Wisconsin GOP Pushes For Vote On Budget

MADISON, Wis. (CBS) — Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said Wednesday that he wants a vote by the day’s end on a bill to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees.

Meanwhile, protesters are still marching outside on the streets of Madison, and Democratic state senators remain camped out in Chicago in an effort to stall a vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s plan.

Democrats say the bill would bust public unions, but Republicans led by Gov. Scott Walker say the bill is non-negotiable. Tens of thousands of unionized workers and supporters have traveled to Wisconsin to fight Walker’s bill.

A total of 14 state senators left the state to hold back the vote on the bill. Turning up the pressure on the Democrats, Walker warned Tuesday that state employees could start receiving layoff notices as early as next week if the bill isn’t passed soon. The layoffs couldn’t take effect immediately — existing union contracts could forestall them for weeks or months — and Walker wouldn’t say which jobs he would go after first.

Wisconsin state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) said Wednesday that he remains in Chicago, and the senators planned to meet later in the day.

But he said the senators had no plans to return to the state to take up the bill until Walker is willing to compromise.

Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) is pushing his compromise that would make the removal of bargaining rights temporary.

Erpenbach says he believes public opinion is on the side of bill opponents. The proposal has attracted tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol for nine straight days, with hundreds of them sleeping over every night.

While Wisconsin remained the main front in the national debate over union rights, similar battles were taking shape in other states. In Indiana, House Democrats walked out of the Statehouse on Tuesday, blocking a GOP-backed bill against mandatory union dues. Only three of the 40 Democratic members of the chamber were present, depriving it of a quorum.

Because House Democrats skipped the entire day’s floor session, the right-to-work legislation missed a procedural deadline for further consideration. However, Republicans could find other ways to consider it later.

A similar debate in Ohio drew thousands of union protesters Tuesday, prompting officials there to lock the doors to the Statehouse.

In Wisconsin, if lawmakers take no action on the union bill by the end of the week, the state will not be able to refinance debt that Walker had counted on for $165 million worth of savings under the legislation. Republican leaders in both the Senate and Assembly said they have the votes to pass the bill.

Fitzgerald said the bill was a key part of the Republican agenda to cut government spending that won the GOP majorities in the Legislature in November.

“When you talk about a compromise, no. We’re going to make a reform,” the Assembly speaker said.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Jim

    Unions are the big bad bully, but the average taxpayer needs to be heard also and it sounds like the Republicans heard our voice loud and clear. Do not back down to the unions! There are 10% unemployed that would love to fill those positions!

    • Emil Flybatch

      Good though only question is how many are qualified. Not dissimilar to open jobs in private sector, people are not qualified and are unwilling in many cases to go out and get the skills they need.
      I am not pro or con union, because the for them need depends. I will tell you this, however, if it were not for unions, you would not be making what you are today. Managment created unions, by not treating employees fairly ( wages, benefits, safety). I would not be so quick to condem, they are there for a reason and odds are most Americans have family with sweat and blood equity in them.

    • Jen Zak

      Jim I’d like to see you in a class room teaching 40 seven year old students all by yourself. If bargaining rights are taken off the table for WI teachers local governments are allowed change class size, school day length and school year length when they want. Doing this will drive good teachers into the private sector or out of state. The states that have removed collective bargaining right are ranked 48th, 49, 50th in ACT/SAT scores, that alone should tell you something.

  • bob

    Who’s paying for the 14 democrats that fled to Illinois to stay? Are Illinois taxpayers paying their room & board & food or are Wisc taxpayers paying for it? Are these people being put up by Quinn at the mansion? Will he need more than the 26 million to fix the place up for his guests?

    Maybe the newsmedia needs to stop interviewing the union protestors and interview some Wisc taxpayers and ask them if they want to have their taxes raised to pay for people that don’t contribute to their pensions or health insurance and receive lavish pensions they can get in their 50’s in addition to their ridiculous salaries that no private sector employees get regardless if they’re union or not.

  • joe s

    yes that is right let us working class take the hit again , and the rich a##hole get richer at are expense joe

  • Suburbanite

    Joe S – I think you’re missing the point. Who are the “rich”? That would be the Wisconsin taxpayers. I think if you ask them, they’re not rich. Why not look for a way for both parties to get something out of this. The state cannot afford the deficit, and if the union doesn’t agree, the members will be laid off. So, before you think it’s “rich” vs. “poor”, you’ll need to think again as the middle class families will be most affected.

    • joe s

      suburbante you are missing the point ,these people do not make lot they the union protect these people and they are middle class tax payer who have the right to have benefit i don’t see the GOP losing there pay or benefit it is alway the working class

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