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Wisconsin state Sen. Chris Larson packed just his toothbrush and one extra shirt as he and 13 fellow Democrats fled the state to avoid near certain passage of the Republican governor's contentious plan to strip government workers of their collective bargaining rights.

"That tells you, I didn't think it would take this long," Larson said by telephone Tuesday from somewhere in Illinois.

Nearly a week later, the stalemate persists at the Capitol in Madison, and the union rights protests that started there have spread to other states — even sparking a similar Democratic walkout in Indiana that also blocked a vote on labor legislation.

The 14 wayward Wisconsin lawmakers have given no hint about when they might return, even amid recall threats, a Senate recommendation to make them pick up their paychecks in person and the GOP-controlled Legislature returning to work this week on other business without them. Gov. Scott Walker says if they don't come back soon, they will be responsible for thousands of state workers losing their jobs because Wisconsin won't be able to refinance its debt.

Even as the Assembly prepares to approve Walker's plan this week, the Senate can't take it up because the 14 Democrats are needed for a quorum.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach said Democrats came up with the idea to flee during a strategy meeting last Thursday morning, and an hour later they grabbed some clothes and toiletries and headed for Illinois. Erpenbach's uncle took him shopping for extra pants and underwear, but he says that is only a temporary fix.


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