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Wisconsin Gov. Issues 24-Hour Ultimatum for Missing Democrats

"They have one day to return to work."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan has stalled in the state legislature after the Senate Democratic caucus fled the state to avoid a confrontational vote. But now, after delaying action on the measure amid protests at the state capitol, Walker and his GOP allies are moving forward with the governor's 2011-2013 budget that will be unveiled Tuesday in a formal address.

Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinel reports:

Walker and GOP legislative leaders had sought to pass the budget repair bill before he gave the larger budget speech and even delayed it for a week to allow for more time. But Democratic senators have blocked passage by remaining in Illinois, leaving Walker and his GOP allies in the Legislature to deal with both proposals at the same time.

Meanwhile, Walker said Democrats need to return by Tuesday and pass the repair bill or time would run out on a deal to delay payment of $165 million in state debt to solve the budget problems this year and avoid up to 1,500 layoffs. Democrats denied that, offering a different plan that they said would avoid layoffs.

"Now they have one day to return to work before the state loses out on the chance to refinance debt, saving taxpayers $165 million this fiscal year," Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said. "Failure to return to work and cast their votes will lead to more painful and aggressive spending cuts in the very near future."

Werwie said Walker was giving the Democrats 24-hour notice. He added that the governor will delay sending out layoff notices "as long as possible."

Werwie said that it would take a 30-day process to lay off union employees and a 15-day process to lay off non-union workers.

Predictably, Democrats responded to the governor's ultimatum with contempt.  Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat currently hiding out in Chicago, complained that Walker wasn't being honest with voters about what bond restructuring would do.  "He's not getting a lower interest rate - just deferring a payment and it's going to cost us $30 million" in interest, Erpenbach said.  "He's just kicking the can down the road."

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