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Burke says she’d work to restore union bargaining rights as governor

Shawn Johnson, Wisconsin Public Radio

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke says she would seek to restore union bargaining rights if elected, though she won't pledge to repeal the law known as Act 10.

Burke blames Act 10 for Wisconsin's political climate, and in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio she blamed it for Wisconsin's job growth lagging other states.

“Certainly the divisiveness was as a result of Act 10, and it has had an impact on our economy,” said Burke.

Burke says the state can't cut its way to prosperity and says it needs to attract good people to the public sector, specifically to teaching. “If we want to have thriving students and thriving schools, we need to have thriving teachers as well,” she said.

Burke says if she'd been governor three years ago, she would have negotiated with unions. She stopped short of saying she'd repeal Act 10, saying it's only reasonable to ask for contributions to an employee's health care and pension. But Burke says Wisconsin needs to make sure its wages for public employees are competitive, especially for teachers.

“Fewer people are actually considering going into the teaching profession,” said Burke. “We also have a large loss of teachers in the first five years of teaching, and so we have to make sure that this is a profession that attracts good people and is competitive in terms of not only its pay but its benefits.”

Burke says she would not need to raise taxes if more bargaining rights were returned to public workers. Republicans dispute this: Gov. Scott Walker says Act 10 gave local governments the power to manage their own budgets and credits the law with helping Republicans cut taxes since Walker took office.

Burke also said she'll hold the line on taxes if she's elected, including for Wisconsin's wealthiest residents.

While many Democrats, including President Obama, have called for raising taxes on the wealthy, Burke dismissed the idea during an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio.

“I would look at how we could save money in terms of waste and fraud and other programs that aren't working within government,” said Burke. “But the biggest issue, and the biggest way that we are going to hold our line on taxes in the long term, is we need to grow our economy.”

Republicans have sought to tie Burke to tax increases signed into law by former Democratic governor Jim Doyle. Doyle made a similar pledge as a candidate, though he later raised several taxes, including on Wisconsin's wealthiest residents.

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