GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL ROUNDUP: National Guard recalling its civilian technicians back to work
The Wisconsin National Guard is getting back most of its 840 civilian technicians who were furloughed last Tuesday due to the federal government shutdown. They're due back this morning, except for those in nine broad work categories who will have to wait until the shutdown ends. They include auditors, planners, travel managers, and public affairs' personnel. In a statement, the Guard said the Pentagon ordered most of its civilian personnel back after reviewing the "Pay Our Military Act" that Congress passed a day before last week's shutdown. Supervisors have been contacting the civilians to let them know about their status. Most of the furloughed Wisconsin technicians were at bases in Milwaukee and Madison. Just over 200 techs were considered essential, and they've been staying on the job. In Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered 350-thousand civilian workers at the Pentagon back this morning. Fort McCoy near Sparta had about 900 civilian technicians furloughed last Tuesday. The fort's Web site did not have an update on their status early this morning -- but at least they know their checks will be in the mail. On Saturday, the House voted to pay government workers for the time they've been off. The Senate is expected to act on that measure this week.
We'll learn more today about why Wisconsinites who work in Minnesota -- and vice versa -- will have to file tax returns with both states for another year. A forum will be held in Minneapolis to explain the breakdown of the long-running income tax reciprocity agreement between the two states. Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler and Minnesota Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans will address the issue at the forum, to be held at Minnesota's Humphrey Institute. The two states failed to reach a new reciprocity agreement by an October first deadline. The sticking point involved tax credits Wisconsin would have paid Minnesota residents to make up for the Badger State's higher income taxes. Frans says Minnesotans should not subsidize higher taxes in other states. Chandler said Wisconsin agreed to Minnesota's position on two other issues -- and a reversal on tax credits is not reasonable. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty canceled the agreement in 2009. That's because Wisconsin was too slow to make annual payments to the Gopher State to make up for the tax differences.
Former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke announced this morning that she'll run as a Democrat against Governor Scott Walker in 13 months. Burke unveiled a three-minute video on You-Tube, highlighting her Wisconsin roots and business background. State Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said last week that Burke would provide a quote, "phenomenal alternative to where Scott Walker is taking this state." She was the state's commerce secretary for two years in the last decade, and she's currently on the Madison School Board. Mary Burke is the daughter of Richard Burke, who founded Trek Bicycle in 1976 in Waterloo. She has held a variety of posts for the company, including the head of European operations in which she started outfits in seven countries. In her video, Burke said it was a big part of her life, and she believes it will help the state as governor. Burke said it's time for a change, although she did not mention Walker by name. Quote, "Just like Washington, our state capital has become so focused on politics and winning the next political fight, it's pulling our state apart and our economy down." State Democratic leaders have tried to convince Burke to run, hoping she'll spend some of her personal fortune so the party can keep up with the multi-million-dollar war-chest the Republican Walker expects to have. Some insiders have also hoped the Democrats could avoid an expensive primary, by giving Burke a clear to path to the party's nomination -- but that remains to be seen. Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout of Alma plans to decide early next year whether she'll run for governor for a second time.
As the two parties in Congress continue their stand-off over Obama-care, they're also getting closer to the nation's first-ever default on its debts. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wants Congress to pass separate bills to reauthorize short-term federal spending to end the six-day-old shutdown -- and to increase the nearly 17-trillion-dollar debt limit. G-O-P House Speaker John Boehner says he won't do it without concessions from President Obama. Menomonee Falls House Republican Jim Sensenbrenner told his constituents yesterday he agrees with that strategy. At a town hall meeting in New Berlin, Sensenbrenner said the government cannot increase its debt limit without addressing the cause of the borrowing -- which he says is Obama's Affordable Care Act. Lew says Congress is "playing with fire" because the default would happen in mid-October if neither side cracks. Sensenbrenner told his residents that Republicans are willing to negotiate their differences, but the Democrat Obama has said for weeks that he won't. Sensenbrenner said residents would feel a lot more pain from the default than from Obama-care, but it's still appropriate for the G-O-P to tie the two issues together to forge a compromise.
The F-B-I is helping local authorities investigate the release of two-thousand mink from a fur farm near New Holstein in eastern Wisconsin. Calumet County sheriff's deputies were called late Saturday afternoon to Bonlander Furs, after mink were spotted on a roadway. Co-owner Virginia Bonlander told the Appleton Post-Crescent that about 15-hundred of the loose mink were captured almost right away. About 100 friends, relatives, and other mink farmers helped retrieve the mink by hand, and with traps. Bonlander said the people who released the mink probably had an agenda. Wisconsin mink farms have previously been targeted by animal rights' protestors, some of whom have endorsed the farms' destruction. The Bonlander farm has around five-thousand mink. Most of it goes to Toronto to make coats, jackets, and hats.