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A $930 Million Misunderstanding Over Walker's Budget Repair Bill

2:01 PM, Feb 24, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Union official Paul Hambleton says this proves that collective bargaining does not need to be taken away to balance the budget, since teachers have already said they're willing to pay the aforementioned increases in benefits. Werwie disagrees. He says that the statewide teachers' union cannot promise that teachers in all of the 424 school districts will agree to the health benefits changes. Werwie points out that, in school districts and municipalities throughout the state, local unions have pushed through contracts recently that do not require employees to pay 12 percent for health insurance premiums. Furthermore, Werwie says, curtailing collective bargaining would allow school districts to save $68 million just by switching from the WEA Trust-—the health insurance company owned by the teachers' union—to the state employees health plan.

Collective bargaining remains a big point of contention. "Getting rid of collective bargaining takes away our voice," says Hambleton. "It will destroy public education in Wisconsin." But if in fact all of the cuts to school districts may be achieved through a 5.8 percent pension contribution and a 12 percent contribution for health insurance premiums, that certainly lowers the stakes for teachers in the short term.

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