Updated 2/18/2011 at 5:00 p.m.
CHICAGO (WBBM) — A number of Wisconsin Democrats are hiding out in Chicago, making a stand against a Republican plan to balance the state budget by cutting the pay, benefits and collective bargaining rights of public workers.
That’s fine with the Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. He says the Wisconsin Democrats are welcome to stay here until Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in Quinn’s words, “comes to his senses.”
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There were rumors a group of senators were holed up in McCormick Place, site of the Chicago Auto Show, holding strategy meetings. The have said they may stay away for weeks if necessary.
“We welcome them to the Chicago Auto Show,” said Quinn, who was touring the show on Friday.
“In Illinois, we always believed in working together as a team and not kicking somebody in the shins,” Quinn added. Public employees, like teachers, “deserve some respect.”
Gov. Walker, Quinn says, need to take another look at the legislation.
Public workers are upset with the Walker cost-cutting plan, which calls on them to pay for pension and health benefits and removes collective bargaining rights for some. Republican lawmakers say they have enough votes to pass the bill, but Senate Democrats left the Capitol to prevent a vote from being taken.
Wisconsin Democrats say they are prepared to hide out for days or weeks, until the Republican governor negotiates with them.
“Some people look at it like we’re not doing our job but we are absolutely doing our job. We’re standing up for thousands of people who want to be heard on this,” Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, told CBS 2’s Kate Sullivan.
He said the governor should have had Democrats and union leaders in to discuss the budget, rather than plow ahead with anti-union plans.
“You’re tearing essentially the fabric of Wisconsin apart,” he said.