AWOL Senators Watch Wis. Budget Unveiling from Illinois

Tuesday, Mar 1, 2011  |  Updated 9:45 PM CDT
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Three of <a title=Wisconsin's AWOL Democrats watched from south of the border as Gov. Scott Walker outlined a biennel budget that slashes funding to public schools and local governments while holding the line on spending in that state." />

Three of Wisconsin's AWOL Democrats watched from south of the border as Gov. Scott Walker outlined a biennel budget that slashes funding to public schools and local governments while holding the line on spending in that state.

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Several of Wisconsin's AWOL senators watched from south of the border as Gov. Scott Walker outlined a biennel budget that slashes funding to public schools and local governments while holding the line on spending in that state.

The Democrats, watching the video feed in a conference room in Grayslake, said they've put into play an alternative that balances the debt-laden budget without busting state workers' rights.

"Unfortunately, that's been rejected.  The only alternative has been going after the workers and going after the worker rights, and that's just untenable right now," said Sen. Chris Larson.

The senators believe at least one and maybe as many as three Republican state senators may swing toward compromise to end the two-week stalemate that started with Walker's previously proposed "budget repair bill." 

"There are several other Republicans who don't want to vote for it, but they feel the wrath of the governor.  That as a new governor, they may lose their committee assignments, they may have a candidate in the next election.  So they're concerned, and rightfully so," said Sen. Dave Hansen

Even if Republican votes were enough to coax back the Democrats, they said they're worried about what else is going on: reports of attempts to intimidate the senators and their staff members by withholding paychecks and restricting use of copier machines.

"It's about as petty as petty can be," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

Meanwhile, the Republican leader of the Wisconsin state Senate said he met secretly with some of the 14 Senate Democrats who left the state to avoid voting on a bill that would take away public employee collective bargaining rights.

Scott Fitzgerald wouldn't say Tuesday who he met with or how many were there, but said the Democrats discussed with him ways in which they could return to the Capitol.

No agreement was reached about returning but Fitzgerald said he expects talks to continue.  He added that the meeting shows there is disagreement among the Democrats in their resolve about staying away to delay action on the bill. 

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