Assembly Republicans didn't stray from the party message Tuesday, telling dozens of reporters packed inside a Capitol hearing room that the state is broke and, despite the tens of thousands of protesters, say a majority of Wisconsin is behind them.
Standing side by side in their own unusual sign of solidarity, the Republicans drove home the point that "big cuts" to education and shared revenue are coming to the local level.
"I just don't think people realize the magnitude of what's to come with a $3.3 billion deficit," said Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon.
He added: "They need the proper tools to manage this. Collective bargaining has a fiscal impact."
The state has a $137 million budget deficit in the current fiscal budget that ends June 30 and an estimated $3.6 billion structural deficit for the 2011-2013 fiscal year.
Fitzgerald added that compromising with public unions is not an option.
"We aren't going to raise taxes," Fitzgerald said. "We are going to cut government spending."
Two of the newly elected Assembly members, Rep. Pete Knudson and Rep. Joe Knilans, reiterated the party talking point that local governments can't afford to pay public union workers anymore.
"Collective bargaining for public employees is a failed process that has driven up costs," Knudson said. "We have nothing left to give."
Firefighters and nurses will counter these arguments at a press conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday.