Wis. Democrats turn up in Chicago

February 19, 2011 5:15:22 AM PST
Protesters fighting a bill that would cut benefits and bargaining rights for state workers in Wisconsin clogged the Capitol in Madison for a second day.

All 14 Senate Democrats left the state Thursday to delay action on the bill.

But the outcome of the battle may be inevitable. Republicans say they have the votes to approve the measure.

ABC7 tracked down two Wisconsin state senators who fled to Illinois. They say it's up to Gov. Scott Walker to decide how and when the standoff will end. Walker is ruling out a compromise and calling on legislators to come home.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D) is in Chicago waiting for his governor to blink. He is one of several Wisconsin lawmakers playing a waiting game in Illinois.

"It's time for the governor to understand exactly what he's done and to try and bring everybody together before things really get out of hand," Sen. Erpenbach told ABC7.

"It's not acceptable when you won't listen to the people. You won't come to the table to talk to the workers. And in addition to that, then you want to take away their rights," said Sen. Lena Taylor, (D).

"To me, that's union busting. To the Senate Democrats, that's union busting. And it's really vicious, vindictive language that he put in there," said Sen. Erpenbach.

Tens of thousands crowded Wisconsin's capitol Friday, protesting the governor's proposed cuts in benefits and bargaining rights for teachers and other public workers.

Carol Caref of the Chicago Teachers Union was in Wisconsin in a show of union support.

"It's important because this attack on union workers in Wisconsin is something that could happen to us in Illinois as well," said Caref.

"We're always available here in Illinois if they'd like to visit and stay awhile until their governor comes to his senses," said Gov. Pat Quinn, (D) Illinois.

From Gov. Walker there is no sign of backing down. On Friday, He ordered state troopers to the home of a missing legislator who was instead here in Illinois.

"People talk about democracy. You can't participate in democracy if you're not in the arena," said Gov. Walker.

"This might be the only option we really have to try to say to the governor, 'Let's slow this down. You're ramming this through,'" said Sen. Dave Hansen, (D).

It was Wisconsin's budget crisis that led to this showdown. And with many states, including Illinois, in similar straits, Wisconsin's battle could have national implications.

"I'm glad Gov. Walker is taking the lead, and I hope that has a positive influence on Gov. Quinn," said Christina Tobin, National Taxpayers United of Illinois.

"We don't have any money. We can't make a good faith effort to negotiate when we don't have any money," said Gov. Walker.