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Wisconsin protesters call for bigger rally amid budget standoff

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Wisconsin governor 'pranked'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thousands have taken to the streets in Wisconsin over a budget proposal
  • Gov. Scott Walker defends the budget plan during a speech
  • Several states are undergoing similar budget battles

(CNN) -- Wisconsin state workers are calling for the "largest day of demonstration outside of Madison in state history" on Thursday to protest Gov. Scott Walker's budget-cutting strategy that they say will cause them to lose their collective bargaining rights.

Thursday's planned demonstrations come after days of protests and battles in the state over the budget.

Walker defended his budget-repair bill during a speech Wednesday to assure citizens that his measure will address a $137 million shortfall and increase contributions of public workers to their pensions and health insurance benefits.

"This is ultimately about the future of our state," Walker said

The governor's proposal also requires annual votes for unions to maintain certification, while eliminating unions' ability to deduct annual dues from workers' paychecks.

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"For some of the workers in our state, (union dues) equates to $1,000 out of their paychecks," Walker said. "That's real money."

Moments after the governor's address, state Rep. Brett Hulsey, a Democrat, delivered an impromptu speech in which he called the Republican governor "tyrannical" and described his proposal as "union-busting."

The dueling speeches in Wisconsin come after last week's walkout by 14 Democratic state senators who essentially boycotted the legislature and fled to neighboring Illinois to prevent a quorum from passing the bill.

In the days since the walkout, thousands of protesters gathered in Madison.

Similar budget battles are playing out in nine other states. Protesters have hit the streets in Indiana and Ohio, besides Wisconsin.

The sticking point in many of the states' budget battles involve the role of unions.