MADISON, Wis. — Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday outlined a $59.3 billion, two-year budget plan that would cut $749 million in aid to public schools over that period and reduce county and municipal aid by $96 million in 2012.
“This is a reform budget. It is about getting Wisconsin working again,” Walker said, “and to make that happen, we need a balanced budget that works — and an environment where the private sector can create 250,000 jobs over the next four years.”
Walker spoke to a joint session of the Legislature minus the 14 Democratic senators who have left the state to avoid a vote on his plan to end most collective bargaining for public employee unions. Walker alluded to the controversy over union power, saying national attention being paid to the issue is “OK, because freedom thrives each time there is a passionate debate in our society.”
The governor chided the missing Democrats. “Let us not lose sight of the fact that we were each elected to represent the people of this state by participating in our democratic process,” he said.
Walker, whose plan to end most collective bargaining for public employee unions has launched massive protests in the Capitol, said his budget includes no tax or fee increases, brings public workers’ pension and health insurance contributions in line with the private sector, and would reduce spending from all funds by a total of $4.2 billion in 2012 and 2013. He also said his plan would help erase a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
“Wisconsin is broke,” he said, “and it’s time to start paying our bills today so our kids are not stuck with even bigger bills tomorros.”
Organizational changes, including the elimination of the state Commerce Department and making the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus autonomous, would account for most of the 21,325 state jobs that would be eliminated. The rest would come from the closure of state facilities, program reductions and the end of 735 positions that have been vacant for longer than 12 months.
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