It was one year ago today, state Senate Democrats took unprecedented action to delay passage of Governor Scott Walker’s controversial budget repair bill. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald initially thought it was a rumor, that Democrats were not going to be on the floor that day. “One of the reasons for that was because I had seen Senator (Tim) Cullen in the chamber,” Fitzgerald says. “It wasn’t until a couple of hours later that I was able to confirm “wow, the Democrats left for Illinois,” and then try to determine what the impact could be.”
AUDIO: Senator Fitzgerald interview (11:00)
Minority Leader Mark Miller says his members had met, and decided a trip to Illinois was the only way to slow down Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill with its sweeping restrictions on collective bargaining for public employees. “So we decided to rendezvous at the Clock Tower Inn in Rockford,” says Miller. “I was amazed to see it portrayed (in television reports) as a resort, because anyone who’s been there knows that it’s not a resort.”
AUDIO: Senator Miller interview (7:45)
The Senate Democrats – soon to be dubbed the “Fab 14” by supporters – ended up staying in Illinois (or at least away from the Capitol) for just over three weeks, as steadily larger protests by tens of thousand of people took place both in and outside the building. The Senate remains deeply divided on partisan lines. Fitzgerald blames Democrats who failed to grapple with the state’s fiscal woes, while Miller puts the blame on what he calls Governor Scott Walker’s divisive leadership.