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Image: State Budget Standoff Continues In Madison, Wisconsin
Justin Sullivan  /  Getty Images
Union members protest inside the Wisconsin Capitol on Friday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 3/4/2011 9:35:43 PM ET 2011-03-05T02:35:43

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued layoff warning notices on Friday to unions representing state workers as a battle intensified between Republican and Democratic lawmakers over union bargaining rights that has sparked protests and a national debate.

"If the Senate Democrats come back to Wisconsin, these notices may be able to be rescinded and layoffs avoided," Walker said in a statement. "This action is necessary due to the delay in passage of the budget repair bill."

The warning notices were sent to at least 13 unions including AFSCME, Association of State Prosecutors and Wisconsin Education Association Council. The notes do not represent actual layoffs, but took the war of words between the newly elected governor and state Democrats to a new level.

The number of potential layoffs was not specified, but Walker said this week about 1,500 workers would be affected.

Walker, a Republican who this week projected a budget deficit for Wisconsin of $3.6 billion for the coming two years, has proposed a budget "fix" for the current year ending in June that would eliminate most of the collective bargaining rights for most of the state's 300,000 public employees.

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That measure drew more than 70,000 protesters to the capital a week ago the biggest local march since the Vietnam War. It has also become the epicenter of a national debate on union rights.

Walker's bill remains stalled in the Wisconsin Senate where all 14 Democrats fled to neighboring Illinois two weeks ago to deny the measure the quorum it needs to pass in the chamber.

Sen. Dave Hansen, one of the 14, issued a statement on Friday saying that while he had believed the two sides were making progress earlier in the week, "it has become increasingly apparent that Governor Walker is not interested in compromise, but instead appears intent on prolonging the impasse."

Behind-the-scenes negotiations have failed to produce a compromise. Just one Democrat is needed for a quorum.

Walker told reporters late on Thursday that "extremist elements" among 14 absent Democrats had blocked progress.

"Just when we think the process is moving forward, we see no action," Walker said. "We're frustrated."

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Walker said some of the absent Democrats, who have been threatened with $100-a-day fines and the prospect of being arrested and taken to the Senate if they return to Wisconsin, appear willing to stay away "not only for several more months, but potentially the next two years."

With no action expected on the bill, Walker said he will be forced to send out layoff notices to 1,500 state employees, saving some $30 million.

"The reality is, we shouldn't have to be going down the path of preparing for layoffs." Walker said.

The number of protesters at the state Capitol swelled again to hundreds on Friday over the noon hour, with another large rally planned for Saturday.

Erika Wolf, 25, said that while the number of protesters dwindled in recent days, they remain committed to keeping up the pressure.

"I think this can be sustained as long as it has to and I think it will be sustained, at least until July," Wolf said.

One incident that got a lot of attention was when a Democratic lawmaker was tackled by police Thursday night as he tried to enter the Capitol, even though he showed his identification. But Rep. Nick Milroy of South Range said Friday that both he and the officer who took him to the ground were acting too aggressively.

"There was no harm, no foul in this incident," said Milroy. "It may have looked violent on the video but I had a puffy jacket on."

There have been 16 arrests since protests began. Nine protesters were arrested on Feb. 17 for disorderly conduct during Senate and Assembly sessions. The latest arrest came Friday, when a Madison woman attempted to go past a security checkpoint. She was charged with disorderly conduct.

Potential backlash?
In the Midwest, the traditional "Rust Belt" heartland of the country and home to big unionized manufacturers like the auto and steel industries, there were signs that some Republican budget "hawks" were taking caution from Wisconsin.

A Rasmussen Reports poll of 800 Wisconsin voters on March 2 found 34 percent strongly approved of Walker's performance as governor, while 48 percent strongly disapproved. Walker was elected with a 52 percent majority last November.

In Ohio, where legislators are considering even more stringent curbs on unions, the Republican leader of the state's House of Representatives decided on Friday to hold at least three weeks of debate on a bill — a setback for its backers.

Republican Gov. John Kasich had hoped to enact Senate Bill 5 by March 15 when he is scheduled to unveil his two-year budget proposal for fiscal 2012-2013.

The vote in the Ohio Senate on Wednesday was 17 to 16 with six Republicans joining Democrats in voting against.

