The weather in Wisconsin is cold this time of year — but the budget fight is only getting hotter. Following a walkout by the state Senate Democrats, depriving Republicans of the three-fifths majority needed to pass the budget and its controversial anti-public union provisions, the NBC affiliate in Madison now reports that sources say the Dems have left the state entirely.
This comes after the state Senate majority leader said that the State Patrol could be called in to round up the Dems. However, leaving for another state would presumably place the legislators beyond the state’s jurisdiction. (Fun fact: The state Senate leader and the Assembly Speaker are brothers — and the new head of the State Patrol is their father.)
I asked the state Democratic Party for comment on this latest report, but communications director Graeme Zielinski was unable to confirm anything. “I know the whereabouts of not a single Democratic senator,” said Zielinski. “I do not know what latitude they’re on, or know what longitude they’re on. I assume they’re in this hemisphere, I’ll say that.”
Under Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s plan, as TPM has posted, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn’t rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index. Walker and state Republican leaders have said the plan to limit the collective bargaining rights of state employees is necessary to deal with the state’s budget shortfall.
According to the Associated Press: “The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.”
In the past week, the state Capitol has been deluged with protests, and some schools have closed as a result of teachers calling in sick en masse.