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The Nation

March 1, 2011

Wis. gov. to outline ultimate intentions in budget

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, quickly becoming a darling of Republicans across the country for his plan to take away most collective bargaining rights from public workers, will get another chance to bolster his national conservative credentials when he unveils the rest of his plan for dealing with the state's budget woes.

Walker's plan — set to be released Tuesday — will include deep cuts for schools and local governments to help close a projected $3.6 billion shortfall in the two-year budget.

Walker already has taken on President Barack Obama and Wisconsin's unions, a traditional Democratic stalwart. Before he even took office, Walker's opposition to high-speed rail resulted in the Obama administration taking back more than $800 million that had been awarded to the state.

Obama has injected himself into the debate over collective bargaining, calling Walker's proposal an assault on unions. During a meeting of governors at the White House on Monday, which Walker did not attend, Obama said public workers do need to be called on to help solve state budget problems. But he added, "I don't think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified, or their rights are infringed upon."

Wisconsin's measure would forbid most government workers from collectively bargaining except over wage increased that aren't beyond the rate of inflation. Police and firefighters would be exempt.

Walker argues that his collective bargaining measure would free local governments from having to bargain with public employee unions as they deal with the cuts he'll outline Tuesday. The legislation is stalled in the Senate because its 14 Democratic members fled the state, leaving the body one vote short of a quorum.

After two weeks of massive protests, officials say there will be only limited access to the Capitol for Walker's budget address.

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