In Indiana, where 38 Democrats have also fled the state to delay a vote on bills they say would harm workers' rights, Republicans on Friday voted to impose a $250-a-day fine starting on Monday for members who aren't on the House floor.

Protests against the Wisconsin bill included a two-week-long occupation of the state Capitol building.

Walker's budget repair bill increases worker contributions to their pensions and health care and Walker said it provides tools for local governments to cut expenses, reducing the need for layoffs in the current fiscal year.

The group Americans for Prosperity said on Friday they will do a "Stand Against Spending, Stand With Walker" bus tour around Wisconsin on Saturday in support Walker's plan, with a rally planned for Sunday in Madison but not at the Capitol.

Opponents including the AFL-CIO and other unions said they will continue to organize protests at the Capitol on Saturday and Sunday along with smaller events throughout the state.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photos: The battle over collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin

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  1. Massive crowds gather to see the 14 democratic senators that left the state to protest the bill proposed by the Gov. Scott Walker as crowds continued to protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on Saturday, March 12. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Democratic Senator Lena Taylor, right, and civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson Jr. greet the crowd as they and the other Wisconsin State democratic senators that left the state to protest the bill proposed by the Gov. Scott Walker return to massive crowds that continue to protest at the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 12. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Republican Wisconsin State Legislatures look on as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker performs a ceremonial bill signing outside his office at the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 11. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Protesters shout outside the office of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as he held a ceremonial bill-signing on March 11. The bill essentially eliminates collective bargaining rights for public union workers except on wage issues (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Protesters hold wooden letters that spell the word "shame" in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 10. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald makes the argument to pass the budget repair bill before the State Assembly in the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, Thursday, March 10. (Allen Fredrickson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Spectators in the gallery of the Wisconsin assembly chambers chant "shame" in protest after the House voted to pass the state's controversial budget bill in the Wisconsin assembly chamber on Thursday in Madison. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Democratic Rep. Jon Richards yells after a vote was cast in the Wisconsin Assembly chambers Thursday in Madison. (Morry Gash / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Wisconsin State Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-WI) flashes the peace sign after the House voted to pass the state's controversial budget bill in the Wisconsin assembly chamber on Thursday in Madison. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The statue "Forward" displays a new sign at the State Capitol in Madison on Thursday, the day after the Senate passed the governor's controversial budget repair bill. (Steve Apps / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Erving Smith, of Madison, Wis., shouts at law enforcement personnel after he was slightly injured while being carried out of the Assembly Room lobby in Madison on Thursday, March 10. (John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Protesters get kicked out by police from the Wisconsin state assembly chamber as they try to block access to the chambers in Madison on March 10. (Carlos Javier Ortiz / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Wisconsin Rep. Cory Mason, center, talks to protesters in the rotunda of the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Wednesday, March 9, after demonstrators retook the Capitol building. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kensoha, center, calls an impromptu news conference March 9 after Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers after discovering a way to bypass the chamber's missing Democrats. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Tears roll down the face of Liz Sanger of Madison, Wis., after the state Senate passed the budget repair bill following a meeting of a state Legislature conference committee at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., March 9. (Michael P. King / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Wisc. Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, is escorted out of the state Capitol in Madison, March 9, after Republicans in the Senate voted to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers after discovering a way to bypass the chamber's missing Democrats. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill deride legislators as they leave the senate parlor at the Wisconsin State Capitol Building where the Senate voted to move forward on an amended version of the controversial bill Wednesday. (John Hart / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. After a protester outside throws a snowball hitting a window at the state Capitol, State Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, implores demonstrators to remain peaceful during a press conference of Democratic state Assembly members, March 9. (Michael P. King / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Helmut Kenies of the Wisconsin Historical Society sifts through hundreds of signs that were removed from the Wisconsin State Capitol on Tuesday, March 8 in Madison. Posters that were left behind by demostrators that occupied the State Capitol were collected and are being made available for people to claim them until this Friday. Select posters that are not claimed will be acquired by the Historical Society. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Filmmaker Michael Moore speaks to a crowd during a march and rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Saturday, March 5 in Madison. Thousands of demonstrators are staging a protest at the Capitol against Governor Scott Walker's attempt to push through a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for most government workers in the state. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Union members protest inside the Wisconsin Capitol on Friday, March 4, in Madison. Some demonstrators returned to the Capitol hours after they were forced to vacate the building after occupying it for more than two weeks. They are protesting Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to push through a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for most government workers in the state. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman talks with demonstrators Mark Dziedzic, left, and Jeff Dziedzic inside the state Capitol on March 4. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Wisconsin Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kensoha, celebrates with other lawmakers and protesters March 3 outside of the state Capitol in Madison after a judge ordered the Department of Administration to open the Capitol to normal business hours. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A police officer blocks an entrance of the Wisconsin State Capitol on Thursday. A Wisconsin judge ordered all of the pro-union protesters to leave the Capitol after they had camped out inside the building for two weeks. The judge also ruled that the state had violated the public's free speech and assembly rights by restricting access to the building. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Protesters celebrate as they walk outside of the state Capitol after a judge ordered the Department of Administration to open the Capitol to normal business hours. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Protesters wake-up outside of the state Capitol, Thursday in Madison after sleeping the night. Opponents to the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers are in their 16th day of protests. The Wisconsin Department of Administration officials shut the doors to many protesters and some chose to sleep outside. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Wisconsin State representative Fred Clark. left, meets with constituents at his desk outside the capitol building on March 2. Clark and several other Democrat members of the assembly moved their offices outside the building because of the difficulties the public was having entering the building which has been essentially locked down to prevent protestors from spending the night inside. