Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is urging state Democrats attempting to stall a key budget vote by leaving the state to "come home."
The Wisconsin Assembly was hoping to decide Friday on a budget-cutting bill that would drastically affect unions in the state, but Democrats boycotted the vote by hiding out.
Walker sent authorities to round up state Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller.
"This governor has proposed in a mere four days to strip away people's rights on the pretext of a budget crisis," Miller said on ABC's Good Morning American. "It's a crisis entirely of his own making."
Gov. Walker has barely been on the job two months, but faces a $3.6 billion budget shortfall that's forcing him to make tough cuts.
"We don't have 15 months to balance the budget. We've got to balance it now," he said. "And for those unions that say they want to negotiate, I think it's pretty disingenuous.
"The bottom line is... we're broke," Walker continued. "We can't negotiate for something we don't have the ability to give on."
Walker says the bill would help repair the budget and avoid massive layoffs. The plan is projected to save $300 million over the next two years.
The measure, which Republicans are ready to pass, requires state workers to pay more for pensions and health care. The legislation also takes away the collective bargaining rights of most public workers.
Now, thousands of demonstrators have descended in protest.
"I want to do anything in my power to raise awareness that this can't happen," one protestor said.
Hundreds of teachers have joined the protests by calling in sick, forcing school districts to cancel classes.
But Wisconsin isn't alone.
At least 44 states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls totaling $125 billion.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie was booed by firefighters after suggesting the age of retirement for state workers had to be raised and pension plans had to be cut.
"For 20 years, governors have come into this room and lied to you, promised you benefits that they had no way of paying for," Christie said.
In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich also wants to restrict union rights for public workers to offset an estimated $8 billion budget gap.
The White House doesn't see Wisconsin's solution as a role model for other states.
"Seems more like an assault on unions, and [President Obama] doesn't see that as a good thing," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
Senate Democrats have said they want to negotiate a compromise bill before returning.
Many of them are believed to be hiding out in neighboring Illinois to avoid a Wisconsin state trooper escort back to Madison.
Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach spoke to the Associated Press at a Chicago hotel and said there's no fixed date for Democrats to return to Wisconsin.