MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker warned Tuesday that state employees could start receiving layoff notices as early as next week if a bill eliminating most collective bargaining rights isn't passed soon.
Walker said in a statement to The Associated Press that the layoffs wouldn't take effect immediately. He didn't say which workers would be targeted.
"Hopefully we don't get to that point," Walker said.
Senate Democrats walked out last week rather than vote on Walker's bill that would force public workers to pay more for their benefits. He also wants to eliminate collective bargaining for nearly all workers except concerning salary increases that aren't greater than the Consumer Price Index.
The proposal, designed to help Wisconsin plug a projected $3.6 billion budget hole, has led to eight straight days of massive protests that grew as large as 68,000 people on Saturday.
Security was tight in the Capitol on Tuesday morning as both the Senate and Assembly were scheduled to be in session. The Republican-controlled Assembly planned to start debate and possibly vote on the bill later in the day, although Democrats planned to push for adoption of more than 100 amendments.
The Senate has been stymied in its ability to vote on the bill after the 14 Democrats walked out on Thursday, making it impossible for the remaining Republicans to take up the measure. Walker and Republican leaders have repeatedly called on the Democrats, who escaped to Illinois, to return and get back to work.
Democrats have said they won't come back until Walker is willing to negotiate. The unions have said they're willing to accept paying more for benefits as long as they retain their collective bargaining rights and a Republican senator has proposed allowing those rights to be restored after two years.
Walker has repeatedly rejected both compromises. He planned to speak to Wisconsin residents in a live "fireside chat" at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)