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Demonstrators protest in a hallway below the assembly chamber where Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was delivering his budget address to a joint session of the legislature at the capitol on March 1. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Union Iron Worker Randy Bryce of Milwaukee shows police a court order to open the doors of the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, March 1. It was the 14th day of protests against the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Opponents to the governor's bill protest at the state Capitol on March 1. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Democrats refuse to stand as Gov. Scott Walker arrives to deliver his budget address to a joint session of the Legislature, March 1 in Madison. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Police stand in the rotunda of the State Capitol on Feb. 27 in Madison. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Damon Terrrell speaks to protesters at the State Capitol in on Feb. 27. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Opponents to the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers protest outside of the State Capitol on Feb. 26. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Rally supporters hang an American flag from fourth floor windows of the State Capitol as thousands of opponents of Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill gather for ongoing protests inside and outside the State Capitol on Feb. 26. (John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Protesters gather in the rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison the morning of Friday, Feb. 25, after the Assembly passed a bill ending most state worker collective bargaining rights. (Carlos Javier Ortiz / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Protesters who identified themselves as Kenosha city and county workers hold signs as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's plane flies away after his news conference about his budget repair bill at the Kenosha Airport in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Feb. 25. (Mark Hertzberg / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Messages left by supporters protesting in the State Capitol are stuck on the office entrance of Wisconsin State Assemblyman Brett Hulsey on Feb. 25. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Ryan Eykholt of Madison, Wis., plays "This Land Is Your Land" during a protest at the state Capitol in Madison on Friday, Feb. 25, over the governor's proposed budget measures. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Standing beside fellow Assembly Democrats, State Rep. Christine Sinicki approaches the front of the chamber in outrage as their Republican counterparts cut off debate and vote on the budget repair bill in session at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., early Friday morning, Feb. 25. (Michael P. King / Wisconsin State Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Protester Bridgette O'Brien of Elroy, Wis., does a morning routine of yoga at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Friday, Feb. 25 before another day of protesting. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Escorted by law enforcement officers, Assembly Republicans exit the state Capitol after cutting off debate and rapidly voting to pass a controversial budget repair bill in the state Assembly in Madison, Wis., on Friday, Feb. 25. (Michael P. King / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Assembly Democrats wave to protesters, thanking them after Republicans cut off debate and rapidly voted to pass a controversial budget repair bill in the state Assembly at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., early Friday, Feb. 25. (Michael P. King / Wisconsin State Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Wisconsin Reps. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, left, and Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, walk to the governor's office at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Thursday, Feb. 24. Opponents of the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers were in their 10th day of protests. Gov. Scott Walker was trying to get at least one Democratic senator back to the Capitol to vote on the bill. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Wisconsin Democratic state Sens. Tim Cullen, left, and Robert Jauch leave a home on Thursday, Feb. 24, in Woodstock, Ill. The senators have been in Illinois after leaving Wisconsin to try to stop a vote on bill that would take away public workers' collective bargaining rights. (Lauren M. Anderson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Opponents of the governor's bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers sleep on the floor of the rotunda at the state Capitol on Feb. 24. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Wisconsin state representatives start to fade as they listen to arguments on one of the expected 200 amendments to the governor's budget bill early Feb. 24. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. A protester sleeps on the floor in the Capitol on Feb. 23. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Protesters sleep in the rotunda of the Capitol on Feb. 23. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Democratic and Republican assembly members rise before the start of a session Feb. 22. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Teamsters President James Hoffa speaks at a rally in the Capitol on Feb. 23. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pauses while giving an address in Madison on Feb. 22. to explain his budget bill. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. A man sits surrounded by protesters' signs at the state Capitol in Madison on Feb. 22. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Protesters walk outside the Wisconsin Capitol on Feb. 22. (Jeffrey Phelps / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Opponents of Walker's budget bill sleep in the rotunda on Feb. 22. (John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. John Henneman, left, and Dan Kuhl, right, teachers from Wisconsin Rapids, protest Feb. 21 outside the King Street entrance to the Capitol. (Steve Apps / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. A protester gestures in the Capitol building, after a week's mass protest against Walker's bill on Feb. 21. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. Kathryn Schulze delivers a silent message at the state Capitol on Feb. 21. (Jeffrey Phelps / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Protesters rest inside the State Capitol on Feb. 21 in Madison. (Jeffrey Phelps / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Arnold Chevalier, left, of Stoughton, Wis., shouts inside the State Capitol on Monday. (Jeffrey Phelps / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. State Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI) speaks to Democratic Senators via telephone during a meeting of the committee for Senate Organization inside the Wisconsin State Capitol on Monday. (Eric Thayer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. A union advocate, left, and a Tea Party supporter argue in Madison, Wis. on Feb. 19, on the grounds of State Capitol over the governor's proposed budget bill. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. About 30 members of the AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, protest State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester on Feb. 19. (Scott Anderson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Protesters gather outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Feb. 19. A few dozen police officers stood between supporters of Republican Gov. Scott Walker on the muddy east lawn of the Capitol and the much larger group of pro-labor demonstrators who surrounded them. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Protestors take a moment to rest inside a bus shelter as crowds continue to gather at the State Capitol grounds, while members of the Wisconsin state government discuss the proposed bill by Gov. Scott Walker in Madison on Feb. 19. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. Democratic Wisconsin Assembly members cheer on the crowd on the fourth day of large scale protests outside of the State Capitol in Madison on Feb. 18. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Teacher Nicole North Hester, right, cries and applauds as union iron workers pass by during the fourth day of large demonstrations at the State Capitol on Feb. 18. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. Two protesters put up a sign at the State Capitol on Feb. 17, that reads "Run Dems Run" in support of 14 state Senators that have left the state in opposition the bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for many state workers. (Andy Manis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Poll: Majority oppose stripping bargaining rights

