Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker had vowed to send out layoff notices by Friday if his budget-repair legislation wasn't passed. And he made good on his word, notifying public-employee unions that layoffs would begin soon if nothing changes.
But the notices appeared not to be the true deadline that had been expected. Instead, the deadlocked sides got additional time to try and reach agreement, with Walker saying the legislation must be passed in 15 days to avoid the layoffs.
That the notices gave two more weeks for the controversial bill to be passed was interpreted by some as Walker blinking and quietly backing the state away from the brink in order to buy more time to resolve a standoff that has made him increasingly unpopular. A new poll gave him a 43 percent approval rating.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
Individual employees would get layoff notices in 15 days, under the governor's plan. The layoffs would occur in early April.
Walker's announcement gives Democrats more time to reach a deal. Walker had insisted that his budget-repair bill needed to pass this past week in order to avoid layoffs. But a news release from Walker Friday said layoffs might be avoided if the bill passes in the next 15 days.
The 14 Wisconsin Senate Democrats who fled their state for Illinois to avoid providing Republicans the quorum they needed to pass their legislation, remained on the lam as the weekend began.
They were said to be trying to get Republicans to remove some, if not all, of the language that would limit the collective bargaining rights of the unions that represent Wisconsin's public workers.
Another Journal-Sentinel excerpt:
According to GOP sources familiar with the talks, the discussions with Democratic senators holed up in Illinois include removing or changing a provision from Walker's budget-repair bill that would limit unions' bargaining over wages to the rate of inflation. The talks have also touched on the possibility of removing a provision that would require unions to vote every year on whether the union would remain active or be decertified, the sources said.
The last provision especially is anathema to Democrats and unions, who say it could kill many labor groups. The sources asked not to be identified because they had no clearance to speak and because the talks were still delicate.