Barrett, Falk differ on collective bargaining issue

MADISON (AP) -- Democratic candidates for governor Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett disagreed Wednesday on the best way to restore collective bargaining rights for public workers that were taken away under a law championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker that motivated a drive to recall him from office.

Falk and Barrett outlined their differing positions at a candidate forum that attracted an overflow crowd of hundreds in the liberal capital city. They are the front-runners in the Democratic race that also includes Secretary of State Doug La Follette and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.

Falk has received the backing of every union in the state that has endorsed in the race so far, including the AFL-CIO, the statewide teachers union and the largest union representing state workers. Their backing came after Falk promised to veto any state
budget that doesn't restore the bargaining rights that Walker and the Republican Legislature took away last year. "The only bill that has to pass the Legislature is the budget bill,'' she said, making the case for using it as the vehicle to restore bargaining rights.

But Republicans currently control the Assembly 59-39-1, and the Senate is evenly split 16-16 with one vacancy. If Republicans hold on to at least one house, a budget veto could lead to stalemate. Unlike the federal government and many other states, if there is no new budget in Wisconsin the old one remains in place and the government does not shut down.

Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who lost to Walker in 2010, said that is why a veto wouldn't work, because it could leave Walker's current budget in place indefinitely. Barrett, a former congressman and state lawmaker, said he would introduce a separate bill and call a special session to pass it by persuading moderate Republicans to support it.