Gov. Scott Walker warned he'll issue 1,500 layoff notices unless at least one of 14 Senate Democrats returns from Illinois to give the Republican majority the quorum it needs for a vote on the budget.
Pro-union demonstrators obeyed a court order on Thursday night and vacated the Capitol building after 17 days of round-the-clock protests. The protesters were expected to return Friday.
The protesters' dramatic departure capped a day full of developments, including Walker's threat of massive layoffs he said would be needed to make up for savings not being realized in the stalled bill.
Walker says the bill is needed to ease a deficit that is projected to hit $137 million by July and $3.6 billion by mid-2013.
His proposal comes up with the money for this year in part by forcing state employees to pay for half the cost of their pensions and twice their current health care premiums - concessions equivalent to an 8 percent pay cut.
Also on Thursday night while protesters were leaving, Democratic Assemblyman Nick Milroy was tackled by police as he pushed past them to try to enter the building.
The officer was guarding a door when Milroy tried to pass through. After a confrontation that was caught on tape, he was forced to the ground.
Milroy says he was just trying to get some of his clothes from inside the building.