• WisPolitics

Darling says collective bargaining changes may have to be included in budget

Sen. Alberta Darling says if the collective bargaining changes Gov. Scott Walker called for in his budget repair bill were put in the biennial budget bill, she'd vote for them and the bill would pass.

The budget repair stalled when Senate Democrats fled the state, but the collective bargaining changes were passed in a separate piece of legislation. That bill, however, has been held up by a court challenge over an alleged open meetings violation.

Darling, R-River Hills and the Senate Co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said she prefers to let the process play out in the courts. But she told WisPolitics that if the changes aren't in place by June 30, they may have to be attached to the budget bill to make the ledgers balance.

"I think it has to be in the budget bill because it works as a whole, the cuts are offset by the savings. If you don't have the savings those cuts are just so much deeper and unsustainable," she said, noting that many other states are making similar cuts but Wisconsin is giving "tools" to offset the pain.

Darling said taxpayers are tiring of the contentious atmosphere surrounding Madison and are looking for stability.

"There's a point where we have to regroup and say we have to do what's best for the citizens of this state, not what our political agendas are," said Darling, who has been running radio ads in advance of an expected recall election.

The outcome may depend on how long the recount of the Supreme Court races takes, Darling suggested. She said opponents are trying to stall the process.

"I think a lot of what's going on now is to slow things down, is to try to flip the Senate so the Senate can stop all of the Walker and the Assembly reforms," Darling said. "But we have three separate branches of government and I think our citizens should demand that we have integrity in our election procedures and outcomes and that we go forward."

Darling also said in the interview that she's expecting Joint Finance to make multiple changes to Walker's budget proposal.

Those include: SeniorCare, recycling grants, shared revenue for local roads, income maintenance provisions, and education funding.

Senate and Assembly Republicans have split into six working groups on health, transportation, shared revenue, K-12, higher education and natural resources. She said the groups are working to come up with motions to amend the budget. She said there's widespread agreement on priorities.

"We're pretty much on the same path," she said.

Darling said Republicans are committed to solving the budget deficit without raising taxes or fees.

The JFC begins executive sessions Tuesday. Darling expects committee work to wrap up by the end of May and the legislature to take up the budget by mid-June and pass the JFC budget.

And Darling said she's in favor of lifting the enrollment cap on choice schools and expanding the program to all of Milwaukee County.

But she said there could be changes to the governor's proposal to eliminate the income requirement.

"The income issue is on that is going to have a good, hardy debate," she said.

Darling indicated that lawmakers are considering choice advocate Howard Fuller's suggestion of tying the income requirement to 300 percent of the poverty level.

Listen to the interview with Darling:
*Part 1
*Part 2
*Listen to Darling's press conference

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