1:05pm

Mon March 7, 2011
It's All Politics

Wisconsin Senate Democrats Want Meeting With Gov. Walker

Updated at 4:04 pm ET -- Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker rejected as "ridiculous" the request of the Senate Democrats' leader for an in-person meeting between himself and the governor.

Democrat Sen. Mark Miller is one of 14 Democrats who fled Wisconsin for Illinois to deny Republicans the quorum they needed to advance controversial budget legislation that would limit the power of public employee unions.

A quote from Walker's news conference:

"Sen. Miller is misleading the public, just like he misled us."

-- Original post below --

Wisconsin's Democratic state senators want a face-to-face meeting with the man who has come to be the bane of their existence, Gov. Scott Walker, the state's Republican chief executive.

Sounds like they also want Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, the Senate Majority Leader, to be there.

The Wisconsin lawmakers have been ensconced in Illinois to avoid being taken into custody by state police officers and returned to the statehouse against their will to form a quorum.

Now, Democratic Senate leader is proposing a meeting with the governor and Fitzgerald near the border. He doesn't say on which side.

At the time of this writing, Walker's response wasn't available.

An excerpt from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which in turn provides a bit of the letter by Miller.

"I assure you that Democratic state senators, despite our differences and the vigorous debate we have had, remain ready and willing to find a reasonable compromise," Miller said in the letter...

... The Wall Street Journal spurred hopes of compromise Sunday with a story citing Miller and saying the Democrats would be back "soon." But that same night Democrats said there was still no development to make that happen immediately.

Miller spokesman Mike Browne said Monday morning that he knew of no plans for Democrats to return later in the day. The senators were scheduled to meet later in the morning or early afternoon, he said.

Wisconsin Democrats, public employees and the unions representing them have for weeks been protesting the plans of Walker and legislative Republicans to limit union power. Republicans would make the union contract changes through legislation ostensibly aimed at fixing the state's fiscal problems. The state is facing a two-year deficit of $3.6 billion.

Walker said it's necessary to restrict collective bargaining rights to give the state and local jurisdictions more flexibility, leading to money savings.

But the unions and many Democrats see the moves as way to weaken organized labor, a key Democratic Party ally.

Walker issued layoff notices to unions on Friday and said firings will begin in two weeks if the Senate Democrats haven't returned to allow the legislation to go forward.

So far, Walker has indicated he doesn't really have anything to negotiate. If he decided to meet with the Senate Democrats' leader, that would probably be seen by many as movement away from the governor's absolutist position.

Miller would need to worry that if he crossed over into Wisconsin, given all the governor's tough talk till now, he could be taken into custody and returned to the statehouse to provide the much-needed quorum.

Sure, that might lead to a Democratic backlash. But it's hard to see how they could get much angrier at him. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.