Barb Jenkin is afraid she won't be able to pay off her house before she retires.
The 57-year-old employee at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had been paying extra each month, hoping to have her house paid for come retirement. But Gov. Scott Walker's budget lowered her pay by $3,800 a year.
Which means Jenkin has a choice to make: "Do I cut down on my mortgage paper and just get on with the rest of my life?"
Or does she keep paying extra on her house and cut into her discretionary funding? Things are already tight. "Now when we go to a restaurant it's a special occasion," she says. "Things are going to have to be a lot tighter."
Jenkin is one of thousands of public workers making similar calculations. Today, many of them received their first reduced check and began feeling the pain.
The People's Right's Campaign held a rally to mark the occasion. It started at the UW-Madison Library Mall with just a few hundred people, but quickly swelled into the thousands as they marched down State Street to the Capitol where several people spoke.
Eric Cobb, executive director of the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin, told the crowd, "we're calling this day a day of impact. We have so many brothers and sisters in public service who have been impacted today."
He added that the cut will have a trickle down affect, as those public workers are forced to tighten their belts, it'll hurt the economy even more.
Adrienne Pagac, co-president of the UW-Madison Teaching Assistants' Association, said "We've all come here to bear witness to the robbery of our paychecks and the upward redistribution of wealth."
Howard Sieker, who works in a dorm cafeteria at UW-Madison, said he's losing about 10% of his pay, before taxes. "I'm going to have to cut back on paying my debts," he said.
Steve Lendved just got a job at the Central Wisconsin Center, so his pay comes pre-cut, as it were. But he said co-workers are feeling the pain.
"People were hurting, they were really hurting," he said. "A lot of people wanted to do some home improvement projects, but they'll have to put that on hold. One guy wanted to paint his house. Another guy wanted to buy a new -- well, not new -- but a better car. They'll have to wait."