AWOL Wisconsin Democrat calls CNN with list of demands

State Senator Mark Miller, a member of the missing band of Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers who fled Madison Thursday to avoid a vote on a budget bill, called into CNN with the group’s list of demands for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Miller, a state senator since 2004, would not disclose where he and his colleagues were hiding out, saying only “we are in what we consider a secure location outside the capital. We are not all in one place at this time.”

Miller’s demands focused on the collective bargaining portions of the bill.

“We demand that the provisions that completely eliminate the ability of workers… to negotiate on a fair basis with their employers be removed from the budget repair bill and any other future budget,” Miller said.

He also demanded legislative oversight on changes to the state’s medical programs, which are targeted for changes in the bill. The bill would also require union members to contribute to their health care and pensions.

Miller and 13 other Democrats went missing Thursday morning when a vote on a budget-repair measure was imminent in the Republican-controlled Senate. It would have passed the Senate after getting out of committee on a party-line vote late last night, so Democrats left the building to stall a vote on the measure.

Asked by a CNN reporter why he and the Democrats weren’t doing their jobs, he countered by saying Walker had moved the bill too fast.

“We will return to do our job, but the governor has to do his job,” Miller said. “He has to engage in responsible negotiations with the interested parties and he failed to do so…We need to be able to enter into a responsible dialogue and not one that is such a sham.”

Asked about the deficit the state is facing, Miller said Walker is ignoring the economy’s recovery, which makes reigning in union benefits unnecessary.

“The economy’s recovering and the governor is completely ignoring the fact that we have a… recovery going,” Miller said. “The only thing that hasn’t recovered has been the rate of unemployment.”

Miller maintained that, by leaving Madison to evade a vote on the budget-repair bill, the lawmakers are “trying to allow an opportunity for democracy to work.”

The number of teachers protesting in Wisconsin, according to union representatives, in the name of better serving the students of the state, has also shut down many public schools this week.