State Government and Political Round-up: Wisconsin primary to meaningful in GOP raceWisconsin News
-- The Wisconsin primary is just 13 days away – and it could be the next major battle between G-O-P White House hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Both candidates are starting to plan appearances in the Badger State.
The Wisconsin primary is just 13 days away – and it could be the next major battle between GOP White House hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Both candidates are starting to plan appearances in the Badger State.
And Santorum’s the first one due in on Saturday when the Americans for Prosperity holds a forum in Milwaukee that also features House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. The pro-Romney group “Restore Our Future” has been running two-million-dollars worth of TV ads throughout Wisconsin, which slam Santorum’s voting record as a former U.S. senator. Santorum has spent about $50,000 answering those ads.
Louisiana’s primary is on Saturday, where Santorum’s been pushing the hardest. And then the focus shifts to April 3rd when Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington D.C. have their primaries. Santorum is not on the ballot in D.C., and polls show Romney with the edge in Maryland. Romney leads the unoffical delegate count with 563 projected delegates – almost 300 more than second-place Santorum's 281 while Newt Gingrich has 156 and Ron Paul 78. That’s after Romney picked up 41 delegates in winning yesterday’s Illinois primary.
With the Wisconsin primary just 13 days away, Mitt Romney says he’s “almost there” in securing the GOP presidential nomination. The former Massachusetts governor easily won yesterday’s primary in neighboring Illinois by around 12 points over Rick Santorum. Romney was favored by Republicans who said they were most concerned about picking somebody who can beat President Obama in the fall. Santorum said he out-polled Romney in the most conservative areas of southern Illinois.
Democrat Tom Barrett remains undecided on whether he’ll run for governor again in the expected Walker recall election. But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the Milwaukee mayor has put out a fund-raising letter that slams Republican Scott Walker – who won the governor’s office by defeating Barrett in November of 2010. Technically, Barrett’s fund-raising request is for his re-election bid for Milwaukee mayor in 13 days. But he only has token opposition – and as the Journal-Sentinel columnist Dan Bice points out, Barrett can transfer money from his mayoral campaign to a state account for governor. Bice said the fund-raising letter accuses Walker of putting quote, “special interests ahead of the common interest.” Barrett also accused the governor of dividing the state, scaling back schools, granting tax breaks to the wealthy, and balancing the budget quote, “on the backs of foreclosure victims all around the state.” Barrett has previously condemned the use of $25-millon in lawsuit settlement money from five big lenders to help balance the state budget. He said the funding should go instead to thousands of Milwaukeeans who lost their homes due to the lending practices that resulted in the lawsuit. If Barrett runs for governor, he would join at least three Democrats who are now in a primary race – former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary-of-State Douglas La Follette, and Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout of Alma.
For the second straight year, Congress is heading toward another stalemate on the federal budget. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan introduced the Republican alternative yesterday to President Obama’s 2013 spending package. But even if it goes nowhere, Ryan says voters will reward the GOP in November for being aggressive in cutting spending and deficits. And he does not believe Republicans will be punished for the major cuts in their proposal, which involve programs near-and-dear to voters like Medicare, Medicaid, college aid, farm payments, and food stamps. The White House budget calls for tax increases for the wealthy. It says the GOP alternative would give the rich tax cuts of up to $150,000 while continuing tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers. But on several cable channels yesterday, Ryan said the president’s budget would bankrupt people’s favorite programs – while the GOP budget ultimately preserves things like Medicare by limiting their costs. And Ryan said Republicans owe the country an “alternative path” to the one President Obama is on. Ryan’s Medicare plan is the same one he and a Democratic senator offered a few months ago. It replaces the government’s direct payments of medical bills with vouchers in which seniors would buy private insurance. It would apply only to those under 55, just like his reform plan from a year ago. The Ryan budget would also scrap the Democrats’ health care reform law.
The state Medical Examining Board will investigate 11 more doctors, to see if they should be punished for writing excuses for those who missed work while protesting at the Capitol last year. Nine other doctors were sanctioned by the state board a year ago, for standing on street corners and writing sick notes for protestors who lined up to get them. The examining board’s screening panel decided yesterday to investigate the 11 new doctors. They all used form-letters to give out their medical excuses, and had the same contact information – an e-mail address with the name “Badger Doctors.” A number of those excuses ended up in school district offices, submitted by teachers who skipped out of class to protest the new law which took away most of their union bargaining privileges. The Madison School District had considered all those notes to be fraudulent. Madison schools were closed for four days last February because so many teachers called in sick. Dozens of other schools were also closed for at least a day. The nine doctors sanctioned last year were from Madison, and all but one were from the UW. Seven were reprimanded and ordered to get training for medical record-keeping. The other two got administrative warnings.
Federal officials have recommended a $60,000 for a Union Grove excavation firm accused of not taking proper safety precautions for its workers. The Occupational Safety-and-Health Administration announced a pair of citations yesterday against Willkomm Excavating and Grading. OSHA investigated a complaint about a site in Greenfield, where employees were working on water lines in a trench more than six-feet deep. The government requires that trenches over five-feet have proper safety measures to prevent a collapse – and the government said Willkomm never installed them. OSHA said the same firm was cited for similar violations in 2005-and-’09. Willkomm has not commented on the new citations. It has 15 days to pay the fine, challenge the violations, or seek a settlement meeting with OSHA.
Governor Scott Walker says he’s fine with the Joint Finance Committee’s decision last week to scrap funding for a new maintenance base in Milwaukee for Amtrak trains. Majority Republicans on the finance panel went against their party’s governor when they rejected two-and-a-half million dollars toward a base that was part of an earlier state contract with Talgo. The state has already spent almost $72-million to have Talgo build two new trains for Amtrak’s popular Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line. And last week’s vote could mean that the two trains could be mothballed – and the previous funding to build them would go to waste. Committee Republicans said it would cheaper to maintain Amtrak’s current 30-year-old trains on the Hiawatha line. But Democrats complained that the GOP was reneging on Talgo’s contract. They wanted Walker to veto the committee action – but the governor’s office said it couldn’t be done. That’s because a positive vote to spend the money would be needed, and spokesman Cullen Werwie says the GOP probably won’t make that positive vote anyway. Joint Finance Co-chair Robin Vos (R-Burlington) says he’d be open to cheaper alternative proposals from Talgo for the proposed train maintenance base.