UPDATED 03/01/11 9:32 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (CBS) — Democratic Wisconsin senators are still hiding out in Illinois, as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker prepares to present a budget that strips collective bargaining rights from most public employees.
Meanwhile, protesters against Walker’s budget plan appear to be gaining support across the country.
A new CBS News/New York Times poll indicates that 56 percent of Americans oppose cutting the pay and benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, compared with 37 percent in favor and 7 percent undecided. A total of 60 percent oppose taking away collective bargaining rights, compared with 33 percent in favor and 7 percent undecided.
The poll also finds that most Americans say they would support a tax increase over a reduction in pay for public workers.
But Walker is standing his ground.
“The law is on our side,” he said. “We have a right to do this to the statutes and that’s what we’re doing.”
Protests against Walker’s budget plan continue in Madison, and some supporters of public workers’ are calling on President Barack Obama to keep a promise he made on the campaign trail 3 1/2 years ago.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, in 2007, then-candidate Obama told a crowd that if American workers are being denied the right to organize and collectively bargain when he is in the White House, he would put on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk the picket line with them.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports
So far, there has been no indication that Obama intends to do that in Wisconsin, and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) does not think he should.
“In terms of physically walking or appearing at the capitol, I would say in his role as president that may not be the right thing to do at this moment, but I think the American people know where he stands,” Durbin said.
Durbin said the President of the United States has a different role to play in matters like this, and President Obama has exercised his leadership correctly.
While most of the protesters are in Madison, the demonstrations have spread well beyond the state capital.
In particular, Walker’s campaign backers are taking heat. Protesters marched Monday outside a Georgia Pacific plant in Green Bay Monday, which is owned by Koch Industries.
The billionaire Koch brothers rank 24th on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, and are Walker supporters. Walker took heat from opponents earlier this week, when Ian Murphy, a blogger for the left-leaning Web site “Buffalo Beast,” posed as Koch Industries billionaire and Walker backer David Koch and called Walker up.
In a 20-minute conversation, Walker openly discussed plans to issue layoff notices if his budget bill is not passed soon, and talked about ideas to punish the absent Senate Democrats, whom Murphy-as-Koch referred to as “Democrat bastards.” Murphy-as-Koch also suggested inserting “troublemakers” among the demonstrators, but Walker said while he had “thought about it,” the idea would be politically unadvisable.
Tea Party protesters have been coming to Wisconsin to campaign in support of Walker.