Wis. governor to reveal full budget proposal

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — After focusing for weeks on his proposal to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker prepared Tuesday to unveil full details of his two-year budget plan, which is expected to contain painful cuts in education, Medicaid and aid for local governments.

Polls indicate national public opinion favors unions in the dispute, but Mr. Walker has been resolute. He already has sought concessions from teachers, prison guards and other public workers — who fear that more bad news awaits.

A Pew Research Center poll released Monday found 42 percent of adults surveyed nationwide sided with the unions and 31 percent sided with MR. Walker. That poll of 1,009 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The latest New York Times-CBS poll found Americans oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of almost 2-to-1 — 60 percent to 33 percent. The nationwide telephone poll of 984 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Just a quarter of adults in the poll considered public employees’ benefits and pay to be too high, while about the same share believed they are too low. About 36 percent say they are about right.

Majorities oppose cutting public-employee benefits or pay in order to reduce state budget deficits or taking away some collective bargaining rights from public employee unions.

Some of the opposition may stem from skepticism about the state government’s motivations. Forty-five percent of those who responded to the New York Times-CBS poll believe states want to reduce employee benefits to help ease the deficit, but nearly as many — 41 percent — say their aim is to weaken the power of unions.

Both polls were conducted Feb. 24-27.

By eliminating most collective bargaining, Mr. Walker argues, state agencies, local governments and school districts will have flexibility to react quickly to the cuts.

Unions and Democrats contend Mr. Walker’s true goal is to wipe out the unions and bolster his national conservative credentials.

Mr. Walker’s proposals have stirred a national debate over public-sector unions, and tens of thousands of protesters have descended on the Wisconsin Capitol for more than two weeks. Police limited access to the building on Monday, but a judge Tuesday granted a temporary restraining order forcing the building to reopen to the public.

Mr. Walker’s collective bargaining plan passed the Republican-controlled Assembly last week but remains stalled in the Senate, where 14 Democrats fled to Illinois to prevent passage of the measure.

They have vowed to stay away until Mr. Walker is willing to compromise, something he has so far refused to do.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican, met Monday in Kenosha with some of the missing Democrats and discussed terms under which they could return. Mr. Fitzgerald said they didn’t talk about changing the bill, which he said would not be altered. He would not say who was at the meeting or how many were there, but no agreement was reached.

“We keep taking,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

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