Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has made it clear that he doesn't intend to compromise on the collective bargaining rights part of his controversial "budget repair bill." Since February 17th, when Democratic lawmakers "fled" the state for Illinois in protest of his anti-union legislation, Walker has withstood weeks of sustained protests, an onslaught of union-bought ad campaigns, and mixed public opinion polls. But he hasn't budged. The absent Democrats are starting to concede that they may return to the capitol without the hoped-for compromise. "We have always said we would go back eventually," Senator Fred Risse told the New York Times.
Unlike Gov. Walker, the public sector unions have shown some sign of meeting in the middle. "Several big public-sector unions in Wisconsin have already said they would agree to fiscal concessions in Mr. Walker's bill, including contributing 5.8% out of their pay to pensions and 12.6% out of their wages for health-care premiums, up from 6% on average today," the Wall Street Journal reports. The sticking point is the collective bargaining rights, which would strip the unions of valuable negotiating power.
Ironically, if there's one thing that scattered public opinion polls have indicated, it's that voters aren't in favor of Walker curtailing those bargaining powers. As noted by the Journal, a Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Wisconsin voters indicated that 52 percent of voters oppose weakening collective bargaining rights, with 39 percent in favor. Wisconsin voters do see the need to address their $3.6 billion budget deficit however: 44 percent of voters support a 10 percent pay cut for state workers, with 38 percent of voters opposed, the survey finds.
Some Democrats appear to be holding out hope on a compromise on bargaining rights. In a statement from Democratic Senator Chris Larson (via Talking Points Memo), Larson noted: "Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table. That could be soon based on the growing public opposition to the bill and the recall efforts against Republicans."