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Politics Last Updated: Feb 22nd, 2011 - 18:44:50

Scott Walker: Vote or I may lay off 1,500
Caroline Lorraine
Feb 22, 2011, 12:22

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Scott Walker, Wisconsin Governor, said he might lay off 1,500 employees if his bill limiting public-employee union collective bargaining is not passed this week.

The layoffs would happen if the state misses a chance to refinance bonds and save more than $100 million, the Republican said.

This could happen, he said, because Democratic state senators fled to Illinois last week to block passage of his controversial collective-bargaining bill.

To make up the gap, 1,500 state workers would have to be laid off, Walker said at a Monday news conference.

"For those 14 Senate Democrats, you've had your time," Walker said. "Now it's time to come home."

But Democratic lawmakers vowed to stay away until Walker dropped his bill, which he said was needed to close a projected $3.6 billion shortfall and they said would essentially dissolve most public-sector unions by limiting them to only wage negotiations.

"After four days, we're still very united," Democratic state Sen. Fred Risser of Madison told the Los Angeles Times. "I think more united than when we started."

The Senate needs a quorum of 20 or more members to decide spending issues, including Walker's budget bill. This means the Senate's 19 Republicans need one of the body's 14 Democrats to be present before they can act.

Other measures need only a majority of the chamber's 33 members, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau said his colleagues would take up those matters starting Tuesday, including a measure Democrats strongly oppose -- a bill requiring people to provide photo identification at the polls.

The Senate could act on that bill as early as Wednesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Democrats would want to argue against the bill on the Senate floor, the newspaper said.

In addition, the Republican-controlled state Assembly was to meet Tuesday morning to debate Walker's bill amid unprecedented security.

The debate was expected to last hours, with Democrats offering more than 100 amendments to the bill, Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha said.

Walker, who refused to back down, said he would address voters directly in a "fireside chat" at 6 p.m. CST Tuesday.

The Capitol drama also marked its seventh day Monday with thousands of protesters filling the rotunda and Statehouse grounds.

Monday's protests were dominated by those opposed to the bill, after a weekend of demonstrations -- including an estimated 70,000 people Saturday -- that also included a small number of austerity-measure supporters.

In Ohio, union officials said they expected as many as 20,000 protesters Tuesday at the Statehouse, where a legislative panel is considering a Republican-backed bill similar to Wisconsin's that would restrict collective-bargaining rights for about 400,000 public employees. Republican Gov. John Kasich supports the bill.

In Indiana Monday, thousands of steelworkers, autoworkers and other labor activists marched on the state Capitol to protest a bill to dramatically weaken the clout of private-sector unions.

Source: UPI

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