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Missing Wisconsin Democrats to face $100 per day fine

By David Ariosto, CNN
"Every day we fail to act on this just adds more and more to the cost," Gov. Scott Walker said.
"Every day we fail to act on this just adds more and more to the cost," Gov. Scott Walker said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Republicans vote on a resolution that would fine missing Democrats $100 per day
  • The measure could make them forfeit their parking spaces and discretionary spending accounts
  • 14 Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to prevent a quorum on the budget bill
  • The second vote is scheduled for Friday

(CNN) -- Wisconsin Senate Republicans on Wednesday adopted a resolution that would fine missing Democrats $100 every day they remain away from the state capital, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters.

The measure could also force the absentee lawmakers to forfeit their parking spaces and discretionary spending accounts.

The Democratic lawmakers were not immediately available for comment.

Fourteen Democratic state senators have fled to Illinois to prevent a quorum on a budget bill that would curtail the collective bargaining rights of most public-sector workers.

The state Senate has to pass a second round of individual resolutions that target each missing lawmaker before the fines will take effect, said Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse.

The second vote is scheduled for Friday and would go into effect immediately after its presumed passage.

Republicans need a single Democrat to cross party lines and rejoin the 33-member legislature to meet the quorum of 20 lawmakers required in a vote on the controversial budget repair bill. Only 17 lawmakers are required for most other issues.

Meanwhile, the state's budget showdown showed no signs of abating as Republican Governor Scott Walker again took to the airwaves Wednesday to defend his belt-tightening measure.

Wisconsin budget battle continues
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"Every day we fail to act on this just adds more and more to the cost," Walker told reporters. "It's important for those 14, or at least some of those 14 state senators, to come back home."

Passage of the budget repair bill, which would apply to the current spending plan, would limit collective bargaining to wages. Any pay increases beyond the rate of inflation would be subject to voter approval.

It would also require public workers -- with the exception of police and firefighters -- to cover more of their retirement plans and health care premiums.

Union leaders have agreed to pay more for benefits, but view restricting bargaining rights as tantamount to an assault on workers' rights.

Walker has toured the state for days in an effort to pressure the AWOL Democrats to return, defending the measure as a needed reform to union influence. But Democrats have refused pending a compromise on a bill that has drawn thousands to the state capitol in protest.

Wisconsin is confronted with a looming $137 million budget shortfall at the end of the fiscal year, June 30. The state faces a $3.6 billion budget gap by 2013.

Lawmakers face a March 16 deadline to balance the budget, officials said.

But budget battles involving workers' rights are not limited to Wisconsin.

In Ohio, the state's Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would curb the collective bargaining rights of public workers and strip away their power to strike. The legislation moves on to the Republican-controlled House where lawmakers are expected to take up the measure on March 10.

In Indiana -- much like in Wisconsin -- Democratic lawmakers fled to neighboring Illinois over a Republican-backed proposal that union supporters say will restrict workers' rights.

Amid the stalemate, Indiana Democratic House Minority leader Pat Bauer travelled back from Illinois Wednesday and met with Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma. The results of that meeting are unclear.

In California, lawmakers introduced a bill that would do away with collective bargaining of pension benefits for the state's public employees. The state's governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, has imposed a statewide hiring freeze across all government agencies.

Critics label the moves anti-union, while their supporters often describe the measures as overdue and needed reforms.

 
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