Angry Demonstrations in Wisconsin as Cuts Loom
Behind closed doors, Scott Walker, the Republican who has been governor for about six weeks, calmly described his intent to forge ahead with the plans that had set off the uprising: He wants to require public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pensions, effectively cutting the take-home pay of many by around 7 percent.
He also wants to weaken most public-sector unions by sharply curtailing their collective bargaining rights, limiting talks to the subject of basic wages.
Mr. Walker said he had no other options, since he is facing a deficit of $137 million in the current state budget and the prospect of a $3.6 billion hole in the coming two-year budget.
"For us, it's simple," said Mr. Walker, whose family home was surrounded by angry workers this week, prompting the police to close the street. "We're broke."
For months, state and local officials around the country have tackled their budget problems by finding trims here and there, apologetically resorting to layoffs, and searching for accounting moves to limp through one more year.
Events in Wisconsin this week, though, are a sign of something new: No more apologies, no half-measures. Given the dire straits of budgets around the country, other state leaders may take similarly drastic steps with state workers, pensions and unions.