Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate brought Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill to the floor on Friday. With the fourteen Senate Democrats still not in the chamber – or even the state – they could not vote, but they did discuss the legislation. “If nothing is done, 1500 state employees are at risk for layoffs. Thousands more could be at risk if this fiscal crisis extends into the next biennium,” said Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills. “Wisconsin public employees will still have a larger scope for collective bargaining than federal employees. We are trying to protect jobs, we are trying to prevent layoffs, we are trying to do as voters asked us in November, to get this state on a stable financial footing.” The Senate took the floor amid a twelfth day of protests in and around the Capitol by public and private sector union members and their supporters, opposing Walker’s plans to strip must public employees of much of their ability to collectively bargain.
And Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center, who’d written an amendment he’d hoped would get bipartisan support, said with no Democrats on the floor, he made the decision to not introduce it. “With the minority party’s refusing to participate, bipartisanship is simply unobtainable, and it puts me and my constituents and every independent minded person in this state at risk,” said Shultz, who’d proposed “sunsetting” the restrictions on collective bargaining after two years. Schultz said he was deeply disappointed in the 14 Democrats who left last week in order to deprive Republicans of a quorum to vote on the bill. “This is not a heroic epic, it is not romantic,” said Shultz. “There are no heroes, there are no villains. There are only potential victims in this state.” Other Republican Senators spoke on the bill before Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald moved it to third reading, which means Democrats will not be able to offer amendments if they return to Madison for a vote.