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Walker Signs Bill On State Unions; More Protests Planned

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that removes the collective bargaining rights of most public employees in the state. As a result, Walker withdrew the threat of a massive layoff, which he said would have been needed if the bill on bargaining rights had not been approved.

The Assembly voted to enact the bill Thursday, ending a weeks-long standoff between Republicans and Democrats. Over at It's All Politics, Frank James has more analysis of the budget standoff.

The governor released a statement after he signed the bill in private Friday morning. In it, he said:

The Legislature helped us save 1,500 middle-class jobs by moving forward this week with the budget repair. The state will now be able to realize $30 million in savings to balance the budget and allow 1,500 state employees to keep their jobs.

Walker said that the new reforms, "which require modest health care and pension contributions from all public employees, will help put Wisconsin on a path to fiscal sustainability."

Here's the Democratic response, as quoted in The Milwaulkee Journal Sentinel:

Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) noted in a news release the bill did not address all of the $137 million shortfall in the current fiscal year. Lawmakers still need to close a $99.5 million gap before June 30.

"How has our financial condition changed so drastically that layoffs are no longer imminent?" Shilling said in a statement. "I'm glad that Walker decided to rescind the layoff notices, but public employees should have never been used as his political pawns. The level that Republicans have stooped to in order to pass this sham of a bill is disgraceful."

There were few protesters at the Capitol Friday morning. As we reported earlier, Wisconsin farmers plan to hold a tractorcade rally at the building in Madison on Saturday. That's also when the Democratic senators who fled to Illinois, in an attempt to keep a vote from taking place, are expected to appear at the capital.

And as many as 16 senators are now being targeted by recall efforts, reports the Journal-Sentinel.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.