Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and 14 absent Senate Democrats remained in a standoff Friday over a bill that would strip teachers of their union bargaining rights.
The deadlock has thousands of state employees bracing themselves for unemployment after Walker threatened to issue 1,500 layoff notices to unions if at least one of the lawmakers doesn't return from Illinois to give the GOP majority the quorum it needs to vote.
"I pushed it off as long as I could because I do not want to have layoffs," Walker said.
The governor's budget proposal has led to nearly three weeks of protests at the state capitol.
Pro-union protesters vacated the building Thursday night after a judge ordered the building closed during non-business hours.
"We decided it would be best for our image to leave tonight peacefully and come back tomorrow," said Matt Rowe, 21, of Madison.
Although Walker signaled willingness to compromise on some matters, he made it clear he wouldn't budge on the collective bargaining issue.
"I can't take any of that off the table," he said. "We cannot tear apart this budget. We cannot put this burden on local governments. But if there are other ways they (the Democratic senators) are willing to work with us to find a pathway back, I think that's what people want."