GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Both US Senators named to commitee tasked with finding budget agreement
Both of Wisconsin's U-S senators were added today to the special committee that's supposed to come up with a new federal budget agreement. Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin are both on the Senate's budget panel. They were among the appointees by congressional leaders to the committee that's expected to come up with federal spending and deficit-reduction measures by December 15th for the new fiscal year. The panel was formed as part of the 11th-hour deal that ended the federal government shutdown, and prevented the nation from going into default. Johnson said today that he ran for office to do what he could to quote, "prevent the bankrupting of America," so he appreciates being named to the new panel. The four budget committee leaders from both houses met over breakfast this morning, and vowed to find "common ground" to achieve a bi-partisan budget. Republican House Budget chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville is among the co-chairs of the new panel. He says the group's goals are control the national debt, reduce the current deficit, grow the economy, and get more folks working.
Property tax relief is not the only thing being discussed by the Wisconsin Assembly this afternoon. Besides the proposed 100-million-dollar statewide property tax cut, the lower house will also consider doubling the tax break for developers who rehabilitate historic buildings. It would raise the state's historic preservation tax credit from 10-percent of a project's cost to 20-percent. It's the second this time year the tax break would be increased. It was just five-percent before it was doubled in the new state budget. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the historic preservation tax break would amount to an extra eight-point-six million dollars over the next two years. That's not even one-tenth of the G-O-P's overall property tax cut. However, some Republicans fear an explosion in the preservation tax break as it becomes more lucrative for developers to do historic rehab. That measure was approved 13-to-3 this week by the Joint Finance Committee.
The head of the Menominee Indians believes his tribe can come up with a plan that Governor Scott Walker will accept for its proposed casino in Kenosha. Leaders of the Menominee, Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Oneida tribes met yesterday with Walker to discuss the matter. Menominee chairman Craig Corn tells the Kenosha News his tribe could off-set possible gaming losses from the other three tribes, but he would not say how it might work. A final decision on the casino was recently placed on Governor Walker's lap. Among other things, Walker has said that all 11 Wisconsin tribes must approve the Kenosha casino before he'll do the same. Corn says he's confident he could strike a deal with the Potawatomi and Oneida, but a tribe he wouldn't name is quote, "pretty much dug in" against it. Last weekend, the chairman of the Ho-Chunk said his tribe is firmly opposed to the Kenosha casino, and would not change its mind. Corn said Walker spelled out a path to approval for the project, addressing a number of concerns between his tribe and others by a deadline Walker set of next Tuesday.
A long-time state attorney says he might try to head the agency where he used to work. Matt Frank said today he's thinking about running for Wisconsin attorney general in next fall's elections. He'll make a final decision in the next week-to-10 days. Frank would be a Democrat, putting him in a potential primary with Assembly Democrat Jon Richards of Milwaukee next August. Richards announced his candidacy yesterday. Frank spent 22 years in the state Justice Department as an assistant attorney general, and the head of the department's legal division. He was also the secretary of the D-N-R and the corrections' department under former Governor Jim Doyle. The current attorney general, Republican J-B Van Hollen, says he'll step down after next year. Five people have either announced their candidacies for A-G, or are thinking about it. Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel is the only declared Republican in the race so far. Assembly Democrat Chris Taylor of Madison and state police union chief Jim Palmer are both thinking about it.
State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos takes issue with the idea that the proposed 100-million-dollar property tax cut would bite taxpayers after next fall's elections. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the tax cut and other new job creation measures would raise the deficit in the next budget by 33-percent, to around 725-million dollars. Vos said the numbers did not include possible increases in future tax revenues due to economic growth. And therefore Vos said the Fiscal Bureau estimate is quote, "only half of the equation." An Assembly vote was expected late this afternoon on the property tax cut, which the G-O-P proposed after the last budget had a surplus that was 89-million-dollars more than expected. Vos and other Republicans say the tax cut would help the economy, and return excess tax revenues to the people who paid them. Democrats pointed out that the average homeowner would get 1-to-2 dollars in each of the two-years of the tax cut -- and therefore, it's nothing more than political pandering.
The governor of New Mexico will be in Wisconsin next week to raise money for Governor Scott Walker's re-election campaign. Republican Susana Martinez will make appearances with Walker in Madison and Milwaukee. An Associated Press story from New Mexico said the Walker campaign would pay for Martinez's travel. This afternoon, Martinez was in Texas to speak to the Lone Star state's Federation of Republican Women. She also has political trips planned next week in Oklahoma and Colorado.