Budget protest news: Large demonstrations planned for Madison SaturdayWisconsin News
-- The largest crowds of the week rallied at the Wisconsin State Capitol Friday, but Saturday's gathering could top that.
MADISON - The largest crowds of the week rallied at the Wisconsin State Capitol Friday, but Saturday's gathering could top that.
State Department of Administration officials estimated 40,000 pro-labor demonstrators were on the Capitol grounds Friday. Five thousand people from the crowd were inside the building, protesting a bill back by the governor that would strip nearly all public employees of the right to collectively bargain on most issues. Governor Scott Walker has said the changes would save the state $30 million by July. Tea Party activists are expected to rally at the Capitol today in support of Walker's bill. Many say they will stay there until next Tuesday when some lawmakers will return.
Democrats dodging the vote at the Capitol could stay in hiding for weeks and that could paralyze state government. Their departure stopped action on the bill that would ease the state's budget problems by cutting the pay, benefits and collective bargaining rights of thousands of Wisconsin state government workers. Democrats who stayed in Madison got a taste of victory as well, forcing the Assembly to adjourn until at least next Tuesday before a vote is even possible. Democratic State Senator Jon Erpenbach of Middleton told the Associated Press resolution is up to the governor. Erpenbach was speaking from a hotel in downtown Chicago. He says the decision to leave the Capitol came on the spur of the moment as Democrats were discussing strategy. Democrats in Texas tried a similar strategy eight years ago, but it eventually failed.
Calling the current work stoppage and illegal strike, the Madison School District went to court to try to force teachers to return to the classroom. The district filed for a temporary restraining order. Schools were closed by the absent teachers for three days last week. The judge refused to force the teachers to return to their classes, but the head of the teachers union says they will be back Tuesday. Monday is a federal holiday.
With the sounds of protesters outside clearly audible in his Capitol conference room, Governor Scott Walker took questions from reporters Friday afternoon. Walker was asked his reaction to President Barack Obama’s statement that his budget repair bill is an assault on unions, and that the DNC’s campaign arm, Organizing for America, is on the ground in Madison. “I think the President of the United States has his hands full balancing the federal budget deficit, they have big problems there. He should stick to balancing the federal budget,” said Walker. Walker’s office announced his state budget address, which had been scheduled for next Tuesday at a Madison business, would instead be delivered on Tuesday, March 1st at the Capitol. He blamed the missing Democratic members of the state Senate.