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WI 14 to Remain AWOL


Tuesday, March 1, 2011   

MADISON, Wis. – Today (Tuesday) is the deadline imposed by Gov. Scott Walker for a return of Democratic senators who are in Illinois holding up a vote on a budget bill that's become a workers' rights flashpoint. Walker says if the 14 Democrats fail to return today, he will start the process of notifying thousands of state workers that they are in danger of losing their jobs.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) is one of the so-called "Wisconsin 14." He says they will stay away until the governor gives some indication he is ready for serious dialogue.

"It's totally up to Governor Walker. I mean, we all want to be home. We didn't want to have to do this in the first place, and as each day ticks by – I don't know if it's 10 or 11 days now – we want to be home."

Walker is set to deliver his postponed budget address today at 4:00 p.m. at the State Capitol. After hundreds of thousands of protesters at the building over the past two weeks, the governor has limited access, citing security concerns. Others say it's an attempt to squash the protests.

The bill at the center of the drama (SB 11) would strip most collective bargaining rights from most public workers in the state. It would also cut millions of dollars from scores of social programs.

Erpenbach says the Wisconsin 14 will not be bullied by the governor, or by Republican leaders in the Senate who are threatening to cut office support and take over approval of payments to the Democrats' staffers.

"They're really clamping down now at the Capitol. I wish they wouldn't. And those orders are coming from Governor Walker – and it's like he's looking to pick a fight."

Walker says he needs to stand firm to close a $3.6 billion deficit, although opponents say the unions have already agreed to the financial help the governor wants.

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