Wisconsin Senate passes public-sector union ban

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 11:00 AM
Wisconsin Senate passes public-sector union ban

MADISON (Reuters) - Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate passed the most controversial portions of Governor Scott Walker's budget repair bill late on Wednesday, stripping out the sections that required the presence of their 14 absent Democratic colleagues in the upper chamber.

In an 18-to-1 vote, the Senate approved the curbs on collective bargaining by public employees that Walker has insisted are needed to help the state's cash-strapped municipalities deal with a projected $1.27 billion drop in state aid over the next two years.

The measure will now go to the Assembly, expected to vote on the matter on Thursday.

The 43-year-old governor applauded the move, which came despite growing signs the majority of Wisconsites don't back the measure.

Walker never mentioned the proposal on his official campaign website nor debated it during his two-year campaign. It reverses long-standing policy in Wisconsin, among the first states to give public employees union rights.

"The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused," he said in a statement.

But Democratics blasted the move.

"It appears Republicans are violating their own word and ramming through the most divisive piece of legislation in modern history without Democrats present," Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Democrats.

(Reporting by Jeff Mayer; writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Jerry Norton)