Government and Political Roundup: Speculation begins on when mine opensWisconsin News
-- Governor Scott Walker says he won’t venture a guess as to when a new mine could open under the terms of the new mining permit regulations he signed yesterday.
Governor Scott Walker says he won’t venture a guess as to when a new mine could open under the terms of the new mining permit regulations he signed yesterday. Some G-O-P lawmakers say Gogebic Taconite could open its proposed iron ore mine near Lake Superior within three years. But Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville says it will be more like 7-to-10 years once the lawsuits are settled, and all the state-and-federal approvals are given. Walker himself refuses to guess on a time-line. Quote, “I never said a dozen (years). I never said two. It’s pretty wide open.” The governor said the new mine would create jobs even before it opens. Walker said it would put mining equipment suppliers and others to work early. The Bad River Indians are considering legal action, saying the mine would violate federally-approved water quality standards on the tribe’s reservation downstream. The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters says it will look to punish the bill’s G-O-P supporters next time they stand for election. About a dozen protestors were outside the Milwaukee ceremony. Linea Sundstrom of Milwaukee said the only people who want the mine are quote, “Walker’s cronies.” Recent polls showed heavy opposition, but the governor says those people have only heard the quote, “scare tactics” from mining opponents.
Wisconsin lawmakers will get to work next week on the proposed 68-billion-dollar state budget for the next two years. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will start hearing from cabinet secretaries who will explain how Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposals affect their operations. The committee also plans to hold four public hearings around Wisconsin to give residents their say. Dates-and-locations of those hearings have not been set. Once they’re held, the committee will consider changes to the budget. Majority Senate Republicans have already said they’re working on a plan to give public schools a direct increase in their state aid – something Walker refused to provide in the budget he submitted almost a month ago. Instead, the governor wants to give a one-percent school aid increase to taxpayers, and let them decide in referendums whether the schools deserve it. G-O-P senators also want to scale back Walker’s proposed expansion of tax-funded private school vouchers for kids in nine additional school districts, including Madison and Green Bay.
Special interest groups are starting to spend almost as much as the candidates themselves in trying to tell Wisconsinites how to vote. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates that 44-percent of the total spending in the 2010-and-2012 state and federal elections came from outside groups. That’s up from 32-percent in the 2006-and-’08 cycles. Mike McCabe of the Democracy Campaign says it won’t be too long before outside groups have a bigger say than the candidates in political ads. That’s because of the 2010 Citizens United U-S Supreme Court decision which allowed corporations to put money into elections through independent groups. The Democracy Campaign estimates that 392-million dollars were spent in the 2010-and-’12 state-and-federal elections in Wisconsin – up from 124-million in ’06-and-’08 elections. Much of the recent spending was put toward the recall elections connected with the limits on public union bargaining. But even when that’s taken out, campaign spending almost doubled in the last four years compared to the previous four.
A former tanning salon owner blames the Obama health care reform law for the demise of her business. Mari Jo Rislov said she decided to close Rio Tan in the town of Oconomowoc soon after Obama was re-elected last November. Rislov said she took issue with a 10-percent tax on tanning services in the health law – and after Mitt Romney lost, she knew there was no chance the law would be repealed. Rislov told the Lake Country Reporter that her profit margin was 10-percent so quote, “Obama was getting 100-percent of my proceeds.” She did not want to pass the tax onto her customers, but some tanning shop owners have no problem doing that. Mary Beth Feider said she took ownership of her business just as the tanning tax was being implemented, and she said people don’t mind paying it. Feider said it’s just like a tax on cigarettes or alcohol – and she gives customers lots of specials which help them off-set the tax.