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Politics Last Updated: Feb 23rd, 2011 - 15:02:00

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Bill Debated for Hours
Caroline Lorraine

Feb 23, 2011, 13:46

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's bill was debated into the early hours Wednesday.  Walker's bill would erase most public union collective bargaining rights.  The bill being considered by the Assembly would repeal the majority of bargaining rights for unionized state and local workers, grant the administration broad powers to reshape health care coverage for low-income Wisconsin residents, and plug a $137 million gap in the state's biennial budget that ends June 30, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

If the Republican-dominated Assembly approves the bill as expected, it will head for the state Senate, where one GOP senator has said he wants to amend Walker's plan and Democrats so far have blocked a vote by fleeing the state.

In the Assembly, Republicans hailed the bill as a bold move to tackle government spending and the state's projected $3.9 billion budget deficit for the next two years.

Democrats in the lower chamber said the bill was a union-breaking effort that could also result in health care cuts to programs such prescription drug benefits for seniors. They noted unions had agreed to make cuts to pension and health benefits that Walker said would save the state nearly $330 million through mid-2013.

Democrats said they had as many as 200 amendments, the Journal Sentinel said. But as of 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Republicans tabled only seven amendments and faced more hours of debate.

At most, Walker and the GOP-led Legislature have three days to pass the bill and get it signed into law before a major component is lost, observers noted. Lawmakers and the governor face a Saturday deadline to complete a refinancing of state debt that would free up $165 million. If they miss the deadline, Republicans must scramble to find more cuts to balance the budget.

On Tuesday, Walker warned that layoff notices would be sent to state workers by early next week if the budget repair bill is not passed in time. Administration officials said at least 1,500 state workers could be laid off by June, and up to 6,000 more could be pink-slipped after that date, not including up to 6,000 local government workers facing possible layoffs.

Source: UPI

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