Wisconsin patrol officers have been dispatched to the homes of Democratic state senators to pressure the lawmakers to return to the Senate and vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.
Last week, 14 state senators left Wisconsin to avoid voting on the bill, which would take away the union rights of public employees. There are 19 Republican senators, but the Senate needs a minimum of 20 members present to debate and vote on the bill.
Police can’t arrest the absent members, according to The Associated Press, but Republicans hope that at least one Democratic senator will be pressured to return.
Republicans in Wisconsin claim the collective bargaining rights for public employees needs to be limited so the state can avoid laying off workers due to a budget gap of $137 million in the current fiscal year.
Democrats countered that Republicans, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, have not been willing to negotiate with them and slow the legislative process down.
In a televised press conference Wednesday, Gov. Walker said that he would be forced to layoff 1,500 state workers if Democratic state senators didn’t return and allow his budget bill to pass.
“I have great respect for our workers both the government and outside of government and I think at a time where our 7.5 percent unemployment rate is still better than the national average, we cannot afford to have anybody laid off,” Gov. Walker said. “But unfortunately we will have little to no choice if those senate Democrats continue to hold out from allowing the Senate to move forward on a vote on this measure.”
Wisconsinites are mostly split on the budget repair bill, according to a recent poll sponsored by WisconsinReporter.com.
Half of those polled had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the budget repair bill, while the other half had a “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” view.
Fifty-six percent of the 500 likely voters polled said that Wisconsin state employees and public employee unions should have collective bargaining powers, with 32 percent disagreeing. Twelve percent were not sure.