Wis. Democrats Say Walker Ignored Their Budget Fix

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Wisconsin's Senate Democrats fled the state two weeks ago to avoid a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget-repair bill. Most of them watched Walker's televised budget address Tuesday in Illinois. The Senate minority leader says Democrats have offered ideas to balance the budget, but they've been ignored.

CHERYL CORLEY: I'm Cheryl Corley and I found a few of the Wisconsin senators who had left their undisclosed locations at a Comfort Suites hotel about 20 miles south of the Wisconsin border.

State Senator MARK MILLER (Democrat, Wisconsin): We're not staying here. We're staying at other places in Illinois.

CORLEY: That's Democratic Senate leader Mark Miller. He and his colleagues miss their northern home, but Miller says they've been staying in touch with constituents by email, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

In the hallway, Senator Chris Larson gave a supporter a few dollars for a Wisconsin treat he had brought him - root beer brewed in Milwaukee.

State Senator CHRIS LARSON (Democrat, Wisconsin): It's kind of tough to find.

CORLEY: February 17th is the last day the 14 Democrats were in Madison, protesting the governor's effort to eliminate collective bargaining rights. Larson says he's ready to go back to his home state, but he says that's up to the governor. And he's not buying Walker's argument that his absence could lead to widespread layoffs.

Senator LARSON: We take it seriously, but the fact that he's trying to pit, you know, workers against working rights is unfortunate and disgusting. At the same time as he's cutting taxes for corporations and cutting taxes for people who really don't need it. So it's really a false choice.

CORLEY: Senator Miller says Governor Walker did appear to be conciliatory during his budget address when calling for Democrats to come home.

Senator MILLER: We appreciate the change in tone.

CORLEY: But he says there is much in the governor's budget that's troubling. Miller says Democrats have offered ideas to balance the budget that Walker has ignored. Like Larson, he dismisses the governor's layoff predictions.

Senator MILLER: Well, that's just a threat and it's bogus, because, I mean, he may go through with the layoff notices and so forth and try to use us an excuse, but we provided him on Monday with an outline.

CORLEY: An outline that he says shows how the state can dig out from its budget woes without the drastic measures. Senator Chris Larson says although there have been some discussions with a few Republican colleagues, there's still no agreement on when the Democrats will return.

Senator LARSON: The fact is we've only been gone for two weeks. You know, we're standing strong.

CORLEY: And apparently heartened by demonstrations that are now going into their third week.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News.�

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