could threaten the state’s historically high-scoring education system.
“When you make unprecedented and historic cuts like these to schools, it means teachers are laid off, class sizes are larger, course offerings are reduced, extracurricular activities are cut, and whole parts of what we value in our schools are gone,” said Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s elected superintendent of public instruction, in a statement.
Whatever Walker says about his budget this afternoon, his stand against most collective bargaining rights for public unions has earned him warning words from President Obama, who said Monday that public workers should not be “vilified.” Indeed, recent polls show that many Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public workers. A just-released New York Times/CBS survey found that 60 percent of respondents said such rights should not be taken away.
Unions in general aren’t viewed favorably, though: only about one-third of respondents in that survey said they had a positive view of unions.
Meanwhile, national GOP organizations are rushing to support Walker. They’re framing events in Wisconsin not so much as an anti-union struggle as an attempt to hold back red ink that’s threatening to swamp the state.
“Even after Scott’s proposal would take effect, Wisconsin state employees would still enjoy one of the most generous benefits programs in the country,” claims the site.
Walker’s proposal would limit collective bargaining for most public-sector unions to pay raises that could not exceed the rate of inflation. Firefighter and police unions would be exempt. It has passed the Wisconsin state Assembly, but has stalled in the Senate, as 14 Democrats have fled the state, depriving the chamber of a quorum.