Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) may be drawing a hard line on collective bargaining with thousands of his state’s union workers, but there are signs that some state Republicans are willing to bend as the governing crisis deepens and accede to the Democrats’ demand that unions be allowed to negotiate benefits for their workers.
What’s not clear is if the Republican opposition to Walker’s anti-collective bargaining stance is enough to bring the state Senate Democrats back and get the legislature back on track.
The Wall Street Journal reports that one moderate Republican, state Sen. Dale Schultz, has proposed changing the budget proposal supported by Walker slightly but fundamentally: instead of losing their collective bargaining rights in perpetuity, as the governor wants, they would only lose the right to negotiate for benefits through 2013.
Schultz’ chief of staff sounded positively Democratic when discussing the proposal with the Journal.“Dale is committed to find a way to preserve collective bargaining in the future,” he told the paper.
But Democrats told the Journal that proposal is not enough to get them back to Madison from their hideouts in Illinois and places unknown.
“The collective bargaining language has to be removed altogether. Collective bargaining isn’t a fiscal issue,” state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D) told the paper. “If it’s OK to collectively bargain in 2013 why isn’t it OK today?”
Though the Schultz plan may not be enough to get the job done, it’s perhaps a sign that Walker’s grip on his Republican colleagues in the Senate may be weaker than imagined. That could mean Democrats and moderate Republicans could work out a deal that gets the budget passed and meets the demands of the tens of thousands of workers camped out inside and outside the state capitol.