MADISON, Wis. — After focusing for weeks on his proposal to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights, Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday presented his full budget — a plan that cuts $1 billion in aid to public schools and local government but avoids any tax or fee increases, furloughs or widespread layoffs.
Walker said the cuts could be paid for in large part by forcing government employees to pay more for their pension and health care benefits. And the governor whose cost-cutting ideas have stirred a national debate over public-sector unions gave no indication he would soften his demand to reduce their power at the negotiating table.
Schools and local governments targeted for cuts would not be allowed to make it up with higher property taxes.
"This is a reform budget," Walker told lawmakers inside the Assembly chamber as protesters on the floor below screamed, banged on drums and blew horns. "It is about getting Wisconsin working again. 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's legislation has drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators to the Capitol over the past three weeks, and tensions were still high as Walker outlined the budget during a joint session of the Legislature convened under heavy security. Assembly Democrats refused to stand as the governor arrived to speak.
"It feels like we're announcing a going-out-of-business sale," said state Rep. Cory Mason, a Democrat from Racine who criticized Walker's proposed cuts to education.
The governor released his two-year spending plan in part to support his argument that public-worker concessions are essential to confront a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall. His proposal to eliminate most collective bargaining remains in limbo after Senate Democrats fled the state to prevent a vote.
By eliminating most collective bargaining, Walker says, state agencies, local governments and school districts will have flexibility to react quickly to the cuts.
It wasn't clear when Senate Democrats would return to take up the collective bargaining proposal. They held their own news conference in Illinois after Walker's speech. "It's a sad day for our state," said Sen. Dave Hansen.