  1. Closed captioning of: Poll: Majority oppose stripping bargaining rights

    >>> we have the results of a new nbc news/" wall street journal " poll and we got information about how americans feel about the fight in wisconsin and other states over collective bargaining rights for public employees. our chief white house correspondent and political director chuck todd with us from washington. chuck, good evening.

    >> good evening, brian. perhaps the most surprising number was how many people were paying attention to this showdown in madison. 73% said they're following the story very closely so we asked them, public government workers, should they have the same collective bargaining rights as private employees? 77% said yes, they should. that said, these same folks said 68% of them said government workers should have to contribute more to their own retirement. 63% said they should contribute more to their own health care and 58% agree for a one-year salary freeze for all government workers. president obama signed what's called a continuing resolution to fund the government for another two weeks avoiding a government shutdown and there is still a big battle to figure out how to tackle the deficit. we tested 26 different proposals and we found out one of the most acceptable and unacceptable. three more acceptable proposals, a tax on millionaires. eliminating earmarks by members of congress and getting rid of tax subsidies to oil and gas companies and the three most unacceptable ideas, cutting any funding for medicare, cutting any benefits out of social security and cutting any funding out of k through 12 education, and of course, the other big story in the last month has been the uprising in the middle east , and as you can see here, president obama gets fairly high marks for his handling of egypt. 55% approve of what he's doing there. on libya right now, there is a lot more undecided. . 48% approve of how he's handling libya at this point, but there seems to be a lot of folks with a wait-and-see attitude trying to see what does all of this mean? a lot of folks paying close attention. fascinating new numbers. chuck todd in washington, thanks.

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