With no political compromise in sight on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill, tens of thousands of demonstrators with strong opinions of their own converged Saturday inside and outside the state Capitol to chant, sing, wave signs, beat drums and march for their causes...
The protesters descended on Madison as Walker, through a spokesman, rejected an overture from a Democratic state senator who said public employee unions had agreed to make financial sacrifices contained in the bill in return for the right to bargain collectively.
Cullen Werwie, Walker's spokesman, said in a statement that state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D) "should come to work and debate the bill while doing his job in Madison. "Gov. Walker has repeatedly said that we won't negotiate the budget and we can't balance the budget on a hope and a prayer," Werwie said. "That remains true. State and local government need the flexibility to manage this and future budget crises. In addition, as government workers pay a modest amount toward their pension and health care premium, about half the national average, it is fair to give them the choice of additional savings on their union dues."
Walker's office reacted in response to Erpenbach, who said he had been informed that state and local public employee unions had agreed to the financial aspects of the measure.
Erpenbach's statement was backed by a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, who confirmed the agreement, and by Marty Beil, the head of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees...
Sen. Jim Holperin (D) said Democratic senators were to meet in caucus again on Saturday night at an undisclosed location in Illinois. Holperin said the senators expect to remain out of state through the weekend. But he said eventually they will have to make a decision to come back, either with Republicans agreeing to let collective bargaining stay intact, or by senators staying away long enough for the public to have enough time to study the legislation...
It was the fifth day of protests over Walker's budget-repair bill but the first day on which a large, organized pro-Walker rally countered the demonstrators.
The number of protesters opposed to Walker's bill, however, outnumbered by far the groups representing tea party organizations and other groups backing the governor.
Editor's Note: Interesting how the unions in WI have already conceded every financial issue -- every money issue -- to the governor. All they want is to retain collective bargaining power (the key word here is "power"). We thought this was all about the pay for the teachers?! If so, how does conceding every financial aspect of this argument legitimize the union rhetoric???
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