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Report: most voters know little about the issues behind recall election

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UNDATED (WSAU) For many, Governor Scott Walker’s expected recall election will be a referendum on his repeal of collective bargaining privileges for most public workers. But according to Milwaukee’s Public Policy Forum, voters have no idea what the real impact has been on local governments and public schools. The Republican Walker and his legislative majorities approved a state budget last year that cut almost a billion dollars in state aid. And he said the municipalities, county governments, and schools could make up for the cuts by scaling back what the unions gained from their bargaining power – and by making all public employees pay more for their pensions and health insurance.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie has repeatedly said the budget changes avoided thousands of public worker layoffs, protected taxpayers, and helped balance budgets. But Democrat Kathleen Falk, who vows to restore union bargaining if she wins the recall election, said schools and communities have been thrown into crisis.

The Public Policy Forum says it’s impossible to tell whether the net effects have been good or bad at this point. And there is no complete statewide data about the total impact on schools and local governments. Last fall, administrators said schools cut almost 34-hundred positions through layoffs and retirements. But Walker’s office said most were in schools which extended their union contracts just before the bargaining law took effect.

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities said the union law and extra employee contributions would only cover 70-percent of the state aid cuts in 36 large cities. But the league said the estimate was made a year ago, and it did not cover many smaller places.

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