Afternoon State News Briefs: Gov. Walker asked government to declare far northwest counties disaster areasWisconsin News
-- Governor Scott Walker asked the federal government this afternoon to declare Douglas, Bayfield, and Ashland counties as disaster areas. That’s after the region got more than six inches of rain on June 19th-and-20th.
SUPERIOR - Governor Scott Walker asked the federal government this afternoon to declare Douglas, Bayfield, and Ashland counties as disaster areas. That’s after the region got more than six inches of rain on June 19th-and-20th.
UW-Superior had the most damage, as flood waters got into 14 campus buildings including the library and the school’s power plant. Neighboring Duluth received up to 10 inches of rain, and a lot more damage. Walker also asked that the Red Cliff Indian tribe north of Bayfield be included in the disaster declaration. If approved, communities would use a special program in which local governments can recover some of their costs for fighting the floods, protecting people, and fixing infra-structure. Businesses and individuals would not be eligible for disaster assistance. Walker said the storms did not cause enough damage for that kind of aid. Over eight-point-six million dollars in damage to public facilities was verified. The federal aid would cover three-fourths of the repair costs.
The federal agency that provides Wisconsin’s employment reports says it’s thinking about changing the way it draws up its monthly estimates. State Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson complained to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on July 19th, right after the agency said Wisconsin lost 11,700 private sector jobs the previous month. Newson questioned the accuracy of the preliminary monthly job totals, which are based on surveys of about three-and-a-half percent of Wisconsin’s employers. Also, Newson said the year-to-year changes in the numbers of jobs are less accurate. That’s because the bureau decided to use only two quarters of actual data in basing its figures instead of the previous three. The accuracy of the monthly job data was an issue in Governor Scott Walker’s recall election which he won on June 5. The Republican Walker took heat for using a rosier quarterly job total before it could be released – but Walker said the data was more accurate. Today, John Galvin – the acting commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics – said his department would consider changes in its monthly report format. Newson said his state agency is ready to help if needed. Walker said the final product could provide more accurate employment data for the entire nation.
The state’s largest business group says any talks about a bill to relax Wisconsin’s mining restrictions should be stopped until after the November elections. Jim Buchen of the Manufacturers-and-Commerce group called for the delay in a letter to a firm that handles communications for the Wisconsin Mining Association. A proposed easing of mining laws failed to pass the Legislature in March – and it caused Gogebic Taconite to withdraw its proposed iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Buchen said in the letter that Republicans would have to control the Senate by at least two votes in order to get a bill approved that’s favorable to the mining company. Democrats won control of the Senate in the June recall elections – and starting next month, they could have a two-vote majority. But Buchen says there will be no “substantive action” on the mining bill anyway for the rest of the year – so all talks toward that end should stop until then.
Last month’s recall race for Wisconsin governor set records for campaign spending in the state. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates total spending from the two candidates, special interest groups and political action committees approached $81 million. The previous record for a race for governor, set in 2010, was less than half that at $37 million. Governor Scott Walker spent more than twice as much as his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker and Republican groups spent nearly $59 million dollars, while Barrett and Democrats spent about $22 million.
Strong third-quarter earnings figures by Plexus Corporation won’t save the jobs of 116 workers in the Appleton area who are being laid off. The company says the layoffs this week are in response to a decrease in customer orders. Half of the workers laid off are full-time, salaried employees. The other half were holding temporary positions. The company’s CFO calls the layoffs unfortunate, but points out they are a small percentage of the local workforce – which totals about two thousand.
A second freshman in the Wisconsin Assembly says he’ll run for a Senate seat that’s about to be vacated. Republican Chris Kapenga of Delafield said today that he’ll run for the Senate post being given up by Republican Rich Zipperer of Pewaukee. Zipperer will become Governor Scott Walker’s deputy chief-of-staff early next month. Also running is GOP Representative Paul Farrow of Pewaukee. Walker has yet to schedule a special election. The earliest it could be held is Dec. 6 – and if that happens, a primary could take place November sixth, the same day as the presidential election. Republicans have held Zipperer’s Senate seat for years.
A single-engine plane was destroyed by fire this morning, soon after it landed at the Hartford Municipal Airport in Washington County. Fire Chief Paul Stephans said the aircraft had just been re-fueled when the pilot and his passenger went back inside – and both got out safely when the fire started. The plane was on a taxiway at the time. Both people in the plane were men from Michigan. The fire broke out around 9:45 this morning.